​Reflection May 5, 2019

"Becoming Easter People" - by Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth

     In this week’s Advance (May 5, 2019), I’ll put some thoughts from an Easter sermon I gave seven years ago. I used a piece of it in last Sunday’s sermon.

     Has the good news of Easter, the Good News of Jesus’ Resurrection, become so familiar to us that we fail to recognize its incredible power? The Easter news is so stunning that each year I ask myself: Is This Possible? And each year I answer: yes, it’s possible because our God is a God of possibilities. It’s possible because our God is a God of the living and not the dead as Jesus assures us in Mark 12:27.

     What did Easter change? It changed everything. Before Easter, death was the final resting place for all of us. After Easter, this is no longer the case. Before Easter, even the righteous were confined to a place called Sheol but there was no human awareness in that place of shadows. After Easter, the gates of heaven were opened to all the righteous. Before Easter, the grave held all humans hostage. After Easter, we have the promise of living forever with God. Because the grave could not long hold Jesus, the grave cannot forever hold us.

     Easter makes everything new. As Rev. Dr. Alan Jones, writes: “The Good News (of Easter) is about the New breaking in on our tired, frustrated, and divided world and filling us with awe, wonder, and longing.” (Passion for Pilgrimage)

     As a child, Easter didn’t hold a lot of religious meaning for me. As kids, we knew Easter was about Jesus being raised from the dead. But that reality didn’t hold much meaning for us. After all, we were kids. Death was just a word to us. Death seemed far off for us. We had hardly lived, how could death be fearful to us?

     As children, we didn’t understand the finality of death. I didn’t understand it until my father died when I was 11. Then I came to grasp the finality and brutality of death. Then I more fully embraced the promise promulgated by Jesus’ Resurrection.

     My father died before I had much chance to really know him. My father’s death left my mother, my two brothers and I, in a precarious financial state. I thank God for the railroad workers’ union that supported my family during the difficult months and years after my father’s death.

     Yet my father’s death, while certainly a tragedy, is not the end of the story. Because Jesus rose from the dead and because my father and I share in the power of that ongoing Resurrection. I believe I will see my father again. Whenever the time comes for me to return to God, I believe my father and I will be able to sit down together and rekindle the love between us that was shattered so long ago.

     Without Easter, love must always end in separation and loss. If death is our final destiny, love must always end at the grave. And if never-ending death awaits us, why chance love at all? Love would seem like something for fools.

     If love always ends at the grave, then what did the evangelist John have in mind when he wrote that God is Love? If God is Love, then love must as endless as God is. If God is Love, then love cannot languish forever in a grave. If God is Love then the Word of God Made Flesh could not long be held captive in a grave. If God is Love, then love must be as eternal as God is.

     Can love ever be lost, even to those of us who have lost loved ones? Can love ever be annihilated into nothingness? It can’t, not if God is Love and the person who abides in God abides in Love.

     There are many in our world who do not believe in God. There are many in our world who believe that death ends everything. There are many in our world who risk loving even though they believe love is not eternal. This takes great courage.

     I do not judge these fellow brothers and sisters of mine. But without Easter, without Easter’s promise of more, it’s hard to love. Without Easter, without the hope of love growing throughout eternity, it’s hard giving our hearts to anything or anyone in such a transitory creation.

     I desire with all my heart and all my soul to give hope to those who have no hope. I want to tell them of Easter and the joyful surprise of the empty tomb. I want to tell them of the times that Jesus in the flesh, but in a new kind of flesh, came to the disciples to reassure them and bring them Easter joy. I want to tell them of my belief that God is always stronger than death. I want to tell them not to despair.

     I want to tell them that Easter is just the beginning. I want to say how this world that is so dear to us, this world to which we belong, this world of such beauty and sorrow, is also in the process of being completely resurrected. I want to tell them that Resurrection is not just for humans. Resurrection is for all creation and all creatures great and small. This is not just some sort of odd belief I have. This is what our Bible teaches us. Easter morning began the transformation of everything.

     Divine hope rushed out of the empty tomb to fill every corner of our wounded world. The grave is not the end of everything. A new heaven and a new earth is the end of everything. Nothing will be lost. Love will not be lost. Life will not be lost.

     So what are we to do in and through the Risen Christ? We’re called to immerse ourselves in this wounded world as the leaven of healing, as the leaven of hope, as the leaven of peace, as the leaven of love. We’re called to fall in love with this earth and all it contains. We’re called to fall in love with each other.

     We’re called to allow the Spirit of the Living God to fill us to overflowing with the hope and the promise and the power of the Resurrection - Becoming so full that everyone who encounters us will feel the vitality of our Easter faith. We’re called to be Easter people. Easter people are people who live in radiant hope, who live in radiant joy, who live in radiant love.

     Let us dream Easter dreams. Let us be wild in our Easter dreams. Let us live in the powerful mystery of Easter. Alleluia, indeed!

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Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor

Morgan Park

 Baptist Church