April 24, 2011 -- Easter Sunday -- Anne-Marie Jeffery

posted May 3, 2011, 7:24 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 3, 2011, 7:25 PM by Terry Brady ]

Look for the hope

John 20:1-18

It’s here. It’s Easter.  Alleluia. Christ is risen.

I love getting to Easter – not just because my Lenten practices are over, and not just because all those Holy Week services are finished, and not just because I can now fully enjoy the Easter decorations and malted chocolate eggs that the Rite Aid across the street has been selling for two and a half months. I love getting to Easter because I love getting to the good news that Jesus is risen and has triumphed over pain and death. Our journey through Holy Week, from Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem as the crowd waved palms to his last supper with the disciples, to his being arrested, condemned to death and crucified on a cross is not an easy one to walk. For us who live in a  world where there is much pain and suffering, we can easily identify with these events.

So when the new fire is lit at the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening and we celebrate the first Eucharist of Easter and we come to our celebration this wonderful day, I am filled with great hope. Because even though all through Holy Week I know Easter is coming and that the women will find an empty tomb, when Easter comes I am reminded that in this world and in our lives, we live in the hope for Easter, the coming of Christ. That ‘living in hope’ is what I most love about being a Christian.

It kind of like what happened this spring – we all lived in the hope that spring would come but it stayed cold. It was rainy and dark. We even had snow one Sunday morning in late March. Every now and again a warm day would come along only to be followed by many more days of cold weather.  We complained. We moaned and groaned and yet we went through it knowing spring would come. Even as we held our umbrellas against the cold driving rain, inside us we had the hope of spring and that one day soon, it would stay warm and sunny.  Our knowledge that spring would come is a little like us living in the hope that Christ will come again and that as corny as it sounds that the world will be a better place. It is a deep hope – one that we carry and one that we have to nurture. You may be saying to yourself, “Now wait a moment we’ve been waiting for Christ for quite some time and Christ has not shown up yet. Also, have you seen the world lately – it is anything but better with earthquakes, famine disease and poverty. Even with all this, we live in hope.  And if you think that sounds a little crazy – well it kind of is. One commentary mentions that it is odd that on the day when so many people flock to church, we proclaim the very things that may be the hardest to believe.[1]

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, does an amazing job of describing this kind of hope. In his book, God Has a Dream, Archbishop Tutu says that in the  days of apartheid he used to say to the South African president  that the archbishop’s side had already won and invited him to join  the winning side. Sure all the objective facts were against him, but his confidence was in the laws of God’s universe which means that despite all the evidence to the contrary there is no way evil, injustice and oppression could have the last word. He believed that God’s way would prevail and one day apartheid in South Africa would be toppled. That is our story –one of living in hope of God’s world that is to come and that is already coming even with the present state of the world. This is the story that the prophets have told for centuries upon centuries that God will save God’s people.  This is the story of Mary Magdalene finding an empty tomb, encountering the risen Christ in the garden and then running to  tell the disciples “I have seen the Lord.” This is our story as we live in a world that will change and is    changing.

We believe in the dream of God which Archbishop Tutu describes as a world whose ugliness and squalor and poverty, its war and hostility, its greed and harsh competitiveness, its alienation and disharmony are changed into their glorious counterparts, when there will be more laughter joy and peace, where there will be justice and caring and compassion.[2] Sometimes we get overwhelmed by the amount of pain and suffering in the world and yet we cannot lose hope because we know that in the worst of times, God is with us.  We know that there are glimmers of God’s world breaking  through. The hope of God’s world is real.  Change has happened. Apartheid in South Africa is over – sure the transformation of that country continues, but apartheid is over. In this country, where not so long ago, a black person could not drink from the same water fountain as white person, we have an African American president.

In a poem by Rabbi Barenblat as she remembers the 2011 protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Gabon, Bahrain, Libya and elsewhere, I hear signs of God’s world.  The poem begins:-

Liberation comes when people gather

By the tens and the thousands

Demanding that the despot who held the reins

Step down, and in between the slogans

They dish out lentils cooked over open flame

And homes open up so the protestors can shower

And members of one faith link hands

To protect members of another in prayer.

In the midst of protests which sometimes led to violence, people cooked for each other and gave them places in their homes to shower and Christians made a human barrier to protect Muslims in prayer. To me those are signs of God’s world on this earth.  Sometimes these signs are awfully hard to see.  Often they show up in the actions of others and in our actions. As I was preparing for this sermon, I searched on the internet for good news, for signs of God’s world and I did not find much.  But hope is out there.  A couple of magazines came across my desk during Holy Week. One was Sojourners, which had an article about the surprising power of non violence. That was good news. God’s world is out there.  We have to pay attention to see it. We may see it only when we fall ill and our neighbor does our grocery shopping for us. We may feel it when our friends and their friends hold us in prayer while we go through cancer treatment. We may encounter God’s world in the faces of one other when we remember that we are all brothers and sisters.

Looking for and living in the hope of God’s world where there is justice, peace, compassion and much love is what Easter is all about. “It is a radical trust in the God who keeps coming back when  everything seems lost.[3]. So in the midst of a struggling economy, in the midst of earthquakes, in the midst of a world that continues to have    war and famine and disease, in the midst of a world that    seems to be spinning out of control, look for that hope. Be part of that hope. Trust in the promise of Easter. Trust the story of the empty tomb that tells us that Christ is coming and will triumph over pain and death.  

[1] Martin B. Copenhaver, Feasting on the Word, Yr A, Vol. 2, Easter Day, john 20:1-18.

[2] God has a dream pg. 20

[3] Nathan Nettleton