FIRST-PERSON: Incomplete Easter sermons
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--By now, most sermons scheduled for Easter are sitting on the hard drive -- complete. Well, maybe complete or maybe not.
If a word search of those sermons fails to find words similar to "ascended," "enthroned," or "reigning," then I would humbly suggest those sermons may be incomplete. If those sermons end with the risen Christ still earthbound, the hearers are missing the rest of the story.
Those who only attend on Easter know Christ is risen. They have heard that message every year. The resurrection is central to the Christian faith, but they need the rest of the story.
The lost and the redeemed need to know what happened 40 days after resurrection Sunday. They need to know the Son ascended to heaven. A royal wedding in England will garner much attention this month, but that is nothing compared to the Coronation that unfolded as the Son returned to glory. The Father, bursting with pride, enthroned his Son at His right hand. Then, remarkably, He placed the scepter of authority in the Son's right hand.
God revealed Himself to mankind in various ways over the centuries, but in this age of the Church, He has revealed himself most clearly through the Son. It is by the will of the Father that the Spirit crafted the words, "that in all things [the Son] may have the preeminence."
The groundbreaking National Study of Youth and Religion revealed that the "faith" of many church teenagers could be defined as moral therapeutic deism. ("God exists and wants us to be nice. He is distant and not relevant for daily life. But, He quickly will show up any moment I need Him to make my life happier, more prosperous, and less stressful. It's all about me.")
Briefly, the blame for a young generation full of moral therapeutic deism fell on youth leaders. But then more research led to an earth-shaking revelation. The young were full of moral therapeutic deism because they had absorbed that from parents and church adults. Teenagers do not have a stunted faith because they have rejected the faith of the church; they have a stunted faith because they have absorbed the stunted faith of the church.
Virtually every shortfall in the American church can be traced back to this -- too many church members, including core leaders, are mostly saturated with moral therapeutic deism. And that flows out of a limited view of Christ.
I preach in a different church every Sunday. Almost always I lift eyes to the Son, using Scripture to allow worshippers to see Him dwelling in unapproachable light, more glorious on His throne than we can imagine, ruling and reigning over all creation. When I come off the platform, sometimes I am met by a senior adult who says something like, "Brother Richard, some would consider me a spiritual anchor for this church. How can it be that I have been sitting in church for decades -- and only this morning am I beginning to see God's Son for who He truly is today?"
The only antidote to moral therapeutic deism is a biblical Christology that reveals the full extent and majesty of who the Son is today. The current crisis in Christology is so pervasive and so deep that a great many Christians need to be (almost) reconverted to the true Christ as presented in Scripture. If the faithful need their vision lifted to the supremacy of the Son, imagine how deep that need is among the Easter-only crowd.
I believe the Father is orchestrating an awakening to the Son in our day. I believe He is prompting a high Christology to flow from pulpits, to ripple through small-group Bible studies, and to transform private worship before the break of day. Easter messages in U.S. churches that lift eyes to the kingly reign of the Son may be part of the plan.
There's still time to adjust sermons before Easter.
Richard Ross is professor of student ministry at Southwestern Seminary. Follow him at Facebook.com/rossrichard and Twitter.com/richardaross