my miscellany

Easter Day, 2019 — 21 Apr 19

Easter Day, 2019

RCL Year C Easter Day
Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2 and 14-24, I Corinthians 15:19-26,
Saint John 20:1-18

Today marks your new beginning, whether it feels like it or not. The empty tomb gives you a new beginning every moment of your life.

Think of Mary Magdalene’s new beginning, as you heard it proclaimed in the Gospel of the Resurrection. She goes to the tomb the morning after the Sabbath, on the first day of the week, and finds, instead of his body, his empty tomb. At first, she thinks someone has taken his body away, as she tells Peter. When he arrives and enters the tomb and sees the linen cloths, his new beginning has begun. Then John, the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, also enters, and he sees its gaping emptiness. He sees, and he believes; he adjusts to his new beginning quickly. Peter, as you know, in time recollects himself, so that he could say, as he does in the first reading, “You know…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”[1] For Mary and for Peter and John, every moment becomes a new beginning. Nothing remains, or will remain, the same—for eternity.

I believe that is why you are all here this morning. Whatever else you know, you are aware of how extraordinary Jesus was. Because of his love and mercy for the outcast and the people on the margins; because of his power to heal the sick and afflicted, to bring peace and sanity to the disturbed and even the possessed; because of his loving honesty that afflicted the powerful, the comfortable, and the self-righteous; because of his amazing sense of inner security and peace and his fearlessness in the face of all the things that make us fearful. If slow at his new beginning, Peter was right later when he spoke the first reading today.

So that we may not be slow in the face of the empty tomb, in the face of our new beginning, we all need to understand two things.

One. It was inevitable that Jesus would go through his suffering and death, terrible as it was. Jesus knew this and said so. The disciples, led by Peter, would not hear it, but Jesus insisted on it. Actually, Jesus’ death was more than inevitable. It was necessary. The necessity stems from the fact that God is not only almighty. God is almighty love. God, the God of almighty love, created human freedom, and with that freedom, God allowed for the possibility that we would choose not to love him in return. God took the risk, out of love, that we would choose to get lost. It was necessary for God to come among us, and in coming among us, endure the worst we had to offer, so that he could bring us back with his almighty love.

Two. Although it was necessary that Christ die, it was impossible for death to hold onto him. In words from a hymn, “They cut me down, but I leapt up high. I am the Life that will never, never die.”[2] We do not speak of a resuscitated corpse. But neither do we speak of a disembodied spirit, a soul, or a ghost. On this side of things, on earth’s side of heaven, all that was left was an empty tomb and some grave cloths left behind. On the other side of things, on heaven’s side of earth, the risen Lord shows us something entirely unexpected and new. Saint Paul describes the mystery: “It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.”[3] The Epistle to the Colossians has it: “You have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”[4]

Again, today marks your new beginning, the beginning of an eternity of new beginnings, whether it feels like it or not. Dearly beloved in Christ, let us take hold of this gift of unending new beginnings today. Let us let go of all the dead things that waste so much of our time and energy. Let us leave them behind for others to gawk at, like the burial linen in Jesus’ tomb. Let us get a grip, as they say, on the life he gives us over and over again, which is hid with Christ in God and which will take us through everything, even death. And let’s be ready to tell people the Good News, the reason why we are here, why we have a new lease, a new beginning, on this the most glorious day of Creation.

[1] Acts 10:36-38.

[2] Sydney Carter, “Lord of the Dance,” 1963.

[3] I Corinthians 15:44.

[4] Colossians 3:3.

Easter Day, 2018 — 1 Apr 18

Easter Day, 2018

RCL Year B Easter Day
Acts 10:34–43, Psalm 118:1–2 and 14-24, I Corinthians 15:1–11, Saint John 20:1–18

If Good Friday is the day that we should be empty, today is the day that we should be full. For today is the day that is the basis for the entirety of the Christian life: Christian faith, Christian worship, Christian hope, and Christian behavior. We live for this day, because we live today as we live on no other.

Living in Easter can be harder than living in Lent. Lent is easy. We just give up our sweets, or our drinks, or our carbohydrates, and we give the money to the poor. I’m beginning to see that as very easy.

What’s hard is to live with expectation, with the holy and healthy expectation that all will be well, because the enemy has been conquered. “On this day the Lord has acted; * we will rejoice and be glad in it.”[1]

Again and again at Easter you hear this verse, for Easter is much more than a “religious holiday,” a bright flower in the dreary desert of our normal routine. In early times, Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the Day of the Lord’s Resurrection, was set apart as a weekly commemoration of Christ’s rising from the dead. All our days are Easter Days, for throughout the whole of our Christian lives we are partakers of his Resurrection, for by him we are saved and set free, and freed from death; because he is risen, we shall rise also. All our happiness, our true happiness, here and hereafter stems from the fact that the Lord is risen indeed.

You may be surprised to know that the Lord’s Resurrection impressed itself upon me very strikingly on two Sundays ago. Something caught my eye. The declination of the sun seemed different, and it was. The brightness of the sun was more intense, and the window above the altar and the reredos was sharper and more colorful. Soon a little fuzz will show upon the plants at the front of the church if it hasn’t already. They will return to their glory just as Christ did when he spoke to Mary Magdalene in the garden of the Gospel. God in Christ rose from the dead to show us that life, that God, would in the end triumph over every obstacle. The worst is over. The worst is over every day of our lives because of this day, Easter Day, when life in its fullness is poured out on each of us.

Christian happiness or Easter-living, if you will, springs from the serenity, the confidence, and the assurance we have in the eternal and unchanging God, the Christ who rose from the dead. This serenity and confidence lie deep in the soul, and they persist despite the aches and pains, the gray hairs and the wrinkles, the cancers and the diseases, through which we make our way to follow him. For the risen Christ is irrepressible. The risen Christ will not be denied. The Christ who rose from the dead will not allow his Resurrection to be in vain.

Because we know he is risen we know he is what he claimed to be: Son of God and very God of very God.[2] His Resurrection sets the seal of absolute truth upon every word he uttered, every promise he made. We know beyond all doubt, therefore, what we must do, to whom we must look, and the final purpose of our journey; we know the way, the truth, and the life.

[1] Psalm 118:24.

[2] The Book of Common Prayer, page 327.

Easter Day, 2017 — 16 Apr 17

Easter Day, 2017

RCL A Easter Day
Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2 and 14-24, Colossians 3:1-4, Saint John 20:1-18

If you think we were powerless on Good Friday, as Jesus suffers on the cross, we are doubly powerless today. With Mary Magdalene we see the stone rolled away from the tomb, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Like a bird long-held and set free, we may not know what to do with our new-found freedom. Indeed, as the Psalmist says, “On this day the Lord has acted; * we will rejoice and be glad in it.”[1] It’s up to us to accept God’s gift and to live accordingly. How do we do that?

For quite a long time, I’ve thought that today’s Epistle is a sequel to a brief passage in the Epistle to the Romans: “We have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”[2] That idea, that by baptism we die and are raised with Christ, perfectly precedes in thought today’s Epistle addressed to the Colossians: “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is.”[3] Since we have been raised with Christ, we leave death behind. We are free, completely free, to set our minds on the things that are above.

Our freedom extends from and is the result of God’s power. As I often say from the pulpit, God has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves. And by the instrument of raising Jesus, of the empty tomb, God has set us free from death. We are free to be the people God created us to be. We are free to set our minds on the things that are above. We are free to be in our lives and in our actions signs to those around us of Christ’s resurrection. Our old selves have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God, as we heard in the Epistle.

As always, we have a choice between dying and living; and since we have already died, we may as well live.

I would put that choice to you in this way. We all know, in one endeavor or another, the fear of failure. But since we have died and have been raised, there is no fear of failure to intimidate us. We have, on the other hand, the fear of success. Each of us possesses what we need to have to do the hardest and most intimidating things. We have what it takes to forgive. We have what it takes to share. We have what it takes to tell someone how we have survived death. We have what it takes to write a happy ending to our own stories. We have been set free from all the things that hold us back.

Our journey has just begun. With eyes that have seen and known the Resurrection, we are on our way. At the end of today’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene announces to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”[4] And like her, we are likely to see nothing else except the Lord, except the opportunities given to us by the Lord, and except the good works the Lord gives us to walk in. For we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God.[5]

[1] Psalm 118:24.

[2] Romans 6:4.

[3] Colossians 3:1.

[4] Saint John 20:18.

[5] Colossians 3:3.

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