Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sermon

Jesus came to visit the Dilbert comic strip and spread the Good News to that office in a Dilbert sort of way. The boss introduces Jesus to Wally one of the workers and tells him if he does what Jesus would do, he can enjoy his retirement. Jesus heals Wally, invites his co-workers to join his team of twelve to save the databases, but he is betrayed by Wally for 40 shares of stock and in the last strip comes back from being downsized. He says to the boss, “I was downsized so I could come back as a consultant to save their pensions…” But in last frame the boss sits alone at his desk, doesn’t seem to tell anyone, and says “I should have written it down.”

For more info. on this, see here:

Thankfully, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who came to the tomb expecting to see Jesus’ body are the first to know he is risen and they spread the Good News! We can only imagine their sorrow and pain. Having known Jesus so well and to see him suffer and crucified on Good Friday. So Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go to see the tomb three days later.

Their journey is rewarded for the stone is rolled back, a great earthquake has shaken it all, an angel of the Lord appears to them, as the guards shook and became like dead men frozen in fright, and the women learn of the resurrection of Jesus. All that seemed gone on Good Friday, has been renewed on Easter, new life, new hope, new faith! They race back to the disciples and encounter Jesus on the way. But none of this would have happened if they had not decided to go to the tomb. Who would have been the first evangelists?

The women’s courage is a testimony to their faith in Jesus. They had to go that morning, to see the tomb. And they not only see the tomb, but find a messenger of God there, the angel, who reminds them what Jesus said, he is not there, he is raised and will see them again. The resurrection happens and those with courage and faith are rewarded. As they left the tomb they had fear and great joy. The fear was relieved when they meet Jesus, who tells them don’t be afraid, but go and tell...

Unlike the boss on Dilbert, the Mary’s leave and go and tell what they had seen and tell the disciples to go and see in Galilee. Oh would we have the courage of the Marys!

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor and martyr, put it, “From the resurrection of Christ a new and purifying wind can blow into the present world. If a few human beings would really believe this and would let themselves be moved by this in their earthly behavior, much would change. To live from resurrection – that indeed is the meaning of Easter.”

And that is what Jesus intends for us, to live from the resurrection, and live in that joy of God’s new creation and like those Mary’s to go and tell others. If Teilhard (Tayard) de Chardin is correct, and “joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God,” then we Christians ought to be the most joyful people around, living in the light of Easter! For Easter reminds us that in the midst of sorrow, pain, and even violence that God is still at work in our world.

Think of Jesus who was betrayed by one of his disciples (friends), denied by another, the rest of 12 the fled, he was turned over to the representatives of that brutal Rome, tortured, mocked, and executed in the manner that Rome reserved for the worst of its criminals. But God changes everything and transforms Jesus’ death on the cross, into the symbol of salvation of life and hope for all. Even as we watch with horror the random senseless acts of violence that seem to be gripping our society, the wars and unrest around the world, and the problems of debt and finances within our own communities and homes, Easter reminds us that death does not have the final word, despair is not our answer, violence and debt are not our rulers.

God is in charge and God intends that we live in joy. We are joy filled because we live in hope. So many of our Easter hymns and poems speak of the dying brought to new life, the winters turning to spring, of God bursting forth from the tomb and the whole world turning upside down.

As the old saying goes, “hope springs eternal.” Our God is not held back by stones or locked doors or even closed hearts, God in Jesus comes into our lives with the message of hope, love, joy and peace, seeking out hearts to live in joy and to spread that joy to our hurting world. It is what Mary Karr writes in her poem on the Resurrection (from Sinners Welcome):

From the far star points of his pinned extremities,
cold inched in — black ice and squid ink —
till the hung flesh was empty.
Lonely in that void even for pain,
he missed his splintered feet,
the human stare buried in his face.
He ached for two hands made of meat
he could reach to the end of.
In the corpse's core, the stone fist
of his heart began to bang
on the stiff chest's door, and breath spilled
back into that battered shape. Now

it's your limbs he comes to fill, as warm water
shatters at birth, rivering every way.

As we celebrate and live in Eastertide, we cannot simply celebrate our joy alone, it is our resurrected Lord who comes to fill our limbs to reach out to this world. It is his joy that beats in our hearts. It is his love that surrounds us. And we go and tell the Good News!

A couple of years ago four-year-old Hannah Taylor tagged along with her mother to serve dinner at a local mission in Toledo, OH. The little girl could not take her eyes off a frail old man. She could see his feet through the holes in his shoes. Hannah wanted to give her socks to the poor old man, but her mom told her that her small socks would not fit the poor man’s much bigger feet. But that set the four-year-old on a mission.

The next day Hannah and her parents took her to purchase and then distribute socks to the mission. The old man was there. He put on his warm, new socks, looked Hannah straight in the eyes and said, “Thank you, young lady.” Since then Hannah’s Socks has become a full-fledged, volunteer-run, nonprofit organization. In the past year, more than 9,000 pairs of socks have been given to men, women and children in shelters in the Toledo and Cincinnati areas. And it all began with one little girl’s compassion for a poor old man with holes in his shoes. [from Hannah's Socks, Inc. -]

We are called to go and tell the Good News that Christ is risen, to help others feel that joy, love and hope in their lives. Who is hurting now? Who needs our help? Our love? “The Christian life is not one of gloom, but of ever increasing joy in the Lord,” says Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

This Eastertide, go and spread the Good News and may joy be in your homes, in your hearts, in your hands and even in your socks. Amen.

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