We thank God for life and the gift of each other
What a beautiful morning! The sun is shining, and it's a glorious early spring day. On days like this it is easy to feel how beautiful and wonderful it is to be alive. This really is a day for rejoicing. And, I truly thank God for each and every one of you, and I wonder if there is any people more beautiful than you, gathered here on Easter morning, dressed in your beautiful Easter best. The smile on faces as you greet one another, as you minister to one another with a handshake or hug. In this pilgrimage on earth, what a beautiful gift God has given us in each other, to know and to love, to accompany and support along life's way.
Now, some of you might be a little distracted because you're hosting Easter dinner, or maybe you're a little anxious about going to Easter dinner with the whole family. That's all part of the wonder of this holiday, isn't it? Easter dinner -- whether you gather in your home or go out to a local restaurant -- is one of those ways we keep family time, and as time passes these dinners become more beautiful and their memories more precious. We often regard people by what they have do or what they do for us or have done to us or how they failed to do anything for us. But maybe a better way to consider our relationships is by love -- the we receive, but even more importantly, the love we give. When we look back on the Easter of 2016 and swipe through the old Facebook posts and pictures of the family gathered, we will remember -- maybe with mixed emotions -- how much we loved the people God brought into our lives.
So, I want to take a picture to capture this moment for us, as a family -- sisters and brothers in Christ, God's beloved children, brought together, given to each other to know and to love, companions in our pilgrimage on earth.
Stand. Smile. Cheese.
Into our pain and grief comes incredible good news, Christ is risen!
Already this morning, my aunt has posted pictures of Easters past. They're images filled mutton-chop side burns and leisure suits. I think I wore an Easter outfit with checkered pants and a big wide white belt. But never mind that styles are 1970s, these are pictures that make me smile. But they also make cry a little, make me feel a little melancholy and nostalgic. Those days are gone, as faded as the pigment in the picture that brings to mind those days. We have all aged. Some of the relationships have since broken apart, and illness and family strife have taken others away. Some have died ... and some even died tragically and way, way too young.
This week in Washington DC, the cherry blossoms will be at the peak of their blooms. The Washington cherry trees were a gift from the city of Tokyo Japan. In Japan, cherry blossoms carry deep meaning -- for their beauty and delicacy, but also for how they remind us how quickly life passes. The beauty, the delicacy, the softness and peace and gentleness of life is truly wonderful, but these don't last. The beauty endures but a brief time and then in a beautiful moment in itself the blossoms fall, scattered on the wind.
In this life we only get glimpses of beauty. Just a moment here and there ... A day like today. But for the most part, our lives move from one grief to another. A series of losses. A life marked by grief and mourning as much as welcoming and celebrating. Our memories hold on a little longer, but sooner or later these fade, too, and all we held dear is lost.
Tradition tells us that Jesus died horribly and young. Crucified at 33 years old. His ministry, we think, lasted only three years. What a three years it must have been for his for his friends and followers. We here in the Bible that where Jesus walked and spoke and dwelled God's kingdom happened: the sick were healed, the blind received their site, the dead heard, the lame walked, the outcast found a friend, the hungry something to eat. Wherever Jesus went abundant life blossomed and bloomed, and the world was good and beautiful and right again.
Then he was handed over, condemned and crucified, and he died. For a moment ... then gone. No different from our fate, really. In the days after his death, the disciples must have comforted each other by sharing the stories of those three years. They must have laughed at the time Andrew took a boy's lunch and brought it to Jesus, thinking it would help feed 5000 people, and they must have cried remembering how Jesus used that ridiculous gift to feed that crowd. At times, though, the loss, the grief, must have been heartbreakingly unbearable. They remembered him, but something in them was trying to forget, too.
But then, early one morning, the women returned from the cemetary, shouting and screaming that Jesus' body wasn't there. Going on and on about angels and good news that Jesus was raised from the dead! That Jesus was alive! In the middle of their grief and loss comes the most unbelievable good news: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
You can dare to hope that all is not lost.
We repeat that good news, and we share it regularly. On perfect days like today, and on days when everything has fallen apart, when it seems as if the world has fallen apart. The good news is whispered in the ears of babies at the baptism font and in the ears of elders on hospice and spoken to all live in between. You see, since Christ is risen, since Christ is raised, we can hope that in God nothing is lost, but all that's broken will be put back together again, reconciled, reunited, restored, resurrected. Since Christ is risen, this beautiful day, those lovely cherry blossoms, this beautiful community is not a brief event and fading memory but a sign and preview and promise of an abundant life in God's enduring kingdom.
The celebration of the coming of the kingdom of God is often depicted in the Bible as a feast ... With wine and rich foods, with all the good things of creation set before is once again for us to love and enjoy. A feast that surrounds us with God's love and peace. Take some time ... A moment or so to consider that when you gather for Easter dinner today. Take some time to consider this when you come forward to receive Christ for you in bread and wine. These are not merely meals of memory or meals that make memories, but a vision of the future, a foretaste, a glimpse into God's future to strengthen your faith and renew your faith in what God will yet do, now that we know that death is not the end, that our brokenness will not be our final state.
There is so much more to come. There is so much more that God will yet do. There is an answer to our cries and tears and mourning and loss, to our grief and pain. God's answer. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
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