Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Vigil 2014

Do not be afraid, Jesus is not here, he has been raised from the dead. This is the Good News, the heart of the Easter message. We have come to the tomb with fear and trepidation, and we hear, just like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, do not be afraid, go and tell that you have seen me.

This is awesome news, Jesus is raised, so God's new creation has begun and we his followers, like the women who first witnessed the empty tomb, have a job to do! Jesus is raised, so we must act as his heralds, announcing his lordship to the entire world, making his kingdom come on earth as in heaven. This is a message that is effective now, not at some future time. This is good news about now, not some reward at the end of life. 

And what is the story we tell? What is the story the women told? What is the story the disciples eventually told? The story is Love wins. The story is that death does not triumph. The story is that God, the creator of all that is seen and unseen, the creator of the universe, walked this earth just like you, just like me. This same God, lived, and loved, suffered and died, just like you, just like me. The story is that God loves you so absolutely and completely that your life is changed. 

And just what does a changed life look like? What does eternal life look like? It looks like partnership with God, it looks like taking seriously our responsibility to care for the earth and one another in deeply loving ways. It looks like mercy and compassion and justice, because God's dwelling place is now among the people, not in some far off place. You see, when we take that seriously, when we take resurrection seriously, it changes everything. We no longer live for ourselves or for a reward at the end of life, instead we live as agents, as partners with God, creating a merciful compassionate and just world, right here and right now. Go and tell, is what the women did, go and tell that Jesus has changed everything.  

Jesus calls disciples, that's you and me, in order to teach us how to be and what to be. Jesus intention is for us to be growing and changing toward generosity, forgiveness, honesty, courage, truth-telling, and responsibility so that as these things take over our lives we participate with God in creating the world God longs for. The world God longs for, the kingdom of God. In her Easter message, our presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, asks us, “Where and how will we look for the Body of Christ, risen and rising? Will we share the life of that body as an Easter people, transformed by resurrection and sent to transform the world in turn?”

We will look in all the unexpected places and times for the Body of Christ, because everyone belongs in the kingdom of God? You do, we all do. There is no one outside of God's love, there is nothing any one of us could do that would make God love us any less. Any stories you have heard that suggests what you do, or who you are, or what you look like, puts you outside of God's love are lies. The truth is that God loves you, God loves each and every one of us no matter what. You may turn your back on God, but God never lets go. 

We have just spent this holy week in the reality of this life, in the reality of pain and suffering, of love and death. The truth is born out in the story of life, death, and resurrection. There is a pattern that leads to life, the pattern is that we must lose our life in order to find it. The truth is that we must die to lies of self importance, the lies of autonomy, the lies of individualism, and rise again to the truth of interdependence, the truth of community, the truth of the Body of Christ. The truth of resurrection shows us that dieing to that which is killing us is the only way to life a live that is worth living. 

At the center of the cross are the stories that show us that healing and reconciliation, renewal and return cause God's greatness to shine through the universe. The empty tomb shows us that love, in the end, wins. But, we have a choice. Love demands freedom, we are free to resist, to reject, and to rebel against God's ways for us, we can choose hell on earth. We do that every time we isolate ourselves, give the cold shoulder to someone who has slighted us, every time we hide knives in our words, every time we harden our hearts in defiance of what we know to be the loving, good, and right thing to do. And each one of those choices collects others, our hearts get harder, our minds get duller. But God says yes. Yes, there is water for that thirst, food for that hunger, light for that darkness, relief for that burden. 

Choose the empty tomb. Choose the love that wins. Go and tell.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen. The Lord is Risen indeed. Alleluia! 

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