Sermon for Sunday, April 5th, 2015 || Easter Day, Year B || Acts 10: 34-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; John 20:1-18
Good morning…welcome…and a happy, hope-filled Easter to you all! It is a joy to have everyone here this morning as we celebrate Easter! And whether you are a believer, a seeker, or a skeptic… an agnostic or even an atheist…please know that you are welcome here, and I hope you will participate in this morning’s service as fully as you possibly can. Because church, for Episcopalians, is not a spectator sport: We stand, we kneel, we sit. We sing, we pray, we listen. It’s a lot more fun when you take part in it, and Easter—of all Sundays—should be fun! So even if you think you have a terrible voice, please sing the hymns! Even if you’re not sure you believe what you’re saying, just try praying the prayers! Remember what we said with the psalmist a few minutes ago: “On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it!”
So rejoice and be glad we will! Not just because Easter always feels like the official start of Spring (and oh how we all still long for spring!) but because what we are celebrating today is something so extraordinary that 2,000 years later, perfectly intelligent people are still arguing about it’s historicity, debating it’s interpretation, transforming people’s lives with its power, and facing death fearlessly because of its promise…
And for those of us who consider ourselves Christians, Easter is the celebration of the most powerful mystery in the history of our world: the mystery that love really does conquer all; that love already did conquer all—including death—two-thousand years ago. It’s the mystery that because the Lord acted (as the psalmist says) love came to us in the person of Jesus. Love came to us to give us life and light and hope, and even when we crucified it in response — and here’s the greatest mystery of all– love could not be snuffed out on a cross or contained in a cold dark tomb. God acted again, and love rose triumphant on Easter morning– renewed, resurrected, transformed beyond recognition, yet known beyond a doubt.
God acted. And because God acted, history and the fundamental nature of reality, was changed forever: Life, where death once triumphed; hope, where despair once reigned; healing and reconciliation, where brokenness and sin once held court. This is the new reality in which we live because God acted with the power of Easter love.
Here at St. Stephen’s, love binds us one to another as followers of Jesus Christ, God’s love-bearer. We are a spirit-filled fellowship of worshippers, singers, readers and prayers—men and women, straight and gay, married and single, old and young…and of every political and theological persuasion. All of us with hearts hungry to be so filled with love that it floods over, gets carried away and shares itself extravagantly and indiscriminately with all of creation—transforming and making whole everything in its path. Hearts ready to be bearer’s God’s Easter love!
Because Easter love isn’t about what we believe, it’s about what we do. Being a Christian isn’t just a matter of doctrine, it’s a way of life. And it’s a very demanding way of life! Like the One we follow, we too, must act! We must act in ways that are radically loving, welcoming, and merciful– to create a world that is radically compassionate, fair, and just. We must act like the Easter people that we are—a people of hope, promise and new life.
Listen to what the late Clarence Jordan wrote about Easter:
“The proof that God raised Jesus from the dead is not the empty tomb, but the full hearts of his transformed disciples. The crowning evidence that he lives is not a vacant grave, but a spirit-filled fellowship. Not a rolled-away stone, but a carried-away church.”
The reason we’re here this joy-filled morning is because the stone is rolled away and the tomb is empty. But the reason we keep coming back here, week after week, is to be a part of a spirit-filled fellowship and a carried-away church!
May the God of Resurrection power continue to transform us with His indomitable, indiscriminate love, that we might be Easter people in this sadly broken world. May He fill us with the assurance that life is more powerful than death and hope more powerful than despair, that we may act with courage and conviction to heal and restore all of creation with the precious, costly, and wildly extravagant gift of Easter love! Alleluia!