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F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA
Sermons -- Audio Version
See "How do we Know...?"
Resurrection Sunday - 4/4/10 Is. 25:1-9; Ps. 93; Col. 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-10
We have, as typical of Biblical imagery, the cosmic mixing with local and personal. There is, in Isaiah 25, a feast on a mountain, with good wine, fat things full of marrow, and... a veil covering all nations which will be destroyed on that mountain. Death will be swallowed up, all tears will be wiped away, and the reproach of His people will be taken away from all the earth.
Psalm 93 tells of the Lord who is mightier than the sound of many waters roaring on the sea shore.
In the Gospel according to John, we enter the tomb which had been sealed with a large stone and guarded by a lethal team of Roman soldiers, the tomb of a crucified man... who is no longer there, only linens lying with which He had been wrapped, and a napkin or handkerchief, with which His head had been wrapped, lying by itself. The disciples go home not knowing what to make of it all.
In Colossians, we are imagined to have risen with Christ from the dead, and told to seek those things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, for our life is hid with Him in God, and we will appear with Him in glory.
How, then, did we come to rise with Christ from the dead? How did we get dead, and if we died, how did we rise with Him?
One way we got dead is as God described to Adam in the Garden of Eden, that if he, Adam, ate from the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil, he, Adam, would die. Adam did not die right away, but he and Eve cast themselves into a world that was dying, with no way out once you got in.
It was like the mythological Labyrinth on the Island of Crete where the Cretans sacrificed a prisoner from conquered Athens yearly to the Minotaur -- a half-man, half-bull beast. Once you entered the Labyrinth, it was so confusing and disorienting that you would never find your way out, and would be eaten by the Minotaur -- an apt picture of the Fallen world ruled by Satan.
Without God, in the Fallen world, we are walking dead men.
But that is different from dying to self, which is what we must do to exit that terrible place. Yet, if that world is all we know, then dying to self, letting go of our dependency relationships in that world, seems like suicide. We must have someone come in from the outside to rescue us, to lead us through that death.
But the only person on the outside is God, with whom we have lost touch, so He must come in by His own initiative. He must want to come in to save us. He must love us that much, even knowing that those who are captured by Satan will deny and kill Him. And even His friends will run away when it happens.
But if the Son of God can find fallen humans who have sufficient moral and spiritual conscience left in them to want to follow Him, who can give up their worldly dependencies and obedience and choose Him to trust and obey, then, bonded to Him, He can lead them through their own spiritual death-to-self.
When we bond to someone, and they die, then something in us dies as well. So, we become, as Paul says, buried with Christ in His death so that we can be raised in His resurrection. If we are bonded to Jesus, to Him-Who-Is, rather than to just another human being, then when Jesus dies and rises again, then we, bonded to Him, rise with Him. He draws us through our own death to the other side of the closed circle, the shroud of death.
We are drawn in heart and mind to things above, to things outside the closed circle of the Fallen world. Riding on Jesus coattails, we pierce through that veil in Isaiah 25 which covers all nations.
But this spiritual journey is even more exciting. We
are told in the creed
and in I Peter 4:6, that Jesus descended into hell, with the purpose of preaching the Gospel to those who had died before and so could not know of Him from their life on earth.
Hell, in this case, does not mean the place of the damned, it means the Hebrew "sheol", that pallid, dark place where the dead went. The Hebrews apparently only slowly began to think that there might be a resurrection from such a place.
And we in our still Medieval imaginations have come to think of "down" as leading eventually to that place of the damned, perhaps influenced by Greek mythology. But at the bottom of all things is not hell, at the bottom of all things is the Hand of God, holding all things in existence. Satan has tried to make it look like he has the last word at the bottom of the pit. He does not. He has tried to make our "letting go and letting God" seem suicidal. The shroud of death has been placed under us as well as over us. But Satan is a liar.
So, when we drive downward, we meet not hell, the disintegration of all things, rather we meet bed rock, that rock upon which Jesus told us to build our house, which will not be swept away by the storms of life. That means that if we "let go and let God", we fall into the Hand of God, not into the fires of hell or a black hole of oblivion. At the bottom is the Light of God, not darkness.
So, we might assume, the resurrection of Jesus was the return from that very Hand of God which is the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of all life, all existence. And as we pass through what might indeed be the dark night of our soul to the Hand of God, we too can rise, now steady on that Hand, to the throne of the Father in Heaven above. Resurrection power.
And in doing so, we are no longer "of the world", even though we remain "in the world". We are "of" God Himself. The shroud of death, the covering over all nations, the closure of the circle -- has been destroyed on that mountain of God, which we might think of as either Mount Sinai or Jerusalem, built on a mountain.
I want to shift my direction to share some information with you about the resurrection of Jesus, the evidence for which is mounting steadily. See DVD, The Fabric of Time.
We read in the Gospel this morning references to linen cloths in the tomb, and also a separate cloth, a napkin, set apart by itself. We know also that linen cloths were supplied by those who buried Jesus, and we know that the napkin, or handkerchief, as we might call it, is the cloth at a church in Spain. The history of that "sudarium", as it is called in Latin, or "sweat cloth", is clear and apparently not debated. We do have the cloth that was bound around the head of Jesus.
More well known is the "Shroud of Turin", the cloth which was wrapped lengthwise up and over the head of Jesus and down his back side. It is well-known because a photographer about 1900, discovered that the image on that cloth of both front and back, was, photographically a "negative" of the body, but when the negative itself was photographed, it turned into a clear positive of the image of a body of a man who had suffered something like a crucifixion. Nothing like it had ever been seen before.
Several decades ago, the Cathedral at Turin, Italy, where the shroud is kept, gave permission for scientists to test it to try to discover whether it is indeed, as claimed, the linen cloth which wrapped the body of Jesus in the tomb. The history of the Shroud cloth, however, is not so clear as that of the sudarium.
In the original studies, an astonishing array of tests indicated that the Shroud came from the area of Jerusalem from a time close to the date of the crucifixion of Jesus.
But when a carbon-dating test was performed, the test indicated that the cloth came from about 1200 AD, 12 centuries too late to be the burial cloth of Jesus.
The carbon-dating has since been challenged for its accuracy, and new evidence has emerged.
First, the blood stains on the two cloths are the same blood type. And the pattern of the blood stains match each other when placed over a manikin as they would have been on the body, strongly suggesting that the two cloths had been placed on the same body. Since we know the history of the sudarium, that places the Shroud of Turin at the same time and place, Jerusalem about 30 AD.
Secondly, the image on the Shroud is of a type that even with today's sophisticated imaging processes, there is no known way of producing a similar image on another similar piece of cloth.
Thirdly, there are images of flowers, pollens, etc., on parts of the cloth apart from the image of the body itself. But the image of the body, and only that image, has three-dimensional characteristics to it. The image of the body appears to have characteristics of a hologram.
Fourthly, the image appears to have been placed on the cloth by some sort of radiation process. It could not have been painted on. But if the cloth had been wrapped around the body, as normal, any image radiating from the body would create a distorted image on the cloth, not a true frontal or back image as from a camera. The image looks as though it would appear on from a film, not wrapped around the body, but flat in a camera from in front of the body. It looks as though the body had been suspended in air, the cloth flattened out, like a film, both over and below the body, and an image projected from the body.
Everybody who was on the scene agrees that the body of Jesus was placed in the tomb, dead. Everybody agrees that the body was not in the tomb the next morning.
So the question is, What happened? How did the tomb become empty?
The evidence does not support the theories either that the disciples were dishonest and lying, or that they were pathologically disoriented and only imagined that they saw Jesus alive. There is no independent evidence to suggest that the disciples were anything but well balanced, emotionally and morally secure persons, well beyond the average. The evidence goes further to indicate that the religion they promoted led to the flowering of Western culture, giving us blessings beyond all imagination of either pagan or secular possibilities -- that is, the limited and distorted possibilities of the closed circle of the Fall.
That leaves standing only the explanation given by the disciples, that the tomb was empty because Jesus was in fact resurrected from the dead.
If you add to that the evidence that appears to be coming from the Shroud of Turin, then it is well past time that Christians got over their inferiority complex about science, evidence, and all that. The actual, on-the-ground evidence is clearly on the side of the Christian story. If Christians had busied themselves with being good scientists with regard to religious matters, instead of hiding from science, we would have discovered by at least two centuries ago that the Biblical story has the most amazing scientific credibility, and that we can tell the people about our faith with the greatest of confidence.
The Shroud of Turin trumps the shroud of death which is spread over all nations. Perhaps the mountain on which the Shroud of Death was destroyed was Golgatha, the Place of the Skull, the small hill just outside of Jerusalem.
Lord, we pray that as Resurrection Morning dawns around the world as the sun makes is daily today journey, there will be a wave of worship of You sweeping around the world, a wave of cleansing and healing and of resurrection power in the lives of Your people. Show us how to make a difference, and give us the courage and stability in the power of Your Holy Spirit to do so. Make us no longer ashamed to be known as your disciples, and give us bold and graceful words for Your fallen people; in His name who died and rose for us, Jesus Christ. Amen.,
Audio Version See "How do we Know...?"
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