Sunday, March 31, 2013
Easter Joy! Easter Surprise! Easter Power!
Happy Easter. Let me greet you with the Joy, the Surprise and the Power of Easter Day.
First let me greet you with the Joy of Easter.
There really is no greater Joy than Easter. The songs of Easter, the festive gathering of God’s people especially on this one day of the Christian Year, the day that marks the Queen of Festivals. We gather as God’s family today to feast at the altar of God, so too I wish you every joy as you gather with your families and friends around your dining room tables later today.
The Joy of Easter is a recognition that everyone is welcome within God's saving embrace without exception. “Now I understand that God shows no partiality” as St. Peter puts it in today’s first lesson from the Acts of the Apostles. “For in any nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him”. Anyone means anyone. Anyone means you. That’s the joy of Easter. And the fact that it is you means no one can say that it is not you. The events of these last days in Holy Week are a proclamation of Godly generosity. There can be no exceptions to God’s generosity, God’s love, and God’s compassion. This is the Joy of Easter.
It took Peter time to come around to this knowledge just like it takes time for the whole church of God to come to the knowledge of God’s full and inclusive love. This to me is the Joy of Easter. All means all. Thankfully we belong to a church that now recognizes that there are no distinctions to its membership or ministry based on race, ethnicity, class, gender, or orientation. It took us a while to come to that understanding, but here we are. Like Peter, we too, now know that "God shows no partiality".
So let me also greet you with the Surprise of Easter.
When the women went to the tomb early that first Easter day, they were prepared to go through the customary preparations of the body for its final burial, and they brought the spices and the balm that were used for the purpose, steeling themselves for what, of course, is an exquisitely unpleasant task. What they were not prepared for was the Resurrection of that Body. When it was not there they supposed that perhaps he had been removed. It would have been, of course, the final indignity. Mary, stood there weeping, weeping from the very crest of grief. She supposed that he was the gardner, the one who spoke to her, and so she asked if he had taken the body, and where had he taken it.
Finally he said to her; “Mary!”
Here is the surprise! She did not recognize him at first. It would come as no surprise to me if any of us really recognize Jesus ever at first, but especially on our Easter Day. We can certainly recognize him within the life of his teaching, his healing, his miracles, and even on the day of his death, that we can all recognize. We are all too familiar with all of that.
But on the Day of his Resurrection? And the Day of our Resurrection? Or now on this Day. The Day of the Resurrection of those we love who have all been gathered to our ancestors. That’s the surprise we’re all in for.
My step-father was a wonderful man. But he was a kind of a hard bitten German fellow. In fact his family came from a hard life of farming both here in Pennsylvania and then later in western Ohio. These people were a very practical people, and they learned their lessons from the school of hard knocks. My step father, “HK” as I called him; his name was Homer Kershner, went on to become an engineer. So for all he knew, only those things existed which you could see and measure and mould with your hands and with man made machinery. He allowed as to how there may very well be a God. It was nice of him to allow God existence, I often quipped. But the whole thing about heaven. That he was quite convinced. There is no evidence of such a thing. When you’re dead, you’re dead. I think he actually took some comfort in that declaration. After all, my mom was a feisty sort of woman and more than once I saw her sharp personality pierce into the hearts of those she loved as well as those who loved her, my own heart included. Oh but how he loved her! And so I often said to him; “Listen here, HK for loving my mother, you’re going to heaven whether you want to or not!”
We all laughed. But I meant it then. I mean it now. Hey, HK, “Surprise! You're in heaven!”
What a wonderful surprise we're all in for.
And finally let me greet you with the Power of Easter.
Several days ago I took some pictures of the full “worm” moon. It is called that by the Algonquin native Americans to characterize the new life that begins to emerge near the end of March. Forasmuch as the tender tendrils of earth’s new life push through the softened ground as prepared by the humble earthworm who in turn invites the robin’s return, and too as even the tiniest green shoots of grass break through concrete cracks in our sidewalks as Spring’s new life burst into the sunlight, so too our Jesus conquers the grave on this Easter Day, on all Easter Days, and most importantly on your Easter Day and mine.
God knows I understand how real death is. I’ve known it in my family and among my friends, I’ve certainly sat at the bedsides of many others I’ve served through the years, over 1000 at last count; I've shared the sorrows of many a family, and in my own flesh and bones I know the facts of my own vulnerability. But on Easter Day I proclaim the Power of Easter over Sin and Death.
Jesus Christ is Risen today! Alleluia! What gives me the knowledge of this Power is not my mind, or the intellect or even in any theological reflection or any proofs for the existence of God, or Heaven or Eternal Life. What gives me the knowledge of the Power of God is my heart where I know the love of my family and friends, and God’s family and friends. For it is because I love you that I can believe. In fact, it is because of my love for you that I know that my Redeemer Lives.
Thus as you prepare to walk with your next priest, prepare to walk with him or her with warmth, affection and love. For as long as you can walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God, then too you can walk with your new priest and one another. This too is the power of Easter.
So then I wish you a very happy Easter. I wish you all of its Joy, I pray for its Surprise. And this I know, we will all come to know its Power.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.