Monday, March 30, 2015

A Homily for Resurrection Sunday, 2015, from John 20:1-9
Resurrection Sunday
Homily for 4.5.15
first posted Easter, 2011
John 20:1-9
Year B

Today, that old Charles Wesley Easter hymn rings out in our hearts:

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!
Today, the shadowed-dirge of Lent expires, revealing the snap of hope and the rousing rejoicing of new life! Today, after the 40 day renunciation of the self-life, which always pounds away so prominently in our hearts, comes the embrace of the promise of a new way to live!

Notice the text. While it was still dark, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning and she discovers the stone has been removed and the body of Jesus is missing! Her first inclination -- tell the others the body was taken, 
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”
Peter and John rush to the grave, Peter
 "went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place." 
Then, finally, John 
"also went in...and he saw and believed."
What if I were to tell you, as provincial as it sounds, that all human history turned on that moment? What if I were to tell you that the backs of death and greed and grief were broken on the cold stone floor of that empty tomb? What if I were to tell you that the violent rebellion of sin was quelled in those empty, blood-stained burial cloths?

St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:

"O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
Victory! Savor it for a moment. Before raising the inevitable objections, hold tight to the hum of its power -- Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory? Don't let go, now, not yet, not until the old body of death we are wont to carry is lifted, if only for a moment, giving us temporary relief from the stench. For, you see, there is no stink of death in this tomb; the body is gone!

OK. Go ahead. Now you can let go; now you can raise your hand.

"I object, your honor! Ever since this Jesus' death there has been an ever growing chaos! Death does have a sting! The grave does seem to have the last word! Violence rules the day and suffering stalks the night."

True. All true, and then some.

In fact, you haven't told half the story. Death and brutality are open sores, but I submit you haven't really heard the message. Somehow, you haven't picked up the cadence of the good news. Truly, violence rings out. To be sure, starvation and war blight the land, but that is not the only sound. Surely, you hear it? Surely you hear the pulse and rhythm underneath the dirge? Surely you hear the promise of life from the GOD of life?

No? Well, listen again to that passage from 1 Corinthians fifteen, a portion of which I shared a moment ago, only this time I'll extend the quote:

It will happen in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, the Christians who have died will be raised with transformed bodies. And then we who are living will be transformed so that we will never die. For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die. When this happens -- when our perishable earthly bodies have been transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die -- then at last the Scriptures will come true: "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord! So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord's work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Corinthians 15:52-58)

Earlier in this same text, St. Paul describes Jesus as the first-fruits of those who have died. (vs.20) He means us to know that what started in the Christ's resurrection will be continued and completed in us. That his resurrection contained within it the promise of ours!

So here's the question; here's that toward which this all points: Will we believe in spite of what we see? The ending of the Gospel reading says: 
"also went in...and he saw and believed." 
John saw the empty bed clothes and the face-napkin off by itself and he understood and he believed.

In the end this is where we finally stand; we either believe because we have met the risen Christ, or we do not believe because we have not. We either believe because we have seen the transformational power of the living, risen Christ for ourselves, within ourselves, or we do not believe because we have experienced no such change.

So, let me now end by declaring to you the good news: Once you've meet the living Christ, by the power of his Spirit, you are offered a new place to stand within this raging sea of grief; you are provided a lifted place from which to get a clear look at the world. This place to stand, the place of the clear look above the raging sea of grief is named hope, the blessed hope of new life and a new way to live.

And this new place to stand, even as the storms of the human condition rage around you and engulf you, will not be the end of you, for they do not have the final word. That word is reserved for the Christ! (Philippians 2:6-11)

Let us end by quoting the old-time hymn, One Day, by J. Wilbur Chapman.  
We'll let it tell the story:
One day the grave could conceal Him no longer,One day the stone rolled away from the door;Then He arose, over death He had conquered;Now is ascended, my Lord evermore. 
One day the trumpet will sound for His coming,One day the skies with His glory will shine;Wonderful day, my beloved ones bringing;Glorious Savior, this Jesus is mine! 
Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;Buried, He carried my sins far away;Rising, He justified freely forever:One day He's coming, glorious day!
Copyright: Public Domain