Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter Sermon

How blessed is this day, when earth and heaven are joined and humankind is reconciled to God! May the light of Jesus shine continually to drive away all darkness. May Christ, the Morning Star who knows no setting, find his light ever burning in our hearts—he who gives his light to all creation, and who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.
Three boys are in the schoolyard bragging about their fathers. The first boy says, "My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a poem, they give him $50." The second boy says, "That's nothing. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a song, they give him $100." The third boy says, "I got you both beat. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a sermon and it takes four people to collect all the money!"
Well, here’s my scribble: In December 1875, a ship foundered and sank off the English coast. On board the ship were five Franciscan Nuns who were making their voyage to America to begin a teaching assignment in Missouri. The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, heard the story of the sisters and was so impressed that they sacrificed their lives so others could be rescued from their sinking ship that he wrote a poem dedicated to the sisters. He saw in their sacrifice, a connection with Christ’s own suffering. In one of the last lines he writes:
"Let Him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us…" (The Wreck of the Deutschland)
Let Him easter in us – Hopkins uses Easter in the poem in its nautical term, meaning to steer a craft to the east, into the light. Let him easter in us – its Easter used as a verb, not just a noun – understanding Easter as not just a day but something we think, feel, do and live. How do we let Jesus easter in our lives? I think of a story of Easter Sunday by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano:
Nineteen seventy-three, Montevideo, Ninth Cavalry barracks. A rotten night. Roar of trucks and machine-gun fire, prisoners face-down on the floor, hands behind their heads, a gun at every back, shouts, kicks, rifle blows, threats... In the morning, one of the prisoners who hadn’t yet lost track of the calendar recalled, “Today is Easter Sunday.” Gatherings were not allowed. But they pulled it off. In the middle of the yard, they came together.

The non-Christians helped. Several of them kept an eye on the barred gates and an ear out for the guards’ footsteps. Others walked about, forming a human ring around the celebrants. Miguel Brun whispered a few words. He evoked the resurrection of Jesus, which promised redemption for all captives. Jesus had been persecuted, jailed, tormented, and murdered, but one Sunday, a Sunday like this one, he made the walls creak and crumble so there would be freedom in every prison and company in every solitude.

The prisoners had nothing. No bread, no wine, not even cups. It was a communion of empty hands. Miguel made an offering to the one who had offered himself. “Eat,” he whispered. “This is his body.” And the Christians raised their hands to their lips and ate the invisible bread. “Drink. This is his blood.” And they raised the nonexistent cup and drank the invisible wine.
Easter in us – when Christ comes no matter where we are, no matter what we have, we gather and celebrate that Christ is alive and we have been set free. For Charles Colson, the convicted felon from the Nixon White House scandals, who turned his life around with Jesus and started the Prison Fellowship, he spends Easter Sunday in a prison because
“the prison is filled with people who are condemned to a living hell, yet the power of Christ resurrects them.”
No matter how you feel about his politics, Colson’s commitment to visit prisoners to tell them the Good News of Easter and how it changed his life is quite admirable and captures what Easter is all about… It is Good News that changes our lives, that is what it means to have Christ Easter in us, to remove the dimness in our lives, and by the Spirit’s guidance to move us toward the east, toward the light, toward the new life Jesus offers to us every day. Growing up in MI, my brother had a sticker next to our light switch,
“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”
Easter stands as such a day for us too. No matter how many Good Fridays we have suffered, when we have felt alone and forsaken, there is always Easter, there is always the possibility of new life and knowing this is the first day of the rest of my life. Think of the women at the tomb, doing what tradition and their hearts told them to do, to go anoint but they find two angels
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
They are astounded, they go tell the 11 disciples and the rest who at first did not believe them, but Peter, yeah Peter!,
“got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.”
And there lives were changed! Easter is a most amazing day – it turns our world upside down. To have Jesus Easter in us, is to have Easter become part of our lives. Not just a day to celebrate and feast for Christ is risen, but to continue that every day for the rest of our lives. To continue that celebration and freedom. It is for you and me. 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.”
Today and every day, let him easter in us
  • so our lives may be full of his love and compassion, forgiveness and hope.
Let him easter in us
  • So we can be his servants & witnesses today (teachers, healers, footwashers, you name it)
Let him easter in us
  • So we can carry our own cross and help one another bear theirs.
Let him easter in us
  • So that at the last, we can turn to the light and Easter in him. Amen.

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