Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Sunrise Homily & Benediction

The preacher was standing at the front door, shaking hands as his parishioners came out. He pulled one man aside and said, "You need to join the Army of the Lord, son!" "I'm already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor," he replied. "How come I only see you at Christmas and Easter?" asked the preacher. "Because I'm in His Secret Service!" he replied.
Today, no one is in the secret service for we all called to celebrate and proclaim with our lives that Christ is risen! God has shattered the silence of Good Friday, when evil and darkness seemed to have won. We stood by the cross as witnesses on that day but in that prayerful silence we waited and hoped. Now it is God who shouts out new life to our world! God has renewed the earth and this has happened through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
“God has turned all our sunsets into dawns.” – St. Clement of Alexandria
And in that light, we need to live into the resurrection which means we need to live it in our daily lives; not as some best kept secret we lock away in our vaults for no one to see. But maybe its not a secret but rather we are so in awe and fear of the resurrection, we are not sure what to do.

Maybe what we fear is the change in our lives if we truly celebrated and lived that promised resurrection in our lives. If we truly celebrated the resurrection, would people see us as crazy? What would it look like in our lives? The author Megan McKenna tells a story about a time when she was leading a Bible study. She writes,
"Once in a parish mission when I was studying scripture (Luke 7: 11-17) with a large group, someone called out harshly, 'Have you ever brought someone back from the dead?'

My response was 'Yes. Every time I bring hope into a situation, every time I bring joy that shatters despair, every time I forgive others and give them back dignity and the possibility of a future with me and others in the community, every time I listen to others and affirm them and their life, every time I speak the truth in public, every time I confront injustice — yes — I bring people back from the dead.' " [Not Counting Women and Children: Neglected Stories from the Bible by Megan McKenna]
From the Bronx in New York City, I hear the words of the Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood on practicing resurrection…
"The reason we're here this morning is not just because a resurrection happened, but because there's one goin' on. Every time I see a brother or sister come to Christ, there's a resurrection goin' on. Every time I see a man put down his bottle, there's a resurrection goin' on. Every time I see someone [a man] go back to school, there's a resurrection goin' on. Every time I see a man hug his son, there's a resurrection goin' on.” [Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church by Samuel Freedman]
Jesus has brought us new life, new beginnings. It is there for us to live, to experience, to celebrate in our lives. The resurrection is God’s gift of redemption to us. But it is up to us to accept that gift and then to live it in our lives, not as secret disciples. We have to make that new start, we have to love, to forgive, to listen, to change, to hope… As Dietrich Bonheoffer Lutheran Pastor & Martyr put it: It is
“from the resurrection of Christ that a new and purifying wind can blow through our present world… If a few people really believed that and acted on it in their daily lives, a great deal would be changed. To live in the light of the Resurrection – that is what Easter means.” (Letters & Papers from Prison)
May our lives live in that light and help bring that resurrection to all who are still living Good Friday lives. Amen.

Easter Benediction:

And now to God who is able to keep us from falling, and lift us from the dark valley of despair to the bright mountain of hope, from the midnight of desperation to the day break of joy; from the sunset and darkness of Good Friday to the dawn and light of Easter; to God be power and authority, for ever and ever. Amen. (slightly adapted from Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-68)

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