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Scripture: Selections from Luke 24 and John 20 as retold by Carol Heyer
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It feels appropriate that I’m writing my Easter Sermon amidst news that another vaccine could become available in the US, that children are returning to in-person schooldays, and that if we stay cautious and conscientious, it may be safe to mingle with other households by independence day. After over a year in lockdown and quarantine, of not traveling, of no hugs, of no concerts or potlucks or going to the movies, the phrase “when things go back to normal” is starting to feel less like a daydream and more like and impending, joyful inevitability.
After over twelve months of Good Friday, we are finally arriving at Easter. We are getting a taste of resurrection….and that’s why the phrase “when things go back to normal” completely and entirely misses the point.
Resurrection isn’t a step backwards, a reversion to the status quo of the before times. It’s a complete and utter transformation- an upheaval that completely radically, and irreversibly changes how we see the world, what we know about the world, our relationship TO the world.
Resurrection by definition annihilates the possibility of going back to “normal”.
After Jesus’ resurrection, life didn’t go back to the way it was, how could it? We can’t unknow the things we’ve learned, unsee the things we’ve seen, wash off the grace we’ve been given.
After Christ’s resurrection, gone were the days of following Jesus from town to town, now, the disciples were working in honor of their teacher’s memory, setting up communities that put his teachings into practice. The disciple who, out of fear, thrice denied him, through resurrection recommitted to the cause even to the point of his own execution.
Resurrection isn’t returning to old life as it was, because that life is gone. Resurrection can only come after death. There was an organist in XYZ denomiation church who got in trouble with leadership after playin a riff of the BeeGee’s “Staying Alive” during an easter service. He wasn’t in trouble for the act of going rogue, however, he was in trouble for the theology of his joke- because “staying alive” implies Jesus never died, and yet without death, there could be no resurrection, no easter. We cannot escape the death of our former ways of living, our former ways of thinking and relating…We cannot escape our natural deaths, nor can we always escape the hatred, greed, and brokenness of a system that kills too many of our bodies and souls, infecting both the oppressor and the oppressed.
As easter people, we believe death and iniquity don’t get the final say over love and justice.
As easter people, we know that the bitter sting of betrayal and the bittersweet bliss of reconciliation go hand in hand.
As easter people, we realize that we are called to enact the very resurrection we proclaim so ardently.
We trust that God’s justice will prevail, that divine peace and equity are on the horizon, and we also know that we are called to co-create that justice with God. If we believe that we are made in the image of God, part of that gift is our ability to create: to create bread from wheat, to create life from love, to create justice from struggle.
Resurrection is a sacred feedback cycle of hope and action. Hope begets action begets hope. The promise of resurrection gives us hope about the future, inspiring us to use the gifts we have now to help build that future together, which in turn fortifies our hope, and the cycle continues, in an at times excruciatingly long arc with an unmistakable bend towards justice.
Things wont be like they were before. everything has changed. we have new understanding, new perspectives, new experiences. We are looking toward the future of a post-quarantine world, the relief is just on the horizon, just around the corner, just out of our view, and we also know that the burden of rounding that corner is on us- not just by wearing our masks and staying home and getting vaccinated and washing our hands, but by taking all that we’ve learned, seeing all of the injustice that the past year has shone a light on, all of the perspectives we had overlooked before, and working to create the kind of Justice that God demands.
Some of us carry the weight of generations of oppression in our DNA, in our very souls. Some of us have heard this story before, that things will change, that people will ‘do better’, that our male counterparts, our white counterparts, our cisgender counterparts, our wealthy or ruling class counterparts, our able-bodied counterparts, our allistic counterparts, our christian coutnerparts will take time to learn and change and atone, and have seen all that effort go on to exist only in the graveyard of corporate marketing schemes and capitalist appropriation of reconciliation. Some of us hear the assurance of peace, the calls for hope, the promise of resurrection, and think, “I’ll believe it when i see it”.
When Thomas, the disciple who had been deprived of witnessing the risen christ, expressed his doubt, Jesus didn’t beat him with it, claim he’d failed a test, or leave him to rely on the assurances of his mortal brethren. No, jesus came to Thomas, allowing him to touch the very wounds that proved both his identity and the promise of resurrection.
That promise can come only from God, and yet the work is ours to do.
Post-resurrection, we are christ’s hands and feet in the world.
We are the ones called to build peace. We are the ones to build a Just society grounded in compassion and mercy and liberation.
One of the ways we are able to participate in resurrection is through care of our ecosystem and planet. Climate change, like covid-19 and other global crises, disproportionately harms marginalized communities. Many theologians, myself included, if you’ll permit me to label myself as such, see Creation as the wounded sacred, the wounded Christ, of our time. Working to resurrect the climate means taking a brave look at the ways we benefit from lifestyles, amenities, products, and habits that have wounded creation, denying it’s goodness, and it means joyfully recommitting ourselves to being Easter people, ushering in God’s promise of resurrection by our own deeds, generating the hope needed to fuel our continued action.
This season of Lent, our church school families embarked on a challenge to find as many ways to save water over the course of the day as possible. Some shortened their showers, and collected the water in a bucket while it warmed up, some used leftover water from dog bowls to water plants, still others forewent the pre-rinse cycle of the dishwasher and scraped the scraps off their plates instead, some fixed leaky pipes, and others reused pasta water to boil and steam their veggies.
Water is something that we all need to survive, it can be a life-giving resource and a tool of oppression, when access to clean water is restricted or neglected. When we know Christ as the “Living Water” and we work to ensure that all have access to not just the water they need to live but the water they need to live abundantly, that is evangelism. That is resurrection. That is what it means to be Easter People.
We live in an intersectional world where no single aspect of our identity defines who we are or what experiences we have had, and no community is a monolith. To paraphrase Walt Whitman, we contain multitudes.
We all will need to widen our perspectives to permanently include those of our siblings of color, our femme siblings, our disabled siblings, our economically exploited siblings, our trans siblings, but what a joyful prospect, to be more deeply and authentically in community with one another! This is the meat of resurrection. This is what it means to be Easter People.
Originally this was supposed to be a sermon about Joy, as a fruit of the spirit. And in many ways it has been. For resurrection is indeed a massive undertaking, but it is a joyful one. It is work that demands much of us, and it is work that is ripe with promise, hope, and salvation. How better to cultivate and embody joy than to help enact God’s miracle of resurrection? That is what it means to be Easter People.