Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
Happy Easter! Today we celebrate new life after death. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and we celebrate THE Resurrection of new life after the deaths we know in our own lifetime.
April 5, 2015
In the name of the God of all creation,
The God alive in each of us as God was alive in Jesus,
And the power of God known in the Spirit.
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
What an absolutely beautiful day! I think that this 115 year-old wooden building is absolutely beautiful at Easter. This is the 115 anniversary of the consecration of this building by Edwin weed in 1900. It is as if it were built just for this day. And I also believe that this congregation lives into a resurrected life like no other church I know. The people of St. Cyprian’s seem to know what it means to live a new life after death in a way that proclaims our faith in the Resurrection. You seem to encounter the risen life of Christ in some wonderfully ordinary places. Indeed, we are a Resurrectional people!
We just heard Mark describe the scene of that first Easter morning. The women go to the tomb and find the large stone rolled away from the entrance. They went inside and encountered a young man in a white robe. The young man tells the frightened women:
"Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
“He has been raised.” Only four words … yet four words that transformed the world. But why would the risen Jesus want to meet the disciples in Galilee of all places? What was so great about this tiny backwater region of Judea? What was so important about Galilee that Jesus would choose it over the holiest of cities, Jerusalem … the city of the Temple? And what did the disciples have to look forward to in Galilee, if anything at all? After all, it was just an ordinary place … a little dusty and out-of-the-way.
A few words about Mark’s story of the Resurrection of Jesus. First, it is the shortest of all the accounts of Easter morning … it is only eight verses long. Secondly, there are no post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus in Mark’s gospel. The Gospel of Mark is completely silent on this point. It just leaves us dangling.
But back to Galilee: Galilee was just an ordinary place, then Jesus, in Galilee, called a few fisherfolk and others to follow him. People began leaving their homes, walking off good paying jobs, trying to act like disciples. Jesus shook things up in Galilee. Over four-fifths of Jesus’ ministry occurred in Galilee. Then in the holy city … in Jerusalem … his ministry ended. But the young man in the white robe now tells the women that Jesus’ ministry will begin again … back in Galilee.
I believe that Mark’s story is telling us is that Jesus will meet his disciples and those who have been following him in a rather ordinary place, a place like Galilee … maybe even a place like St. Augustine … maybe even in a place like St. Cyprian’s, if you can consider us ordinary. Jesus had been born and raised in a Galilean town. He had followed the voice of John the Baptist to the Jordan River on the edge of Galilee. Then he began his ministry in Galilee.
In spite of all of our efforts to describe the meaning and purpose of the death and Resurrection of Jesus in vast libraries of theology, Mark’s gospel story is telling us to open our eyes, and hearts and soul in the ordinary life that we live every day. Jesus has been raised and he comes to where we live … to the ordinary life of Galilee … or maybe the ordinary life of St. Augustine and the ordinary lives of people like you and me.
The Resurrection is not just something that happened once out at the cemetery 2,000 years ago. That would be all too easy. The Resurrection is something that happens all the time. The Resurrection is something that meets us in the world … in our own world of families, relationships, jobs, school, church, and the ordinary places like Galilee and St. Augustine. This morning we celebrate the Resurrection with glorious hymns and beautiful flowers in this marvelous sacred space. Yet Mark is telling us that we will find Jesus not here, but in the ordinary lives we live after we leave this sanctuary.
Sometimes we are so hungry for life that we sell ourselves short and don’t live into the fullness of the image of God in which we were made. Sometimes we compromise our true beings just to fit in, or to keep the peace in our household when the truth would upset the system, or settle for an uneasy comfort rather than take a risk to see our full potential. Sometimes we are so hungry for life and spirit that we use material “spirits” … alcohol, prescription or illicit drugs, or other addictions to fill the void. We are so afraid of dying to this world that we live as if we were already dead. The resurrection tells us that we can let go of that fear … there is a new and beautiful life after death. And I’m not talking about Heaven, I’m talking about death to those things that rob life from us. God wants us to live in the fullness of God’s image. The Resurrection is the key to living that life. Let go of that fear. God’s love in unconditional. Even if you take the risk and fail there is a new life awaiting you. When you tell the uncomfortable truth … when you name the elephant in the room … and you upset the uneasy balance of your household … there is a new life … a beautiful new life on the other side.
In Mark’s hands the Resurrection is not primarily a belief about life after death, but rather a vindication of Jesus’ life in the world. It is a call to live life fully in the image of our God … with total honesty and integrity about who we really are … here and now. In Mark’s Easter, we are not so much to believe that we shall live forever, rather Mark’s Easter tells us we are to take seriously what Jesus took seriously. And in Mark’s Easter story the risen Jesus goes back to Galilee … to ordinary life. In other words, the story isn’t finished. It is as if the story were beginning all over again
After all the “Alleluias” this morning we will leave this sanctuary and go out into our ordinary lives. But that is exactly where we will meet the risen Jesus if we will only open our eyes, and hearts, and souls to the world around us. In our liturgy this morning we will greet each other in the “Peace of The Lord.” This is a greeting of the Christ that is alive in each one of us greeting the Christ in the other. It is a symbolic and liturgical action. But when we walk out the door into the world we are called to see the risen Jesus in each and every other person we encounter. To do that we have to live into a new life, a life beyond the fears and prejudices that separate us from those who are different. That is the new life that God has given us in the Resurrection. And it is found in the ordinary places of our lives … the supermarket, the library, on street corners, in feeding the homeless and allowing them to feed our souls.
The empty tomb. A young man in a white robe telling the women that they will see Jesus in Galilee. No post-Resurrection appearances … just the promise that we will find Jesus back where our life began with him. Just the promise that we will find the risen Jesus in the ordinary places of our lives.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!