Easter Sunday: “Reflection” 04/16/2017 by Rev. Stacy Swain (Click on title for audio)

 

Isaiah 43:18-21

 Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
 I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
  the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.

Luke 24: 1-12
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,  but when they went in, they did not find the body.  While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.  The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”  Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.  Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.  But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.  But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Easter as a child, was spent at my grandparents’ house in southern Minnesota. And every Easter morning we would attend service at their little congregational church.  I do not remember much about those services, and try as I may, I do not remember a single thing that the preacher ever said.

But I do remember one thing.  The thing I remember is the large stained glass window in the chancel of the church above the altar.  It depicted a single scene and the scene it depicted was the Gospel story of the resurrection, the story we heard this morning.

The window portrayed the three women.  They were standing at a slight angle with their backs to us making it feel that all of us gathered in the church were somehow also gathered behind the women in that moment.

Their backs were slightly turned but their faces were quite clear and they were faces filled with astonishment, faces filled with awe as they gazed into the radiance that was flowing from the entrance of the tomb.  The radiance that was pouring forth in yellows, oranges, red, purples – it was an intense pulse of color made even more beautiful by the fact that the church must have been facing east for the  morning sun lit that window unlike any of the others that lined the sides of the sanctuary.

I remember as a kid being drawn into the scene in that widow.   I wanted to see what they were seeing.    I wanted so much to slip alongside them and look around the edge of that tomb in order to experience what they were experiencing.  It felt big and important and full of mystery and I wanted so much to be a part of it.

~~~

Even though that was so many years ago, I can still feel that longing that stained glass window stirred in me, the longing reawakened today in the reading of our scripture.

Maybe I am not alone in this longing?  Do you too feel a longing for resurrection – do you too want so very much to be a part of it?

Do you too long for the day when the stone will be rolled away and new life will emerge for you; when places that feel lifeless, worn out or worn through will feel the stirrings of new life?  Do you long for a time when the death dealing ways of this world are no more and where instead the river of life flows, and where once parched places burst forth in flourishing?

Today is Easter and we celebrate that our redeemer lives, but we cannot deny that we are still very much living in a Good Friday world.  The crucifying powers are still very much with us.  There is much suffering, in our own lives and in the life of the world.  Jesus may have experienced resurrection and known new life but does that change anything for us?

~~~

Those that followed Jesus long ago, thought that he had come to change the world.  They thought that he was the one that would over-throw the Roman occupation, cast of the evils of Empire and bring about a changed social, economic and political reality that would set God’s people free.  And when none of that happened, when instead Jesus was killed and his lifeless body placed in a tomb, their hope for something new died.

Sometimes I think we get stuck in this thinking as well.  We get stuck thinking that the reason Jesus came into the world was so that he could change it.  And then like those early disciples that fell down and fell away when things did not turn out as they imaged it should, we too look around and see how little things have changed, and we too either get disheartened or give up on God all together.

But this way of thinking is mistaken.  Jesus did not come into the world so that he could change the world.  Jesus came into the world so that we would be changed.  And that by being changed, we would then be able to change the world.

And the way of change that Jesus invites us into is the way of Love.  This way of love was nothing new.  It is as old as the cosmos and then some. This way of love is our original blessing, it is the connective tissue of the universe that binds us one to another and to God.  It undergirds and holds all that is and it is the way of truth and life.

This Love is the generative force of creation.  It is the generative force of redemption.  It is the generative force that sustains us.  This is the Love that feeds the hungry and frees the captives.  This Love does not capitulate to the powers and principalities but exposes the lies and injustices for what they are.  This Love forgives, and by doing so forges and fortifies a community of peace and of peacemakers.  This is the Love Jesus embodied.

When we join with Jesus and live this Love, things that we thought were entrenched and never changing begin to break loose.  When we join with Jesus and live this Love, streams start appearing in parched places. When we join with Jesus and live this love, we may even find ourselves awestruck at the door way of resurrection.

~~~

For this way of love leads to resurrection. This is what this Holy Week story is all about.  This is what Jesus came to show us. And it is not just a resurrection at the end of life but resurrection in the midst of life.  For this  Jesus, after his death, returned to his disciples.  Jesus could have risen from the cold slab of the tomb straight to the heavenly court of his father.  But Jesus’ resurrection was not intended for him alone.  It was intended for the community of those learning to walk in his way to share in it as well.   Jesus stepped out of the tomb and appeared to his disciples in order to enact resurrection in the lives of those that follow in his way.  To show them, to show us that through Love fear, doubt, pain, suffering, violence, and shame is rolled away and we are delivered into  light hope, peace and courageous action.

This morning, we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, but instead of seeing it as a past event, frozen in time, one that we long for and wonder about, can we begin to see resurrection as an ongoing process of the in-breaking of the presence of God that we are invited share in now?

Resurrection is bursting forth all around us as our courageous brothers and sisters of all faiths and no faith at all walk in the way of love.

As a final thought, I learned that the word Resurrection is derived from the word “surge.”  Resurrection – re – surge.  Resurrection then is the re surging, the sending out again and again and again, waves of healing, redeeming, empowering, restoring, forgiving and life giving love.  It is what is flowing over and through us today.  What is lifting us and sending us out again.

This is the flow, the surge, the power of life, of which Isaiah sings in our passage for this morning.  Resurrection is what is springing forth, it is the way in the wilderness, the river in the desert.  It is the river of life, watering a garden into bloom and meeting the longing of every heart.

So on this Easter morning, let us feel the glow of the empty tomb upon us, let us take up our place in the life of Love, so that  may the power of resurrection flow in and through us and bring flourish for us and for all the world.

Thanks be to God. Amen.