Saturday, April 6, 2013

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 the Risen 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 for ever and ever. Amen.
One Easter Sunday morning as the pastor was preaching a children's sermon, he reached into his bag of props and pulled out an egg. He pointed at the egg and asked the children, "What's in here?" "I know, I know!" a little boy exclaimed, "pantyhose!"
I think telling that joke makes me old; symbols change, a plastic egg no longer means pantyhose as it once did, but the symbol of an empty tomb endures. All that was lost, all that seemed hopeless and dead, buried with Jesus in the tomb has been reborn, for the tomb is empty & Christ is risen! Alleluia!

But how we got here, to this joyful moment is through the terrible cross. As the poet Wendell Berry put it:
I read of Christ crucified,
the only begotten Son
sacrificed to flesh and time
and all our woe. He died
and rose, but who does not tremble
for his pain, his loneliness,
and the darkness of the sixth hour?
Unless we grieve like Mary
at His grace, giving Him up
as lost, no Easter morning comes.
As we read the passion this past week, we entered into the story, we grieved like Mary, we thought of the cruelty of our world, and our place in the darkness. This morning we wake up to a new reality, the glorious resurrection. Our tears & our loss, like that of Mary have turned to joy!

Easter is the great celebration of the Christian Church when our sorrow at the death of Jesus on the Cross, turns to delight as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Savior. If Teilhard 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 & hope of Easter!

That new life that is Easter reminds us that in the midst of our own sorrows, our own pain, that God is still at work in our world and in our lives today. Even as we watch with horror the random senseless acts of violence, 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 have a new life in resurrected 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, winter 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 Risen Christ 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.

Every year we come to hear the Easter story and it strikes us a little bit differently. For we each are on own journeys through the cross of Calvary to the empty tomb of Jerusalem and it affects what we hear and how we hear it.
If you are celebrating the safe return of a lost son or daughter, the empty tomb is the assurance of God's protection during the darkest nights and along the most dangerous roads.

If you are mourning the loss of a spouse or child or dear friend, the angel's question about "seeking the living among the dead" may be the first light of hope to illuminate your broken heart: the promise that the Risen Christ has lovingly taken your loved one to the dwelling place prepared for them by our loving God.

If you've lost your job or if you and your family are struggling financially, the moving of the immovable rock is a sign of God's grace enabling you to realize what is truly dear and important to you. In the sight of the stone rolled away, God extends his hand to lift you out of your despair and to help you realize the abilities and gifts you have that enable you to live your life with meaning and purpose.

The compassionate women who come to anoint the body of their beloved messiah, having no idea how they will move that stone, who first hear the good news and then become the first messengers of the resurrection, are God's exaltation of loving humility and selfless generosity over the certitude of wealth and power.

And in the midst of all of us is the Risen One himself, who takes up our crosses with us, who opens up the tombs that entrap us, who walks among us in every expression of compassion, in every act of generosity, in every experience of reconciliation and peace.
Every Easter the story of the Resurrection speaks to our hearts and spirits, our fears and anxieties, depending on the situations of our lives. God speaks to us in the words of the angel, in the open grave, in the simple kindness of the myrrh bearers. Whatever road you are traveling this Easter morning, whatever burial clothes you are struggling to free yourself from, whatever cross you are struggling to carry, may you find reason to hope - and may that hope free you to re-create your life in Easter joy, peace and amazement. And when you are free, go out and spread the Good News, give out that joy, love and hope, as bearers of such joyful news in the midst of our darkened world. Amen.

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