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4/12/09 - Easter Sunday - The Rev. Susan N. Blue

posted May 21, 2010, 6:26 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:27 PM by Terry Brady ]
“Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right God finds acceptable. You know the message the Lord sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ – he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea,, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 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…’”
(Acts 10:34-38)


“Alleluia, Christ is risen; The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!” Once again we have made the long journey through Lent and Holy Week. We have walked with Christ to Jerusalem as increasingly ominous signs have appeared along the way. The darkness of evil fell in full at the crucifixion, for it appeared that evil had won the never ending battle. After Jesus was laid in the tomb, the darkness was exacerbated for those early followers. Christ was gone, the night was long, they hid themselves away in the dark…filled with despair, doubt and weeping. They had given up everything, and that sacrifice appeared to have been in vain.
God had the last laugh, however, for, on that Sunday morning Jesus was raised by God from the dead…resurrected in a new a most profound way. This must have been terrifying for his followers. There are other stories of resuscitation in Biblical and other literature, the raising of Lazarus for one, but there are none of someone coming back after being dead for three days. Jesus was different in appearance, but still had fully human characteristics as well as those not possessed by humankind. This Jesus could walk through walls, but still bore the wounds of the nails. He could appear suddenly, but still ate fish at the side of the lake. This resurrection was unnatural…a shocking event, and his followers found it almost incomprehensible just as many people do today.
Over the years there have been many scholars who have tried to prove or disprove the historicity of the physical resurrection. Several factors point to the truth of the historical resurrection. First, the tomb was empty, empty in all four gospels. It is logical to believe that, had his body been stolen, his enemies would have produced the bones in order to refute the beliefs of the growing number of Christians. Further, in all four gospels, women were the first witnesses to the empty tomb. At that time, it was unheard of for a woman to be a credible witness, yet the writers attested to just that. As Newsweek pointed out (March 28, 2005), these facts “point to the historicity, not theology, of the resurrection.” However, this would be a slim basis for what transpired.
The most compelling argument blends the two. “The number of Christians rose from roughly 1000 believers in AD 40 to nearly 34 million in AD 350. (Rodney Stark, “The Rise of Christianity,” Copied.) Something profound happened that gave this nascent movement an energy that had not been seen before and has not been seen since. The followers gathered strength from this light…the appearances of Jesus Christ…and moved from fear to love, night to day, despair to hope, doubt to faith and weeping to joy. By not requiring believers to follow Jewish law, all people were welcome and the movement exploded. Further, they cared for one another and others in need…showing a unique love and compassion that was compelling. As St. Paul’s words in our Acts passage for today attests: all persons are loved and cared for because all are one in Jesus Christ. Christians cared for the sick during the plague, Romans, Jews and believers alike, and valued women in a new way. There were no barriers to being included.
This speaks volumes to us today. The Early Church preached peace, love and inclusivity causing it to receive widespread acceptance. I would suggest that we, too, are to follow in Christ’s footsteps and those of the believers in the Early Church. We are living, as did they, in a time of great uncertainty, conflict and fear. Like Mary we weep, if only inwardly, as we see so much of what we had counted upon being dismantled. Yet, we are called to follow her example by being faithful, by staying the course, trusting and hoping that there will be light in the darkness. We are blessed to know how that story ends, and our faith points to a similar story for ourselves today. Through our anxiety and sadness there will come a voice, the same voice that came to Mary, a voice that calls each of us individually and collectively by name. It is a voice that assures us that we are loved beyond measure, a voice that compels us to share what we know, have and believe with all the people we meet. We share that by our actions as well as our words.
At our Tuesday morning Eucharist this Holy Week, we could hear the sounds of our volunteers and clients of Charlie’s Place in the background as we worshiped. It was very moving to know that we were doing Christ’s work in the Parish Hall even as we offered ourselves in thanksgiving and penitence in the Chapel.
The world in which we live is much larger and more complicated than that of the early Christians. The Gospel demands an examination of the many errors our church and our nation have made through the years. It calls us to honor all religions, not just our own. It calls us to accept all people, especially those whom we have traditionally shunned. It calls us to speak out with one voice against war, violence, poverty, prejudice and abuse. It calls us to understand our interconnectedness with all people, and our need to solve problems with love, listening and understanding, not with guns and torture. We are to remember that ours are the hands God in the world and to work to bring about that Kingdom of love.

The Most Rev. Edmund Browning, former Presiding Bishop said:

“Jesus calls each of us by name – the name we received by our baptism into his death and resurrection. He calls each of us as we stand at the tomb. He calls each of us as our eyes are filled with hot tears. He calls us individually and corporately. When we hear that familiar voice call our name it makes all the difference in how we perceive ourselves and our society. When we hear that voice we can say, ‘I have seen the Lord.’”

(The Most Rev. Edmond Browning, Easter Message 1988, “The Living Church,” Easter, p. 10)

We are called to the same radical new reality to which the Early Church was called. It is one of prayer, inclusivity, and peace-seeking, care taking and sharing. The outrageousness of God’s gift of love in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ demands no less of us! We are called to have courage, trust and faith that God never, ever leaves us and loves us to distraction! “Christ is risen, the Lord is risen indeed!” Have a most blessed Easter. AMEN
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