A Helping of Easter Leftovers

by Anita Wansley
Luke 8: 40-56
May 6, 2007

Introduction:

For some of us the best part of a holiday is the feast we have. This Easter we went down to Chris’s parents and with everyone bringing their best dishes we truly had a feast—ham, macaroni and cheese, potatoe casserole, salads, desserts galore. For me the leftovers are just as good and sometimes can produce a new taste that I missed at the first feast. My sister Heidi was famous for her leftover creations. She would do these layer creations of the meat, then the potatoes, then the vegetable and then she would cover the whole thing with cheese.

Well, thinking about this sermon on redemption made me think of leftovers. We just had Easter —the main feast of redemption so to speak. What God has been laying on my heart over the last couple of months seems like the leftover creations….Some thoughts on how redemption happens in our lives today.

This theme of redemption kept coming up in conversations, my prayer time, songs, and in other ways that God used. Some of my thoughts on redemption started with a promotion for a preacher. The last several months I was usually up early with Sam and for a while every morning before Good Morning Meridian there was a clip of an African-American preacher from a local congregation and his statement went something like this:

“While we are in the midst of our storm we cry out to God to take us out of it. GOD, instead reaches down and changes the storm while we are still in it!”

Oh, I got goosebumps everytime I heard him say this!!! It got me thinking how our life’s storms and redemption connect. As I thought on this theme of redemption I thought about how God either reaches down and changes the storm or reaches down and changes us! Either way our situation is completely changed by His resurrection power and the redemption that Christ gives us on a daily basis.

What is redemption?

Jesus on the cross made the ultimate redemption possible. He died for our sins. He traded our punishment, what we deserved, for his own death. He delivered us from our sin and its consequences by His sacrifice. We can now have eternal life. We can also in the meantime live a life of hope here on earth. He brought us out of our life storms of doom, of hopelessness and gave us the peace and joy of life with Him. Because of the Easter story, this story of resurection, of not staying defeated, we can claim the resurection power in our own lives. We can experience God’s redeeming power in our every day lives. In our mundane and in our tragedies God is ready to reach down in our storms and redeem us. Listen to some of the verbs used to define redeem:

To pay off
To buy back
To recover
To exchange
To convert
To fulfill
To make up for, to make amends
To obtain release of
To deliver

God is ready to do these actions for us. He wants us to reach out to him and be redeemed. We do not have to stay stuck in our life storm.

God reaching down and changing our storm:

God has been in this business of redeeming his people for a long time. Let’s look first at two wonderful stories from the old testament of God reaching down and changing life’s storms:

1. In the book of Ruth we have the story of Naomi and Ruth and how God redeemed their dire circumstance. Here were two widows during a famine. They were doomed to starve to death. But God used Boaz to be their kinsmen-redeemer. In that day the brother or kinsman of a deceased husband was to marry his widow if she were childless in order to provide offspring. In this way the widow was redeemed or delivered from her hopeless circumstance. Ruth was faithful. She stayed with her mother-in-law Naomi and even though there seemed no hopeful way out God opened the door for these women. He changed the storm. He reached down and redeemed them.

2. In Exodus we have the story of the Israelites being slaves in Egypt. Moses has gone to Pharaoh on their behalf (doing what the Lord told him to do even though it wasn’t his thing, remember the story..he was worried about how to speak) but they are still slaves and things have only gotten worse. Moses goes to the Lord and complains, not understanding why the Lord has not delivered His people. This is how the Lord responds in Exodus 6: verses 6 and 7″

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgement. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” What a promise!

How many times have we been in this type of situation–we are in a discouraging life storm, we do what we think God is telling us to do to remedy it, and yet the circumstances continue to get worse? We are crying out to be delivered. God in His own time and way will redeem us. He can reach down to us and speak the same words he spoke to Moses and the Israelites and direct them to us….listen to them as he could be speaking to you, “I am the Lord! I will redeem you with an outstretched arm. I will take you as my own people and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God!” God can reach down in our life storms and change the storm. Look how he delivered the Israelites out of Egypt! He can part the red sea for you, He can provide for you in the wilderness, He can redeem you! You will know that He is the Lord your God!

God reaching down and changing us:

During the scripture reading you heard the story of Jesus raising Jarius’s daughter from the dead. Listen again to what Jesus said and did:

While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synogogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” he said, “Don’t bother the teacher any more.” Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid: just believe, and she will be healed.” You know the rest of the story…Jesus goes to the house, tells the people to stop wailing, and raises Jairus’s daughter from the dead! In the scripture passage from Luke 8 we heard the wonderful story of God through Jesus reaching down and redeeming two situations: Jarius’s family and the women Jesus healed.

God used this amazing story of redemption to reach down and change my family during one of our toughest life’s storms

The weekend that we found out that Brittany was moving was a devastating one needless to say. It was the weekend of the missions ralley at camp that I was committed to already. Chris was to stay with the girls. He was in shock, grief, and somewhat numb. He was just trying to make it through until bedtime. He was watching TV and trying to pass time and Mary was right up under him talking, talking. He was upset, turning the TV up, telling her to hush. This went on for awhile and she continued to say something over and over. He continued to get irritated. Finally, Hanna said, “Dad! Don’t be afraid, just believe!” It was her Bible verse from the last Sunday school class.

Jesus chose to use these little girls and a Sunday school memory verse for His beginning work of redeeming this situation. The situation didn’t change but his redeeming power changed us: we weren’t left to our anger, our fear, our sadness, but rather we were given peace. He is in the business of bringing us out of our pain. He is in the business of giving us hope. He is in the business of taking our pain, our suffering and exchanging that for his grace and hope. When he took our sin with us to the cross and died and then rose again Christ changed our lives. He changed how we have to live our lives. We are not stuck in our storms. We are not doomed for sadness, and disappointment all our lives. With his resurrection power he lovingly gives us an open door to step through into hope. Our storms may not change but we are changed people who can face our storm with His strength.

He redeems by delivering us from our consequences, our circumstances, even our attitudes. Sometimes this changing our perspective within the storm isn’t so gentle. Sometimes we are stubborn. Sometimes we get so caught up in our circumstances that we can’t see that open door of grace. I compare it to having to a little child throwing a fit and a parent having to take the child’s face in her hands and saying, “look at me, calm down!” I see God doing that to me sometimes. I have actually prayed that for others—-that God would just take that person’s face, look at him or her and call to them.

Well, confession time… this winter I was pitching a fit about my life’s storm:

  • My baby doesn’t sleep
  • My husband doesn’t understand
  • I gained 50 lbs during pregnancy and sam only wieghed 7.4lbs
  • My life seemed to have changed with Sam and it was out of control (a no-no for Anita’s way of life)

God in His wonderful ways used people around me to take my face in His hands to say, “Calm down, look at me, here’s another way to look at life.” He redeemed my circumstances by showing me a loving way of looking at Sam, in part thanks to a couple of teen-age hooligans. He redeemed my marriage by showing me once again that I couldn’t control it. And he is in the process of redeeming the way I think about myself by showing me that He loves me and is still working on me and He is the one in control of my life.

Conclusion:

Our life circumstances can be hard. Our storms don’t even have to be huge or be a crisis to feel overwhelming. But our loving Father in heaven cares for us more than we can imagine. He wants us to trust Him. He wants us to continue to walk by faith and know that our redemption in whatever form it takes WILL come. We can have Easter leftovers any day, every day when we accept the love and grace that He so wants to give us.

Would I believe you when you say
Your hand will guide my every way
Will I receive the words You say
Every moment of every day

Well I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see
Well because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me

Help me to win my endless fears
You’ve been so faithful for all my years
With the one breath You make me new
Your grace covers all I do

yeah, yeah , yeah, yeah, ya

Well I’m broken- but I still see Your face
Well You’ve spoken- pouring Your words of grace

Well hallelujah, hallelu
(I will walk by faith)
Well hallelujah, hallelu
(I will walk by faith)

I will walk, I will walk, I will walk by faith
I will, I will, I will walk by faith


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