Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rector's Easter Sermon

Isaiah 65: 17-25; Acts 10: 34-43; John 20: 1-18

Good Friends: Grace and peace to you, blessings, joy, all the richness of God’s favor, on this first morning of the world.

What St. Peter proclaimed at Caesarea as he shared the Gospel with the household of the Gentile, the Roman Centurion Cornelius, in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles this morning—what now we proclaim.

Not a message for one people only, or for one time or one place, long ago and far away. A message for all everywhere, and in every generation: “We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day . . . .”

Easter blessings. And the ancient Greek Christian greeting on this day we make fresh and new and our own. “Christos anesti.” Christ is risen. And the reply, “Alithos anesti.” He is risen indeed. Let’s repeat that together . . . .

Christ is risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so, in Christ, shall all be made alive. The Apostle Paul, First Corinthians 15.

And from Psalm 118, as our Choir has sung it: The Lord is my strength and my song, and is become my salvation.

There are two things to say this morning, with all around us this inspiring music and the beautiful flowers and the wonderful readings and prayers—and with new dresses and family gatherings and Easter eggs and candy. With all of this.

First, to say simply that the story we have heard is true. Whether we’re hearing the story for the first time this morning, or whether we’ve known it almost by heart all our life long. That’s the one key thing to know, the “take away,” the bottom line. Why we’re here today or ever. The story we have heard this morning is true. Not only true the way a poem or a powerful symbol can be true. Though like a poem, and like a powerful symbol, this story can and does reach down deep into our imagination, gives shape to our waking thoughts, fills our dreams. But true in the real, bright, historical light of that Sunday morning. Stunning. Unexpected. Disorienting. The way it was. The stone rolled away. The tomb empty. And Jesus with them. All true.

And to say, the second thing, simply, again, that we are not most importantly readers and hearers of this story. We are, even more importantly, we might say, characters in this story, of this story. It is a story of what really happened a long time ago and far, far away. But it continues, over continents and across the centuries, and it is our story here this morning. We are not simply observers. We are participants. A story about him, a story about them, but also, even more importantly, a story about us.

O sons and daughters, let us sing! The King of heaven, the glorious King, o’er death and hell rose triumphing. Alleluia.

If the story is that Jesus alone died on the cross and that on the third day God raised him from death to live forever, then it might be that we would respond, “how lucky for Jesus.” But that isn’t how the story goes. Not really.

Because we know that nailed to that cross, in and with the broken body of Jesus, was every bit of who we are. That’s real, and that’s true. Every bit of who we are, really and truly. In our brokenness. Every flaw and failure. Every hurt. Every wrong desire. Every promise we have broken. Lying, cheating, stealing. All the darkness of our lives. And not of our lives only.

Every Sunday morning we gather here at St. Andrew’s under the great inscription from the 12th Chapter of St. John, inscribed on the high Rood Beam, and I know over so many years inscribed in our hearts. Jesus to his friends in the midst of that Holy Week: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

This is the truth spoken to us in every baptism, and as our minds and hearts are opened to hear and receive his Word, and as we are incorporated into the mystery of the Holy Eucharist. This is serious medicine. Easter.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea; there’s a kindness in his justice, which is more than liberty. There is welcome for the sinner, and more graces for the good; there is mercy with the Savior; there is healing in his blood.

I believe and know that that moment for Mary in the Garden was all--healing. When her eyes were opened to his presence. When he looked into her eyes and into her heart and into her soul and spoke her name, “Mary.” As she was seen and known in that moment. All healing. Grace and peace. May it be so for you.

We remember the words from the first chapter of John as we heard them proclaimed right here in the still night of Christmas Eve. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it . . . . And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father . . . . And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace.”

Grace upon grace. And if we might listen in the far distance, even now, there are the angels singing for the shepherds, in the hills behind Bethlehem. Christmas, Good Friday, Easter morning, this morning, all one—all one eternal moment of healing, grace, and peace. And love stirred up in our heart, and calling to him, as he calls to us. Lifting us up. As we meet him in the Garden, and as he speaks our name.

For as in Adam all die, even so, in Christ, shall all be made alive

What a gift to be a part of this. We would celebrate that this morning. “Ye who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith . . . .”

Christ has died. Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

May it be all blessing for you. Healing. Renewal. This joyful Eastertide, away with sin and sorrow. Opening our eyes and our ears and our minds and our hearts. The first morning of the world. The first morning of our new life in him. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

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