Easter Sunday: "Revolution, Redemption, Resurrection!"
Well it is wonderful to see you all here this morning—to be able to come together on this very special day in the church calendar. Today is really the culmination of these past five weeks through our Lenten season, of our recognition of Holy Week, and finally, a celebration of this Resurrection Sunday. We’ve been spending time walking through Jesus’ life and ministry, looking at how his teachings and actions so often defied social convention and expectation. Many of you were here for a very special Manudy Thursday Service this past week and I appreciated all of your kind comments and thoughts about the service.
So many kind comments in fact that I became a little suspicious. I began trying to pinpoint what really made it different, what made the service so special? And then it hit me, I didn’t preach! That must have been it! I’m joking of course, but as I began thinking about it, there’s a bit of truth in those words. So much of our belief, so many of our practices, are based out of the nature of mystery and its often words, when we try to pin this mystery down into our English language, that’s when we sometimes lose the meaning of it all. It was why I was so adamant about focusing on Jesus’ actions rather than just his words. It is why there is power in doing rather than simply saying. It’s part of what being a Christian is about, being a model and example of what you believe, walking the walk—not just talking the talk, or my favorite—practicing what you preach.
There’s a well-known Hindu proverb story that talks about a mother and a child. The child, you see, was begging his mother every day for candy, more and more each day until his sugar cravings were uncontrollable. The mother took her child to see a Guru (a teacher) and pleaded with him, “please help my boy stop this terrible habit”. The Guru paused for a moment and told the mother to bring the back in two weeks’ time. After waiting, they went back to the teacher and with a little bit of coaxing, the Guru was able to convince the boy to stop asking his mother for sweets all the time. Although appreciative, the mother was perplexed as to why the Guru simply couldn’t have given this advice to the boy two weeks ago. He smiled and said, “You see, when you came two weeks ago, I, too, was in the habit of eating sweets. How could I ask your son not to do something which I myself was doing almost everyday? So, from that day I stopped eating sweets and that gave me enough strength and conviction to advise your son to do what I myself have done. Only when we preach what we practice, are our words full of sincerity and appeal to the listener.”
Easter is such a busy time for most of us. Many of us in this room may be thinking ahead already—to the dinner that still needs to be prepared, to the family that we’ll see later, to the afternoon nap we may be taking after a busy week. It can become so very easy to simply go through the motions, to focus on the things yet left to do, rather than the things that are already in front of you—on the people in your life that make it meaningful in the first place. But what if we took this message to heart, this doing, rather than just saying? What if we actually got together with that friend or family member we hadn’t seen for a while, rather than the usual, “oh we’ll have to get lunch sometime”. What if we began treating every human as a full reflection of God’s love?
I think to our scripture readings for today—of God’s promise in Isaiah, a prophetic vision of the hopeful kingdom to come, one where there will be no more weeping or cry of distress, one in which the lion shall eat straw with the ox and the wolf and lamb shall feed together. A vision of peace and unity, where people are treated as ends and not simply as means. Jesus saw everyone for who they were but also the potential for who they could be. It is why he turned no one away, because he believed in the investment of humankind, our potential to love and care for each other and our world.
We are quick to forget that Jesus lived in a world that sought to destroy him. He lived under a government that told him he was a fake, a fraud, a nothing. He lived and died under the corruption of an Empire and the influence of the religious elite. Because of this, Jesus called for a revolution, and he had every right to do so. He had every right to hate those who hated him, but he didn’t and this revolution was not the likes of which that had ever been seen before, Christ’s revolution was not one fought through swords or violence, but through the heart. It was to look at yourself and realize that I have to live in a way that is reflected not only in my words, but also by my deeds. It’s because of this that Christ’s final action was the most powerful of all. Through his death, and because we still proclaim today that He is Risen, we know of the new life that exists—the transformation that comes from following Christ’s example.
The hard part—comes in the next step, in implementing life-transforming change. It is one thing to proclaim a belief, but it’s another to live that out through your actions—just like we saw in the story of the mother and child. Most of you probably saw the devastating news surrounding the burning of the Notre Dame Cathedral. I was amazed to see that as a today, more than 1 billion dollars has been donated to help with the rebuilding of this sacred space. And I rejoice in that fact, but imagine a world if that were the response to all of our tragedies. Imagine a world in which we could come together as humans and invest in human life, in the power of transformation and new life.
It was this new life, after all, that kept many of Christ’s disciple’s hopeful. After Jesus had died, his followers could have given up, they could have lost hope, and the apostles even did for a time. But it was the women who went to the tomb first, the women who took their faith further than words, the women who preached the news of the resurrection for the first time. I aspire to be like these women because not only did they believe and have faith, but they shared this good news, spreading the hope of such a resurrection with those who needed that hope most.
It can become easy to get bogged down by complicated theological words about the resurrection. In the scientific world we live in, we often find our minds struggling with trying to explain such a concept to ourselves. But just as Christ died for our redemption, he also lived for our resurrection. He lived again to show the power of new life—the power of transformation, the power that comes through action. His resurrection is our resurrection, because he lives, we can live. And just as much as we proclaim it through words, we also proclaim it by how we love, how we treat other people, how we care for poor, the stranger, the homeless, the refugee. Christ lives in how we live, and the message of the Gospel has always been one of welcoming all of God’s people.
So if anything this Easter Season, I invite you to seek transformation in your lives that seeks the full potential of every human being on this Earth. I invite you to love your friends and families but also those that are hardest to love in your life. Most of all, I invite you to proclaim that Christ is risen and because of this, we are risen. Seek that change within yourselves, seek to live out the model of Christ, seek to become full expressions of love and justice, kindness and grace, life and resurrection. He is risen indeed!