I’ve got some good news to tell you about! Christ is risen! Alleluia!
That’s good news. It’s good news for Jesus, of course. It’s also good news for us because it tells us that we are wrong when we expect that the worst is what lasts. It is good news for us because it tells us that we are not as strong as we think we are, and that God is stronger. It is good news for us because if Jesus returned even from the cross and the grave, then there is plenty of hope for you, and for me.
Because our God is a God of second chances.
The crucifixion was terrible. We all heard about it last Sunday, and on Good Friday. But that wasn’t the end of the story for Jesus. No. He died. He was killed. It was ugly. It was bad. But it wasn’t the end. God the Father raised him from death, and when they rolled back that stone from the tomb it was already empty. Humanity tried to kill God, but guess what? We can’t do that. That’s not how it works. That’s not the end of the story.
And Jesus died on the cross, which was pretty bad, so everyone expected he’d still be there in the tomb. Why do you look for the living among the dead? That’s what they said to the women who came to the tomb. They came expecting to find a dead man. Jesus was crucified! How could he be anything other than dead and gone? But that’s not what God has in mind. God is a God of second chances. You know it in your heart. Now, if you were God, which you’re not, of course. No human being is. The heart of every sin begins with us thinking that we are God and we are not. But do this: now if you were God, and could do anything? Which would you make more powerful? Death, or life?
Now, we human beings often make this mistake, that we think death is more powerful. That’s why we can be so violent. If we have a bigger army than our enemies, or more guns, or more money, or a louder voice, or more power, we think it’ll make us safe, because we think we can control death. That’s why they tried to kill Jesus back then, to shut him up, to silence him, to win.
But God has different plans. God gives second chances. God made life to be more powerful than death, and so Jesus burst out of the tomb. You can’t keep him in there! Life is more powerful than death, and God is a God of second chances, so Jesus lives. Not only that but on the cross he asked God the Father to forgive those who were doing it, so there are second chances for those who killed him too. And that’s just amazing good news for us.
Because we all need forgiveness. You need it, and I need it. But we humans tend to do a pretty bad job when it comes to forgiveness. And maybe it’s hardest for us to forgive ourselves?
When you fail, you’re a failure, and you don’t come back. When someone hurts you, that hurt doesn’t heal. When you mess up, or slip up, or act up, or screw up then it means you’re a bad person. You might as well go on and feel ashamed of yourself because there’s no coming back from that stupid thing you did.
And I won’t even get into how hard it is to forgive other people. That’s really hard, and sometimes for very good reason. Forgiveness is difficult! And that’s why we humans are not that great at it, and why it’s so beautiful when we get it right.
And it is why it is such good news that Jesus rose from the dead, testifying to the power of life over death, and the power of forgiveness over resentment and division. The power of all those beautiful words like hope, reconciliation, healing, redemption, joy, resilience, spring, growth — all of them just different ways of saying: The power of second chances. The power of God who loves us.
So today we baptize Scarlett into this Body of Christ, into the community of Christians around the world, and into this household of faith. We baptize her into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is why Baptisms are so strongly linked with Easter. She is, in the language of our prayers, being born again of water and the spirit. She is receiving her second chance.
Now this might seem weird, that she’s born again so quickly after she was born the first time. She’s only three and a half months old, after all. Surely she hasn’t done anything yet that requires forgiveness, or a second chance from God! Ah, but here is where I’ll let you in on a little secret: When I say that God gives second chances, I don’t mean that God only gives two of them. No. God is a god of infinite chances. Limitless forgiveness. Inexhaustible grace. Boundless joy. Endless love. Eternal life.
There is no end to it, and every time Scarlett asks God for another chance, she will get one. For ever. And the same is true for her parents, and the same is true for her godparents. And the same is true for you, and for me. It’s even true for our enemies, and for those people that we cannot forgive, and those people that we cannot bring ourselves to love.
So, since she’ll never run out of new life, there’s really no reason why Scarlett shouldn’t begin today. And so that’s what we’ll do. And we’ll begin again, as well. We’re always, all of us, beginning again.
A new day, a new spring after a long winter, a new life after something that felt like death, a new hope, a new start, a new chance. The tomb is empty.
Alleluia, Christ is risen. Always and for ever, again and again, he rises. Let yourself rise with him.