An Easter Sermon, April 16, 2017
Did you notice the quirky thing in the reading just now? I mean aside from the Jesus coming back to life business, which I’ll get to in a moment. The angel. Jesus has died and the followers come to see his tomb and the angel says – ‘He is not here ! He has gone on ahead of you to Galilee – go there to see him!’ And then a moment later they meet up with him on the path. 32 years of preaching Easter and I’ve never noticed this glitch, the angel giving out bad info, like some kind of White House press conference. He has gone to Galilee! Or, actually here he is now… I don’t think it means anything. Just the complexity of a story that is part recollection and part legend and centuries of editing.
We are easy pickings today. For skeptics, realists, atheists, scientists… You, maybe. Pondering this. Unsure. Raised from the dead. It’s a stretch. Rightfully so we are a bit, well, open to being called gullible, today. Told to step out on faith and believe the unbelievable.
Some weeks when we gather here we teach about the desire of the great Hebrew prophets for a day of peace a place of abundance a time of justice, and this we can get behind, can’t we? This is noble human work. No intellectual gymnastics needed.
And some weeks we have the teachings of Jesus, an ethical code, to not live in judgement, to find love for the enemy, to do unto others as we would have others…..etc…. And often these are challenging and its hard to live up to but it is comprehensible and reasonable. Jesus is right in there with Ghandi and King and Terry Fox and the moral giants of our day. You are the light of the world !
But today – today crosses a bit of line, right ? Resurrection.
Let me put out a couple of markers – ideas – see where this takes us.
Door number one – some of the most fruitless and adversarial discussions in my 40 years of being a Christian have had to do with this event. My literalist colleagues saying ‘God did this impossible thing and if you don’t believe it you are NOT a Christian’, and my progressive colleagues saying It is a metaphor, a vision, an appearance, a dream, and it was all they needed to carry the movement on. That’s door number one. A lot of oxygen wasted on the argument, division and rancour.
And, second, some of the greatest missed opportunities I recall have been the times when just in the ebb and flow of day to day life and love and work we have failed to see how this deep and holy life in us is always rising. An everyday miracle, What a loss – that there be in someone a moment where an apparent death is matched by a return to life and we miss it.
There’s a guy I see on our street – delivering papers – from his dress, his accent, I surmise he is a new Canadian, has fled a war zone – has waded through blasted buildings and torn children – I would crumple and lie down – here he is – I’m still up! I am willing to toss papers and flip burgers for 9 bucks an hour because I am alive! And I want to say – I see in you a life that has risen from a death and this is amazing.
You may know that we have been meeting with many people in the city to see who is doing the most effective work in bringing safe and secure housing, so that we can make a major investment this year. We visited Eva’s Phoenix, and we met several young women who came back to life. Life on the street, abuse, violence, lost and crumpled, you’ve seen them, lost, crumpled, and now there they were – back from that place – vibrant, safe, loved.
And I want to say – I see in you a life that has risen from a death and this is amazing!
Jesus appearing to his people was not an exception to the usual order of things so much as the most vivid instance of what is happening all the time and everywhere.
You know who has a great Easter slogan right now? Big red maple leaf with ‘Let’s Rise!’ on it. Toronto Blue Jays. If ever anyone needed resurrection it’s these guys. But I love the idea.
Let’s rise and watch every moment for the risings. Let’s dance and watch every moment for the dancing. Let’s live fully alive and watch every moment for the living. Before tomorrow comes we will each have seen more than once a moment where the indestructible holy life rises again from death, in us, around us, and the question is not ‘does this happen?’ so much as ‘will we see it?’
Go to Galilee, Jesus said – go to where you live go to where you work to where you love and play and in the midst of that you will see me. My life is rising
Let’s rise. Thine is the Glory.