The Sunday Sermon: EASTER Sunday – April 1, 2018
Scripture: Genesis 8:13-19
Happy Easter, Pewee Valley Presbyterian – families, friends , and all in attendance this morning – Happy Easter!
Every year I just know that my words will only the way of the Easter experience that happened first two thousand years ago and that is happening again this morning. And every year for the past three or four years, I’ve come close to just not saying much, if anything at all during the “sermon time,” Well this year, I’m doing it. Ot more accurately not doing it.
I’m a manuscript preacher, I write out my words for several different reasons, and … this this all I have for this morning.
(Show the congregation the one page …)
The gathering, the flowering of the cross, the hymns, the litany and liturgy, the choir. All of these things and more combine with the Spirit that is a part of us individually and collectively on Easter morning and this year, I simply don’t want to get in the way of all that with my “words.” So … if you’re comfortably able to do so, will you
please stand and let us sing our proclamation hymn together.
As you turn to hymn number one eighteen, just two words more from me: April Fools!
Sit back down! Please, be seated … (Oh, that’s cruel. You were so close!) But I couldn’t do that to you. Deprive you, like that. My own ego probably couldn’t allow it! My prayer now is that I haven’t lost you all together. Because it’s Easter Sunday and we’re all here together. Take a look around. What an absolutely beautiful sight!
Pray with me …
Oh, Lord … What a morning. An April Fool’s Easter. But this is no joke: It’s here. Every year it comes forty days after Ash Wednesday (not counting Sundays!); one week after Palm Sunday, after our Maundy Thursday service, on the third day after the observance of Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday. The first Sunday after the first fill moon of the Vernal Equinox. Happy Easter, everyone!
So, after that more official greeting, I have to begin my sermon formal by asking – not to make anyone who wasn’t here feel bad, but … How many of you were here last week, Palm Sunday? Fantastic. I was here, too. And we came back! Do you know why I’m so excited by that? Do you remember the challenge I laid down for us in the sermon message last week? From on board the Ark, we had just caught sight of land. We saw the mountain tops of new possibilities. We bumped onto the mountains of Ararat. We knew this day was close. We could feel it in the Passion parade of Palm Sunday. But I said you were not to come back here this morning, Easter morning, unless you were ready to get off the boat, to walk out into the new land of our possibilities, transform our lives, and be a part of changing the world. We weren’t supposed to come back here unless we were ready to change … to live the life God intended for us from the very beginning – Resurrection life.
And we came back! Good for you! Good for me! Good for us – all of us! Each and everyone here. Which means, I think, it’s time to get everyone who wasn’t here last week, or who hasn’t’ been her for the past Sundays in Lent, up to speed. And to remind ourselves what has happened to us and what is happening to us. We are not simply passive receivers of God’s resurrection. We are active participants in it. Or we should be.
We have traveled far these past 46 days, my friends (and that is counting Sundays!). All the way from the Garden of Eden and back again. We had precious little time in the Garden before we experienced our expulsion from it. Removed from life as it was intended to be because we refuse to live as God intended. Sent away not because we did something we weren’t supposed to do, but because we didn’t do something we were supposed to do. We didn’t, and we still don’t, admit that there’s something wrong, that we’ve done something wrong, that has, and is, messing with creation. We refuse to acknowledge that we have a role to play in this world, a role for its good and the good of all its creatures – plant, animal, and human. Like Adam and Eve in our tradition’s story, we continue to pass the blame – “it wasn’t me, it was her. It was me, it was that.” We refuse to accept responsibility. And things have gotten pretty bad.
From the Garden of Eden we moved pretty quickly through the descriptions of our “escalating irresponsibility and violence” of Genesis, chapters three, four and five, to the story of Noah and the Flood. In chapter six, verse six, it is written: the Lord was sorry that humankind was made on the earth and God was grieved to the heart. Our flood, I suggested – that which is blotting out the earth, was not water, but a flood of indifference, of denial and refusal, of discrimination and thoughtless ignorance, no less destructive to human life. And just as we were about to drown in the sorry situation which our human ingenuity has wrought we discovered Noah.
Noah is the “model of faith such as has not yet appeared in the bible.” Noah, we read, has done “all that God has commanded him to do” this far in his story, accepting his role in creation, allowing the love-harmony-unity intended for creation to direct his Life. At the moment of impending doom and death for us, as the flood threatens to consume us, “embodied faith” first appears in the world – in human form, no less! Our humanity, as it was intended to be, is the answer to the inhumanity, our inhumanity, that is destroying and drowning us. So we climbed aboard his Ark, our vehicle of deliverance for the rest of Lent.
On board for weeks, “all hands on deck,” we listened once again to the prophet Micah to re-learn what we should be doing: justice; what we should be loving: kindness; and how we should be walking: humbly. And we listened once again to the prophet Amos re-learning what should be happening in our world. Justice should be rolling down and righteousness should be flowing forth.
And now, all of us here this Easter morning are caught up, all are on board because last week the waters receded just enough for us to glimpse the mountaintops of a new world, a new land with new possibilities for getting our life right this time around. We had one more week to wait for the flood to subside enough for us to disembark and begin again and I issued our challenge: Don’t come back here this morning, Easter morning, unless you were ready to get off the boat, to walk out into the new land of our possibilities, transform our lives, and be a part of changing the world. And you came. Listen for what happens next.
Read Genesis 8:13-19. The Word of the Lord … Thanks be to God.
How often have we read from the book of Genesis on Easter morning?! But here it is, too, as provocative as an empty tomb – an empty Ark! Another chance, a new “world,” fresh possibilities, newborn opportunities to live as God intends us to live, to live as Jesus taught us to live, to love as Christ teaches us to love. Covenants and rainbows and promises and messy life follow this “disembarking” very quickly, but for just a moment, on mornings together such as this, everything is possible again: complete justice, profound righteousness, loving kindness, deep humility; relationship, responsibility, acceptance, meaning, knowledge and wisdom.
I know that almost every commentary written on any story in the bible, from Creation and the Flood, to Resurrection and Revelation takes a very poor view of you and me, of humanity. Even Walter Brueggemann, my “go-to” theologian for this epic journey we’ve been on through Lent, notes when it’s all said and done that “creation does not change.” But does that mean it’s not possible? That just because we don’t, we can’t? I say no. I say, in spite of millennia of “worm anthropology” and “total human depravity,” we can change. And we must.
This is what Resurrection must be about in the twenty-first century and beyond. It’s not about something happening to someone else that “saves” us while allowing us to keep on doing whatever it is we’re doing. It’s about something experienced as happening to someone else that then also happens to us! Something that saves us and demands we do something different with our lives, for the world. It’s time to let go of theology – understandings about God, and Christology – understandings about Jesus as the Christ, that keep us passive recipients of the Resurrection, our Resurrection.
The thing entrusted to us by God in Jesus Christ is unconditional love. The way that Jesus saves us is he shows us how to love. And now we have work to do – “Love” to do.
In a much more familiar Easter passage from the Gospel of Luke, “two men in dazzling clothes” ask Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them “Why do we look for the living among the dead?” Why, indeed? The violence and war we insist on waging in the name of peace; the corruption and injustice we perpetuate in the name of progress; the hunger and thirst we create by our frivolous consumption; the blindness and sickness we refuse to recognize in the world; and our own fear and suspicion are places of death, tombs. We will not find life there. Life, deep full life, is found in justice and righteousness, mercy and kindness, humility and love.
There is life to be lived and Love to be done. For Christ is alive in you and me. All ashore, Pewee Valley Pres. – family and friends. The Day of Resurrection, let us tell it out abroad! All ashore!
Please stand with me “for real” now and let us sing together! Amen.
Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor / Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / April 1, 2018