A litany we will use this Sunday at Kensington, to be led by one of the kids of the congregation.
This is a great day; a beautiful day.
What makes it a great and beautiful day?
This is the day of Jesus’ resurrection.
What’s that you say? Tell us again!
This is the day of Jesus’ resurrection!
This is amazing news you share.
Can I hear these words? “He is risen! Hallelujah.”
We will say it: He is risen! Hallelujah!
Death is not the end of the story. Life is!
Jesus is life for a broken, dark world.
It’s an amazing message – something to share.
Jesus is our risen Lord – he is with us every day.
We can speak with him, sing to him, praise him.
He leads us into a life that is beautiful and good.
Let us live in his compassion and truth. Let
us live for his kingdom. He is risen!
I begin this sermon with excerpts (including a few minor edits) from the first chapter of a novel entitled Galore. The novel is written by Michael Crummy, who is a is Newfoundlander, and this particular novel is set in a fictional Newfoundland town, a coastal town, called Paradise Deep. Galore won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for best book and was a finalist for the Governor General’s Aware for fiction a few years ago. So as we begin, some excerpts from the opening chapter of Galore.
Most of the shore’s meager population – the Irish and West Country English and the bushborns of uncertain provenance – were camped on the grey sand, waiting to butcher a whale that had beached itself in the shallows on the feast day of St. Mark. This during a time of scarcity when the ocean was barren and gardens when to rot in the relentless rain and each winter threatened to bury them all. They weren’t whalers and no one knew how to go about killing the Leviathan, but there was something in the humpback’s unexpected offering that prevented the starving men from hacking away while the fish still breathed. As if that would be a desecration of the gift.
They’d scaled the whale’s back to drive a stake with a maul, hoping to strike some vital organ, and managed to set it bleeding steadily. They saw nothing for it then but to wait for God to do His work… The wind was razor sharp and Mary Tryphena lost all feeling in her hands and feet and her little arse went dunch on the sand while the whale expired in imperceptible increments. Jabez Trim waded out at intervals to prod at the fat saucer of an eye and report back on God’s progress. Continue reading
There is a lot of running going on in John chapter 20 – a lot of running in the gospel’s narration of the events of that Easter morning. Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb early on the first day of the week, when the glow of morning has barely appeared on the horizon. All she sees is that the stone has been rolled away from the entrance – that’s enough for her, apparently. We read: “So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.” Mary Magdalene runs to the disciples upon finding the stone rolled away because something here matters to her – something animates her. In her case it is bad news that matters to her – bad news that animates her. She is convinced that someone has stolen, taken the body of Jesus.
When Peter and the other disciple (we suspect it is John) – when they hear the news from Mary, it is their turn to run. In the case of these two disciples, are they running because they have heard bad news (the body has been taken) or because they are hopeful (he’s not in the tomb – perhaps a live)? Whatever the reason, they break out in a run. And the urgency is so great that they aren’t actually running together – each of them is trying to get there as fast as he can. John is the faster runner, and so Peter falls behind. John arrives at the tomb first, breathless. Peter arrives second, and steps in to discover the tomb is indeed empty. The grave clothes that had been carefully wrapped around Jesus body just a few days earlier, are folded there.
With my kids (mostly with the younger two – the older one is getting too old for that) – very often a running race breaks out simply when we arrive home. It isn’t a race to see anything. It’s not that we’re running away from bad news. It’s not that we’re running toward good news. It is simply a race to see who is first. It’s a race to touch the front door. Continue reading
I almost didn’t get to Easter Morning Prayer, which I happened to be leading. I stepped out the front door of my house at 6:15 a.m., only to take a very quick step backward. For there on the driveway (between me and my bike), rummaging through a messy smear of garbage, was a skunk. This, of course, was not your lovely Disney-skunk named Flower – this was a waddling, foraging fellow from whom I wanted to keep my distance.
It didn’t take much to scare him off – a bit of banging and shouting and he went scampering behind the neighbour’s house. But this was not the auspicious start to Easter morning that I had been hoping for. I was reminded of John Visser’s recent assertion (I wholeheartedly agree) that natural metaphors simply can’t capture the truth of resurrection. The skunk proves it!
On the other hand, I was confronted this past weekend with a more hopeful natural metaphor – by way of my Tomato seeds. Our CSA farmer (community supported agriculture) has the most delicious variety of cherry tomatoes. So in the Fall I decided to take seeds from a few tomatoes, dry them, and plant them this spring – which I did almost two weeks ago. But after almost two weeks, there was no sign of growth. I even dug out one of the seeds to see if there was any action. Nothing! So I stopped watering. Continue reading
It is a peculiar thing that Jesus’ followers don’t recognize him after his resurrection. In the narrative of John’s gospel, think of Mary Magdalene, who comes first to the empty tomb – she turns around and there is Jesus. But she doesn’t recognize him. She mistakes him for the gardener: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him.” Also in John’s gospel, you may remember that the risen Jesus appears to his disciples some days later. It is just after daybreak on the shore of the sea of Tiberius when Jesus appears, but the disciples don’t recognize him.
We could also turn to Luke’s gospel, to the familiar story of two disciples on the way to Emmaus. Jesus comes and walks with them along the road, but they don’t recognize him. He speaks with them about the scriptures and everything that has happened, but they don’t recognize Jesus.
What a peculiar thing that Jesus’ disciples and followers don’t recognize him. Perhaps the problem is that they are so convinced Jesus is dead (and why wouldn’t they be convinced of that) – they are so convinced Jesus is dead that their minds can’t accommodate his presence.
Jesus is dead. This just can’t be Jesus. Continue reading
Here we are on Easter Sunday – a glorious day in the church year. A day accompanied by beautiful flowers, by brassy hymns (praise the Lord with the sound of trumpet) – a day accompanied by the retelling of a familiar story of hope and joy. The grave is empty – death could not keep him. Jesus Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Hallelujah.
But this morning I’m going to do something that may seem a little odd at first. I’m going to ask you to think ahead. To think beyond this moment of celebration and music – to think forward to Monday morning. I have a feeling that a good number of us, when we wake up on Monday morning, don’t exactly know what it means that Jesus is risen from the dead. Monday morning is generally a day to go back to work; Monday is a day we’re back into our routine; Monday is a day we’re back to the relationships and activities and tedium of life. What does resurrection mean, on Monday morning?