The Eighth Day

 

Rejoice, o church, and sing praises to God on high, for today is the eighth day of the week. Now, I know what some of you are thinking, and don’t worry—this sermon is not a riff on some campy Beatles love song. And I have a feeling the rest of you are about to tell your poor preacher, who must be just exhausted after such a long week, that there are only seven days in week, dear, not eight. There’s no eighth day. Ah, but there is, and today is the eighth day.

It is the new day, the first new day, the day that bridges the old and the new, the day of resurrection. It is the eighth day of the week, and it is a day of rejoicing and gladness.

In seven days God created the cosmos, everything that is, seen and unseen. But on the eighth day God raised Jesus from the dead and gave us a foretaste of the new creation, a feast of rich food, an unending feast for all whom God has saved.

On the seventh day, God rested from his handiwork, giving us the Sabbath to honor and keep holy. But on the eighth day God poured his blessings upon his good creation, opening a way to unending rest and joy in his eternal presence.

On the seventh day, the Word of God was swallowed in the deep silence of death and the grave while his disciples scattered like sheep and his followers mourned like those whose sorrow will know no end. But on the eighth day, the Word burst forth from the tomb with infinite power and swallowed death forever.

After seven days, Adam and Eve found themselves in a garden cowering and fearful, ashamed of their nakedness and hiding from the gardener God who created them. But on the eighth day Mary Magdalene heard the voice of the gardener and found herself addressed tenderly by the risen Lord.

In seven days, God the Father spoke the creating Word of God the Son while God the Holy Spirit brooded over the waters of creation. But on the eighth day the Father raised the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit, blessing forever the waters of new creation and the baptismal font from which they flow.

This, friends, is the power of Christ’s resurrection. His resurrection is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. It is the end of the old creation, damaged by sin and death, filled with anguish and suffering and sorrow. It is the beginning of eternal life, life lived in the power of Christ’s resurrection, the beginning of the new creation, when the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces. Christ’s resurrection is not just about future hope and glory, although there is plenty to hope for because Jesus lives, and the glory that awaits us is certain and real. John Wesley (Sermon 64, The New Creation) describes that glory so well, far better than I can do: he says, “There will be a deep, an intimate, an uninterrupted union with God; a constant communion with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, through the Spirit; a continual enjoyment of the Three-One God, and of all the creatures in him!”

But Christ’s resurrection is first and foremost about what God is doing now, here, in our midst, breaking into our fallen world with new life and new power. “Behold, I make all things new,” declares the Lord, and we have seen it in his resurrection this day. “New” does not mean the old is completely destroyed; Jesus rises with a body still bearing the wounds of his crucifixion. God is not interested in destroying his good creation; he is in the business of redeeming it. Even the things that seem furthest from God, those wounds we inflicted on his Son, God is able to take and turn into beautiful, resurrected flesh. Today is the day of salvation and redemption!

It is the eighth day of the week, the beginning of the new creation. It is a very real thing. Our intimate union with God may not yet be uninterrupted, and our enjoyment of the Trinity may not yet be continual, but they are real, and they are possible because the Son has been raised from the dead. But it is still only the beginning. We might want to hold on tightly to this beginning, just as Mary Magdalene wanted to hold fast to Jesus when she recognized him. As understandable as this desire is, it is the wrong path for us, just as it was for Mary. Jesus, risen from the dead, appears to her and calls her by name in order to send her back to declare the joyful news of his resurrection. And Jesus, risen from the dead, calls to us in order to send us out into the world and bear witness to his resurrection and God’s new creation.

We bear witness to the resurrection and God’s new creation when we allow the old things to pass so that new life can grow in their place. We can relinquish ministries, missions, work that has been valued, rightly, in times past so that God’s new creation may flourish in powerful ways, because we trust in a God who raises Jesus from the dead. What have we been holding onto for years here at Centre that is time to let go?

We bear witness to the resurrection and God’s new creation when we celebrate stories of new life. Friendships restored, bodies healed, lives turned around—these aren’t just feel-good stories. They are signs that God is not done yet, that the power of the resurrection still holds things together in this broken world. I have heard many of your resurrection stories since I’ve been at Centre, but there are more to come, and more to tell.

We bear witness to the resurrection and God’s new creation when we take bold, decisive risks for the sake of God’s kingdom. A few weeks ago, we heard from Joyce Duffy about the good work of Harford Family House. Harford Family House is full of resurrection stories of families who found God’s power to bring new life in the caring hands of social workers and the churches and community that support them. With the $6000 grant we received last year and our budgetary commitment to missions, Centre is primed to carry that new life into parts of Harford County that have been neglected by other groups and services. And our members are close to the ground in this area; we know the strengths of this community and its resources; we have been given all we need. What will we do with it? How can we not act?

Rejoice, o church, and sing praises to God on high, for today is the eighth day of the week. This is the day the Lord has made! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

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