Easter “Disruption”, Easter “Zip”
A sermon preached by The Rev. Dianne Andrews at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Port Townsend, WA
Alleluia Christ is risen!
On this Easter morning our Lenten fast has been broken. We have made the scathing journey from Good Friday… through the still, still silence of Holy Saturday… and we have arrived in this new day, a day filled with new promise and new possibility. Easter is beyond a miracle. God is delighting in the re-creation of all that is and we are being invited to live into the vivid power of new life that has broken the grip of death and is seeking to make its way into each and every heart… calling the world to new life.
In Matthew’s account of the resurrection that we heard this morning, the women do not come with spices for anointing Jesus’ body. In Matthew the women come to watch, to wait, to hold vigil. They know he is dead. They have come to be with him. The women have come to the tomb where, since Friday, guards had been stationed. The government was worried that some tenacious disciples might come and steal the body. An angel, garbed in shimmer and light, enters the scene… and with sizzling power the angel rolls away the stone. The ground shakes and the guards fall into a death-like stupor. The angel says to the women “do not be afraid.” “He is not here.” “He has been raised.” Come now and see for yourselves… come and know the fullness of this empty tomb. Once you have seen for yourselves, then go and tell the others. You women believed Jesus when he said that he would rise again in three days. You stayed with him during his slow, painful death. You believed Jesus when the other disciples wouldn’t. Now go… you faithful ones. Go and tell the others. Jesus promises to meet the whole group in Galilee. The women then went with haste… with trembling elation in every swift step. They went with “fear and great joy” which, in the Greek, is closer to “trauma and ecstasy.” Suddenly, Jesus stood before them. They took hold of his feet and worshipped him. Jesus then repeated what the angel had said: “Do not be afraid.” … now go and tell the others! This is the central story of our faith… a cosmic-quaking event of new creation, that spurs new stirrings, new life. The stone is rolled away. The tomb is empty… and Jesus is alive… Christ is with us. The same message is for us today: “Do not be afraid… now go and tell the others, go and share the news… go and witness with your lives.”
Resurrection is disruptive. It breaks apart old, worn out patterns. It upsets the status quo. Trauma and ecstasy, surprise and delight, evoke new sensations. They enhance our perceptions of our place in creation, inviting us to see and to experience the world in profoundly new ways… as might a baby… who was born deaf…lighting up in startling delight when his hearing aid is turned on and he hears his mother’s voice for the very first time… or a colorblind man who weeps when, he puts on special glasses that allow him to see, for the first time, the brilliance of a fuller palette of color, bringing the world around him into more vividness, expanding his perception of color and the experience of beauty all around him… or, as C.S. Lewis described in a scene in his book The Great Divorce… the stunning experience of travelers on a bus bound for heaven. When the travelers arrive at the final destination, some who disembark head straight for the shadows, but the ones who are to know the fullness of heaven step off of the bus and experience, for the first time, the sharpness of each blade of grass beneath their feet… a shimmering ecstasy of sensation… The experience of life has sharpened. Newness has burst onto the scene. The resurrection has shattered the wall of death… and we are no longer to seek drab comfort in the shadows, but to encounter, and to feel, and explore the freshness… and depth of meaning… of this new day.
Easter is a huge story about God’s power to make life new… Of Gods power to create… and re-create… each one of us… bringing fresh hope and new possibility to us and to our frustrated and divided world. Easter is not simply a story of personal salvation. The power of this Sunday invites all of humanity into new relationship… calling forth generous hospitality and the courage to meet one another beyond our differences, and to grow into ever deeper relationship… The creative power of the resurrection urges us to build bridges of connection and to build community… it invites us to come gather around tables to break bread and to risk sharing our stories with one another, and to practice generous and patient listening. Fractured lives, fractured families, fractured communities, our fractured world… are being called to begin anew… called into new ways of being, of perceiving and of understanding… The power of Easter implants in us the urgent potential to grow as an Easter people granting us new strength and courage to move through challenges and rough patches, that even conflict may bear fruits of creative reworking, and new understanding. We may not understand the “how” of this new day. Our questions linger…. and it is more thank “OK” to live into the mystery and to let it unfold in us. Resurrection is a big, open ended story, that defies simple, pat explanations.
And so… on this Easter morning I would like us to hear some sage words and questions about the meaning of God’s big story from some experts on the art of inquiry:
In his letter to God, little Mark wrote:
Dear God, I read your book and I like it. Did you ever write any others? I would like to write a book someday with the same kind of stories. Where did you get your ideas?
Best wishes, Mark.
Honestly, where did God get all of these fantastical ideas… like turning Good Friday into Easter?
Little Jimmy writes to God:
Dear God, your book has a lot of zip to it. I like science fiction stories. You had very good ideas and I would like to know where you found them.
Your reader, Jimmy
“A lot of ‘zip’” might be one way of describing the Easter story…
Little Sherman wrote,
When you started the earth and put people there and all the animals and the grass and the stars did you get very tired? I have a lot of other questions too.
Very truly yours, Sherman.
Yes, indeed, we are curious and we have many questions…
In his letter to God, little Seymour asked:
How come you did all those miracles in the old days but do not do them now?
A good question… but is it true that God’s miraculous works only happened long ago…?
Little Nancy writes:
Dear Holy God, Would you make it so there would not be any more wars? And so every one (sic) could vote. And have plenty of food for meals. Also every body (sic) should have a lot of fun. I hope you do not think this is to (sic) selfish.
One of your friends, Nancy
Dear God, Could you write more stories. We have already read all the ones you have and begin (sic) again.
Well Emily, the story continues to be written. It continues to be written in the love of God that is revealed in the Easter lives of the faithful… through our deep hospitality and in our work towards of peace, reconciliation, and justice making… in our persistence efforts to ensure that all of God’s beloved are fed… and that all are welcomed, that all are invited to know meaning, purpose and joy in life. God’s creative work continues in us. The Good News of Easter is to spread from the empty tomb out and around the world… one meeting, one conversation, one relationship at a time… bringing life and light even into the most forsaken corners of abandoned hope. Old, broken forms being reconfigured. Resurrection believing means sitting at one table to which everyone is invited… full stop… all are invited, all are welcome. God is calling the world into new and deeper ways of being. God’s stories of life continue to be written and we are to be participants in this ongoing process of creation. God the artist and author of life continues to delight in us and invites us to come to experience the empty tomb for ourselves… and then to hasten forward with trembling elation.
Some sage words from a beloved poet and priest in our midst, Bill Maxwell:
The tomb isn’t empty.
Empty means nothingness,
a totally diminished presence,
a promise that isn’t real.
On Easter Day the tomb is full,
full of new life,
of resurrection hope,
full of God’s love.
Little Sharon writes:
Dear God, I am eight years old. My name is Sharon. I am in third grade. I live in Seattle. One thing I would like to know. Do you like what you do?
What do you think?
Alleluia Christ is risen!