Please join us at 10:00 am on April 4 for WTUC’s Easter Online Service! Rev. Jim Sack will be preaching; the title of his message is “The God of Nothing.” The Bible readings for Sunday will be Isaiah 25:6-9, Colossians 3:1-4, and Mark 16:1-8. The hymns for the service are listed below and the audio links are included. We have compiled sound files sent in from congregational members into a choral offering that we will use in the Easter service.
If you would like to view the children’s message again, here is a link to the Kidsermons.com website:
On Sunday afternoon, please join us for a safe, socially distanced outdoor Easter picnic. Details will be included in the congregational mailing to be sent out by Good Friday.
Hymn #302 Christ the Lord Is Risen Today (verses 1, 2, 3)
Hymn #364 Because He Lives
Hymn #318 Christ Is Alive (verses 1, 2, 5)
Easter Sunday Sermon Text
For those of you who might have missed the sermon, the text is inserted below. As you read the sermon, you can practice saying the name, “Yah-Weh,” while breathing in on the first syllable and out on the second.
Scripture Readings: Isaiah 25:6-9 and Mark 16:1-8
“The God of Nothing” by Jim Sack
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Faust is the protagonist of a classic German legend, and he was highly successful, but dissatisfied with his life. He makes a pact with the devil. In exchange for his soul, he gets unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasure. But I think he was wrong when he said “The end of everything is nothing.” No, I proclaim to you that “Nothing is the beginning of everything.”
Easter morning begins with nothing! The tomb is empty. There is nothing inside. Jesus is on the loose. Hope lies in anticipation of the promise that the young man, dressed in a white robe said “you will see him, in Galilee.” There is nothing in the tomb. That empty space in the tomb is what you and I build our foundation of trust and hope upon. You see, I think our God is the God of nothing. I must explain what I am thinking about. From the very start of our scriptures you can find this “God of Nothing” on whom we pin our hopes of eternal life.
Let us go back to the very beginning of the Bible, the creation story. We read “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” In Hebrew it is “Tohu wa-bohu.“ ( I think of Mabo dofu, the popular Chinese dish.) This expresses the meaning of “formless void and darkness.” In Latin it is “Creátio ex níhilo”(creation out of nothing). And that is what God starts with; NOTHING!
Moving into Exodus we read about Moses keeping his flock of sheep and going to Horeb, the mountain of God. There Moses sees a flame of fire coming out of the middle of the bush, but the bush was not consumed. God called to Moses from out of the bush. “Moses, Moses! Do not come near; put off your shoes for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
From out of nothing, God commands Moses to go to Pharaoh and to lead the people of Israel. But Moses goes on to ask God, God’s name, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”
God replies “I am.” (“I am who I am,” which is not really a name, but just the fact that God is.) He was saying… I am present, I am here. The most likely meaning of the name may be “He Brings Into Existence Whatever Exists.”
God’s name was revealed to Moses in four Hebrew consonants (YHWH). It had no vowels and therefore was not pronounceable. It was the sound of breathing (Yah) and (Way), which becomes a presence from nothing. God cannot be seen or touched. God is above creation and above nothing. God creates from nothingness. We cannot make an object of God, nor name God.
Continuing on in Exodus, what about the Ark of the Covenant (Ark of God )? It was the gold-covered wooden chest with a lid which contained the two stone tablets of the ten commandments. God gave very detailed information on how it was to be built in Exodus 25. The people were to make two cherubim of gold, which are to be placed at the ends of the mercy seat (cover). Then God says “There I will meet you, and from above (not on) the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the covenant.”
Once again we clearly understand that God is in the space, in the nothing if you will.
Going on into 1 Kings 19, we have another event when Elijah is told by God to go to Mt. Horeb to meet God, and God passed by. We read “Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.” You see, the great wind, the earthquake and the fire all precede God. YHWH was in sheer silence. Nothing.
I would now like to move on into the Gospels.
I was struck that in English, Jesus uses the same “I am” as found in the Gospel of John. There are the seven “I am” statements.
“I am the bread of life.”
“I am the light of the world.”
“I am the door of the sheep.”
“I am the resurrection and the life.”
“I am the good shepherd.”
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
“I am the true vine.”
In our Gospel lesson for today we have an empty tomb, filled with nothing, and at the same time, the tomb is overflowing with “I am!” The presence of God.
Finally, as we go to the book of Revelation, we once again meet up with the “I am.”
“I am the Alpha and the Omega.”
“I am the first and the last.” At the very end of Revelation we read “Surely I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
In the emptiness and nothingness of the tomb, we have the fullness of YHWH.
The three women, go early in the morning, only to find nothing, an empty tomb.
However, in that emptiness, a young man, dressed in a white robe is there to announce to them and to the entire world, throughout every generation, “Do not be alarmed, He has been raised. He is not here!” And that my friends is the meaning of Easter!
I ask you, are you afraid to die! Perhaps. But think of the adventure and the splendid company on the other side. Realize that your story goes on after death because Jesus’ story is true. When we breathe our last breath, in the twinkle of an eye, we will be truly one with God.
So, “Be still and know that I am YHWH.” (Psalm 46:10) Amen.