Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Morning

Acts 10: 34-43; First Corinthians 15: 19-26; John 20: 1-18

Friends: Grace and peace to you, blessings, joy--all the riches of God’s favor, on this First Morning of the world.

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  (I Cor. 5)

Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.  For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.  Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  (Romans 6)

And as we remind ourselves every year, the ancient and traditional greeting of this day and season.  Before you sit down, let’s say this together:  Christos anesti! Christ is risen!  And the reply,  Alithos anesti!  He is risen indeed!  And we would share that greeting. 

Christos anestiAlithos anesti!

Easter blessings, and in abundance.   Wonderful to see you today.

O sons and daughters, let us sing!  The King of heaven, the glorious King, o’er death today rose triumphing.  Alleluia! (Hymnal 1982, #206)

We enter this morning through the doors of this great old place on Hampton Street in Highland Park, but in the deeper reality of our hearts and minds we find ourselves once more with Mary in the Garden, and there is a sound, and we turn, and he approaches—across the quiet space that is this morning the landscape of all the created universe, matter, space, time.  And in that still moment, he speaks that one word, our name.  And we hear him.  And we know him.  And he knows us.  And in that moment and from that moment and forever everything is fresh and new and alive and true.  Because he is true.  Because he lives.

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.  (I Cor. 15)

Our reading from St. Paul this morning.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Very important to keep the message clear, the Easter news.  The empty tomb is startling and strange.  The discovery that the same Jesus who died on that Cross is now alive again--even more startling and strange.  Perhaps to say, “Jesus is alive!  Isn't that amazing?  What a lucky guy!  Everybody else we've ever known who has died, has stayed dead.  But not Jesus.  What are the odds?  Like hitting the Powerball.  How wonderful that must be for him and for his family and friends.

The Easter message is more.  We would remind ourselves of that this morning, refresh ourselves in that.  

That in his death it was the ultimate power and finality of death itself that was defeated.   

Defeated, not simply avoided.  Defeated, once, for all.  

That in his death was every last broken and diseased and dying part of ourselves cancelled and healed.  

And—he lives!   Risen with healing in his wings, life and light to all he brings.  The last enemy.  The Snake in the Garden crushed at last.  And that in his rising to life again, we come to life with him.  New life.  That in his rising to new life again it is not simply another morning, but a new morning and the First Morning.  The tide has turned, truly and forever.

It takes a while to sink in, actually.  For all of us.  The Word entering our lives.  Then molding and shaping us.  A life of faith, a life of hope.  A seed planted, then to grow quietly over time to its fullness and flower.  Our minds and our hearts, our behavior, our relationships.  Everything becomes new.  John tells us that this first disciples to come to the tomb “did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”   

A new morning and the First Morning, and the dawn comes quietly, gradually.  From the Garden to the Manger, from the Manger to the Cross.  And then, from the Cross, back to this Garden.  Adam to Adam.  First Man to New Man.  

From that word spoken to Abraham in the 12th Chapter of Genesis.  I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great . . . and by you all the families of earth shall bless themselves.    

From the Word of the Prophet Isaiah, in the 65th chapter:   For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. 

For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people, to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain—in the 5th Chapter of St. John’s Revelation—worthy is the Lamb to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing . . . .  To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might, for ever and ever. 

That he is risen from the dead, that he is exalted to the Right Hand of the Father, Savior of all, Lord of all, and Judge of all.  The Alpha and the Omega,  going out and coming home.

Thine, O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty:  for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine;  thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. (I Chronicles 29)

So friends, good people of this parish family, may this Easter morning be not only for us a day of music and celebration, though it certainly is that, and will be, very wonderfully, with organ and choir and brass, and a long winter giving way we would hope and pray now to a spring of new life and abundant growth, in our families, our community, our church. 

But may it be even more, even more, a day of spring and Easter in our hearts and in our minds and in our lives, to know that God’s promises from the beginning of time are true and sure for us and to know that we are in him now and destined to be in him and with him and for him forever.  

This day is meant for you personally.  He saw you and knew you perfectly in his hour on the Cross, and his Easter is for you.   Every word of scripture points to this day, and every atom of being in the created order is fulfilled and completed, here, and now.

As we come forward for our Easter Communion this morning, to pass underneath the words of his promise, John 12,  inscribed on the Rood Beam:  And I if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me.

I go to prepare a place for you—John 14.  And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and bring you to myself.  That where I am, there ye may be also.

Because the Cross that was defeat and death is now his victory and our victory, his Body broken and his Blood poured out now given for the healing of the nations, for our healing, for our new life.  New Life now, and life eternal.  A new reality. New heaven.  New Earth.   

By his blood he reconciles us, by his wounds we are healed. 

What healing would we ask him for this morning, in the yearning of our heart?  Healing in the wide world, wars and suffering.  Healing in our homes and families.  Healing in the brokenness within.  In the words of the old hymn: take it to the Lord in prayer.  

Where there is hatred, where there is injury, where there is discord, where there is doubt, despair, darkness, sadness? What healing would we ask him for this morning?  That we would put our trust in him, who died for us. That we might live in him always, who rose again, who lives and reigns.  Whose promise is true.

Second Peter, Chapter 2:  For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

First Peter, chapter 1: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you – for you—who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation to be revealed in the last time.

Mary ran to her friends with the news: I have seen the Lord. So for us, today, this morning. So Paul’s great affirmation in Romans 8: For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sing with joy, and keep singing.   Christos anesti.  Alithos anesti. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

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