John 20: 1-18
I’m very aware this morning of this being my first Easter Sermon in this charge, and some folks may wonder what I am going to say.
Well, I can’t say that I have the perfect story to tell, the perfect illustration. Easter Sunday, like Christmas, is one of those days where there is only so much you can do. Easter, like Christmas, is about one thing, and one thing only, and anything that any preacher can say either proclaims that or distracts from it.
Jesus Christ is Risen, and our Christian faith is declared. Let us now proclaim the Mystery of Faith:
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
That’s the whole enchilada.
That’s where we start, that’s where we end. All of the stories about Jesus healing, all of the ethical lessons, all of the miracles are lessons about him, and we get them the rest of the year. Today, and Christmas, we are about who we are, and what our response is to the event that we claim is central to our faith, and to the history of the world. Because of what we claim about this day, men and women for 2000 years have left their families and gone to the far reaches of the earth to tell the story. Because of what we claim about this day, wars have been and continue to be fought.
Because of what we claim about this day, people go to live in foreign countries and teach farming, teach about the importance of clean water, teach about the equality of all people, in all nations and tribes and places.
Because of what we claim about this day, music is composed, poems are written, on all continents and in all languages. Swahili, Ibo, Urdu, Bengal, Irish, English, Japanese, Spanish, in all forms of sign, and computer code.
What do we claim about this day?
We claim that on this day, Jesus was discovered to have been raised from the dead. We claim that today begins the new Covenant, the covenant where God’s love is available to all, where all people are now the chosen people. Even when we fall short, even where we fail, even when we miss the mark, and cause pain and death and destruction, we are loved, and God’s way is the way of peace, reconciliation, creation, and healing.
We believe that God loved the world, and has loved it, all of it, since he created it. We believe that somehow, another part of God, separate but of the same substance, emptied himself, and was born as a full human being, having to learn how to talk, how to talk, how to learn a trade, how to read, how to understand the Scriptures, so that we may know that God loved us in a real concrete way. When that love was rejected, and he was put into danger, the man who the spirit contained did not shy away, but bravely sought to continue to show the love of God.
This showing of love to all, even those whom were not loved by other humans on earth, led to his being killed. When it became clear that there was only one path left for him, he walked toward it bravely, and was killed in the most painful way the ruling body could formulate. That man, loved by God and part of God, was raised from the dead; not just resuscitated, but resurrected to full and tangible life, as the final evidence of God’s love. And when he came back, he taught one thing, as he said it to Peter—Do you love me? Feed my sheep.
We claim that on this day, God’s love was shown to all the world by overcoming death. God is real. He didn’t leave Jesus in the tomb. From this day, we know that he has all the power in the world. And he loves us. And through the man that came to us, and his actions while with us, we now know this.
He loves me. He loves you. He loves us. He loves them. And as the recipients of that Love, and with the help of the Spirit that was sent, our charge is to continue to feed God’s sheep. You. Me. Us. Them. Everyone. All are children of God. God loves Americans, and loves Iraqis. God loves Anglos and Hispanics. Miners and farmers. Men and Women. God loves Jews and Greeks, slaves and those who are free. There is no preference. What we call radical and dangerous, not having learned a thing from Jesus, is normal and expected of God. We are called to be as radial in love as Jesus was, and as God is. In him, we are one people, one creation.
This is the whole Enchilada.
And so, all over the world, this day is celebrated by Christians. Yes, some groups celebrate it on different days. Everybody celebrates it a little differently; some with communion, some with baptism, some with the ordination of priests, some with long worship services, some alone standing on a hilltop. Families have dinners, some have picnics (probably not too many of those, today, around here!)
All to celebrate that the supreme creator of the universe sent his Son, that whoever believes in him, really believes that to love all isn’t radical at all, shall not perish but have eternal life. And when we fail, we are still loved.
This is the whole Enchilada.