Saturday, April 19, 2014
The Easter Reason to be Alive
The Reason We Are Here
In the Passover meal that Jesus had with his disciples, in the Passover meal all Jews have with their families and friends, the evening begins with the four questions; “Why is this night different from all other nights”? Then the Papa, tells the story; “The Liturgy of the Haggadah”; that is to say the “telling” of the mighty acts by which God delivered the Children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the Promised Land. The Christian year now comes to Easter Day. We’ve had a remarkable Lenten journey tracing the Eucharist historically through time, a liturgy that find its roots in the Passover meal itself.
Why then is this day different from all other days for us? On this day we sing of Jesus’ Resurrection and his power over sin and death.
Do we understand and believe what such songs sing?
Will we really live again?
Has Jesus really delivered us from the power of evil?
Why is this day so different from all other days?
Our souls come to rest on how we answer such questions.
That Jesus has such power as to rise from sin and death is not really so difficult to comprehend. After all if we believe he was indeed the “sinless one” and if he really was the Son of God, then the power he has over life and death would be self evident. His resurrection is really not so much of a stretch.
But why would he want to share this victory with each of us? Why would he love us so? In fact why did he go to the bother of making us in the first place? Why the fall into sin, only to redeem us back again? That seems like a set of imponderables to me.
I often wonder about the business of being alive. The very notion of being carries a mystery with it if we take a moment to ponder from time to time. The Mystery and the Majesty of life itself; Its purpose?
Then I wonder why we make it so difficult on ourselves and others.
Why the sin?
Why the hate?
White supremacists? Jews? Arabs? Blacks? Whites? Republicans and Democrats?
Men and women can get into it and the nature of those conflicted relationships can baffle the best.
The whole business of sexual orientation has gotten to the point that the Church in Uganda has supported capital punishment for folks just for being who they are. Then they turn around and accuse us of being Biblically unsound because of our compassion and inclusivity. Talk about baffling!
In the midst of it all we have the Russian Army on the Eastern Front of the Ukraine, the Crimean Peninsula already annexed. Putin has it in mind that the great tragedy of the last few decades was the disintegration of the former Soviet Union and oh wouldn’t he like to be able to put that broken egg back together again. On the other hand there is the army of the Ukraine. And we have more or less thrown ourselves into the conflict on the side of Kiev. NATO forces are now mobilizing on the Western front of the Ukraine. Oh my aching head!
Kids and drugs, unemployment, crime…I could go on.
None of this is new.The world Jesus was born into was occupied by the Roman legions, and the “Herods” ruled in brutal succession. It is interesting that of all the places on earth to select for birth, God choose the most conflicted place in history. There were wars, rumors of wars, insurrections and a whole lot of bloodshed.
And don’t forget the poor, the lame, the outcast, the lepers, the tax collectors, the prostitutes and sinners of all sorts. You name it, Jesus loved them all. Jesus loved us all even in the very center of our sins.
It was his idea to love us whoever we were. This offended the religious authorities who had a strict set of rules about who could come to the Temple and who could not, in order to offer sacrifices to God. Jesus, on the other hand loved those folks who had been marginalized and excluded. And the idea caught on with the early Christian Community.
The first great controversy in the church, and yes, we’ve been embroiled in one controversy after another ever since, that first controversy was over whether you had to be Jewish first in order to be a Christian. After all, up until this first council in the Acts of the Apostles, from which we read today, everyone in the church was a Jew. Therefore all future Christians should be be Jews, correct? Peter and Paul in the meantime began to hear what Jesus had said about going into all the world and preaching this Gospel message of Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Love and likewise the Power of God over all sin and death. So then in today’s reading from Acts Peter says; "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
Please note how fundamental this idea is to our faith. Anyone means anyone. Everyone means everyone. There are no exceptions. Even when Phillip the Evangelist baptized the Ethiopian Eunuch along the Gaza strip; I can well imagine the reaction back at headquarters; “You baptized a what?” We know that Paul had broken down the dividing walls between Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, male and female, now the dividing wall means even the Ethiopian Eunuch! Where will it end? Thanks be to God, it doesn’t. This is Easter at its heart. This Gospel message applies to all of you, no exceptions! The ever widening and inclusive embrace of Christ continues even unto this day.
The Gospel had become universal, in other words it had become “catholic” in its original sense. The church had become One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. The Good news now came to all, and covered as we might say a multitude of sins.
And if that wasn’t enough, Mary went to the tomb early on that first great Easter Day, not expecting much of anything except for the exquisite sadness of yet another death, but she found that the stone had been rolled away. Grave robbers! That was her first thought and she told the gardener so. But the gardener was somebody she had already known quite well. Interestingly enough she did not recognize him at first. Easter is, after all, a total surprise. No matter how many times Jesus told them that he must suffer, die and rise again, these people were not ready for that moment when it happened. He turned to Mary. He was not the gardener after all. He was Jesus. He was then and is now the Risen Christ.
“Mary”, he said to her.
It wasn’t until that moment that she recognized him. “I have seen the Lord!”
That is how it will be with us too. All our lives long we hear the church tell us about our forgiveness. We hear about the resurrection. But we’re not really going to believe it until that moment comes when Jesus says to me; “Paul”. You won’t believe it until he calls you each by name.
So why are we here?
What is the purpose of my life?
You are here to bring good news to the poor.
To comfort those who mourn
To lift up the meek and the lowly
To satisfy those who hunger and thirst for righteousnesses
To be merciful and to obtain mercy
To be pure in heart and to see God
To be peacemakers, because this is what the children of God do.
And indeed to be persecuted for the sake of God, as you shall discover when you stand up for the poor, the meek and those who mourn and all the vulnerable of the earth.
The Wolves of Wall Street will seek to devour you. Greed, power and voracious sin is alive and well. There are all kinds of forces out there and in here that seek to devour and destroy the creatures of God. Make no mistake about that. That’s why we need to have our wits about us and become intentional about our discipleship.
We have a reason and a purpose to be here. We have been redeemed in order that we may participate in God's work of redemption for all. God wants to salvage whatever is possible of our lives and the lives of others. God wants us to be sure we know we are forgiven, and to make sure others do as well. God wants us all to be reconciled. We have put to death all our sins and nailed them to the cross of Christ. Thus as we die with him we are now raised with him in his glorious resurrection. Jesus Christ is Risen today!
Happy Easter my friends! Thank God at least we know why we’re here!
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen