Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter 2012: Are you ready?

Teddy, Rachel. Wilhamina

Easter arrives sunny and cool. As I get to the Park for our early service, Teddy is there waiting for me. I see Rachel heading up the hill to Seneca Village. We walk up together and Wilhamina from the LGBTQ people of color task force joins us as well. 
I tell the story of Seneca Village. (see And compare how the New York Times of the day described its residents, even as it describes the Occupiers of today. The stones rising for the ground tell us, history will not remain buried. I recall other times here..when Park rangers would stop by and join us for communion. Joggers who would stop and check us out. The year they fenced off the area inside the stones and we crossed the fence for our services and were threatened with arrest. This is a good place to celebrate Easter. 
Teddy and I walk Rachel back to 87th and then  stop at Starbucks for coffee. Back at the church, Teddy helps me get everything ready. Wesley and Antonia are up. The doors swing open. Visitors are coming. Amy is in Michigan visiting family. Andre is here and will help me with the music. I feel a sense of confidence. I feel a sense of Easter inside of me. Ready to happen. 
We’ve filled the pulpit area behind our table with all the candles Jamie brought. There’s a scary moment when the lights go out, but we flip a few breakers and they’re back on. I invite the children forward, talk about the Easter eggs that my son Dan and I colored yesterday. Talk about how ther shape has no beginning and no end, like the cycle of the seasons. Their colors reminding us of spring.What came first, the chicken or the egg? How every animal, chicken, human being, dinosaur, begins with an egg....I hear a noise in the congregation, thinking its a response to my children's conversation then realize that Ashley has leaned back into a candle and her hair is on fire. We quickly put it out, the smell of burned hair in our space. Disaster averted. 
I confess that often Easter has been a hard sermon for me to preach. Why? I recall my pastoral counseling class at Yale with James Dittes. How he showed us slides of the Cistine Chapel. How the condemned, being consigned to hell, are clearly defined, strong muscled, sharp in focus and detail. The saved, heading to heaven, soft focused, ethereal, ill defined. We all, said the professor, know what it’s like to be damned. Very few of us really know what it’s like to be saved. Preaching Easter has always been hard. 
And so I ask, It’s Easter, are you ready? Are you ready for resurrection? Are you ready for new life? Are you ready to come out of the tomb?
Let’s roll it back a minute. It was the women who went to the tomb. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. The men had all run away. They were disppointed. They were afraid. The movement they thought they had was defeated. The messiah they thought they had, the savior, the leader,  was dead and gone. One more broken dream, One more lost cause. Over. 
But to the women, none of that mattered. They had loved this man. And he had loved them. And now they would come to the tomb, do what needed to be done. Take care of business. Out of respect. Out of love. Love, greater than disappointment.
They knew there would be a stone. A heavy stone. Who will roll away the stone for us? They knew they couldn’t do it by themselves. But they get there, and it has already been rolled away. The only one there was a strange young man, dressed in a white robe. Who was he? The only other young man in Mark was there at Gethsemane when the Romans arrived. And chaos breaks out. Like the night they raided Zucotti. (Mark14:51) He ws dressed only in a loin cloth. (Why? We don’t know....) They grab him, the cloth comes off, he runs away naked. 
Reminds me of the so-called Gerasene demoniac. (Mark 5: 1-20) The one who hung out in the tombs. Who they couldn’t keep clothes on. But Jesus drives out the demons and :
15They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind,
The young man in white was clothed and in his right mind...
So they’re told that Jesus is not here. That he has been raised. And has gone on ahead to Galilee, that they are to spread the word, go there to meet him.
And how do they react? The Bible says with terror...fear..amazement...and they said nothing to no one for they were afraid....that’s the last word of Mark, afraid...
Well someone must have said something to someone because we’re here....but they were afraid....why? Obviously the church was embarassed by this ending because  they kept trying to add to it until it  came out right, but that’s Mark’s last word,afraid....
Mark’s ending is a cliffhanger... to get you to tune in for the next episode, the next season...
But there’s a clue...Galilee...his book ends there..but that’s where it’s a dvd loop that keeps on going around...go back to the beginning, read it all again...and again... all over again.
So my question this morning is, which side of the stone are you on? Are you waiting for someone else to roll away that stone? Are you willing to come out? And if you do, what do you need to leave behind, back in the tomb? Can you believe that it’s already been rolled away?
The fact is, we have no proof...there is no extrnal verification...there was no streaming video, no iphones with cameras quickly transferred to youTube. No tweets. Nothing in the Roman annals. How do we know?
That’s where Paul comes in. His testimony in I Corinthians 15. Paul references all Jesus’ appearances, and then, last of all to him, as to one untimely born, he appears....
The point is, we know just as Paul knows...he’s got nothing on us...Jesus appears to us as he appeared to Paul....the only proof of the resurrection is our presence here today...
And then Paul gets to the  bottom line in what is perhaps my favorite Bible verse:
By the grace of God I am what I am, and God’s grace in me has not been in vain....(1 Corinthians 15:10)
Say that with me ...say it again....that’s what it feels like to come out from the tomb...
Look, it’safer back there, in the tomb, behind the stone....nothing can go wrong, you can’t be hurt, step outside, you have to risk, the light can hurt your eyes.....
Say it again....
By the grace of God I am what I am, and God’s grace in me has not been in vain....(1 Corinthians 15:10)
The stone has already been rolled away. The time to come out is now....Are you ready?
And that’s Easter today....
Andre recommends we all lisen to Mumford and Sons Roll Away Your Stone ( and then sings a traditional song. We gather, a large circle this Sunday, say Alleluia! once more and sing Amen!
the kids do a play


We gather in the Chapel for coffee and Easter celebration.The kids do a play. Fellowship time with each other.  But for this morning, for this moment, I felt it. Easter was real. 

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