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Easter Day Eucharist

Posted By : Guest Preacher Sunday 5th April 2015

A sermon by The Most Revd Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States

Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18

Alleuia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

Jesus Christ is risen today – the beloved son, in whom God is indeed well pleased.  Christ is risen among us.  The grain of wheat has been threshed and exposed, then laid in the ground to die.  In the winter of death that life giving seed went far below, into the fires of hell, to comb the ashes for other lives long laid in darkness.  God’s life-giving power will not be denied.  Jesus’ search of hell brings forth life, damps the heat for lively use, to raise this bread.  Smell the sweet savor of yeasty risen life in this place, in this beloved community wedded together in God’s love, Jesus’ life given for the world.

See life and hope in the faces of newest members of this body, and in the lined and white-haired seers who keep finding home here, year by year by year.  Christ is risen again in this, his body, given to honor the poor, heal the hurting, and feed a hungry world.  This body is a microcosm, but we cannot stay here; God’s larger creation calls us to keep rising and expanding, to share that new life with abandon near and far beyond this place.

This risen body springs from the side of the crucified one – a river of new life, gushing forth to satisfy the world’s thirst.  That fount of new life overflows into the members of this body, and it is meant to keep overflowing, a river running out into the desert, to the sere and dessicated, to hopeless hearts, to wash the dirt from clouded eyes and sooty souls, to soothe the pain and flood the violence around us with peace. 

This living water is meant to overwhelm death.  When you go from this place today, don’t just look at that lovely water in the font.  Stick your arm in – up to the elbow!  Get wet enough to re-member yourself as part of the living body sent to give life to this world.  We are born again today for life abundant.  Share that water – that’s why there is such a ridiculously lavish well of water!  Get wet – and get someone else wet, too.  That river is flowing out into the world – carry it out in your hand and your heart – and pour it over the next cracked and bleeding soul you meet.

This is not a day to “Keep Calm and Carry On.”  It is a day to rejoice with wild abandon, for death is conquered, hell and darkness banished, light and life has come into the world.  It’s a day to be a fool for Christ.  The Orthodox insist that the Resurrection is God’s cosmic joke on the devil – so rejoice and carry on – with mirth and deep joy!

Let the joy you meet here today mend the broken places within you – for those cracks and wounds are entrances for the risen one.  Just as he goes below to recover the lost, he will enter if you unbar the gate.  Then let the new life you receive this day help mend the broken places in the world around us.  For as Jesus says, ‘I am the gate for the sheep,’[1] this living, risen body of Christ is meant to be the gate to new and risen life for all – this body is risen to open doors and unlock prisons, beginning with rejoicing here and carrying that risen, rising life into all the world’s places of death, despair, and destruction.

We are the risen body Christ has wedded together in a loaf of life.  We are to be living water for a parched and dusty world.  We are branches of the true vine, yielding fruit for the wedding feast of God’s beloved family.  We are to follow Jesus into the hells of this world to bring out forgotten inmates, despised immigrants, refused asylum seekers and refugees.  We are to call all creatures beloved of God, and to know that of ourselves.

We have come here today to be fed and watered, to be inspired and healed, to be revived, but not to stay or hold this body fast.

When Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb in grief and despair, its emptiness compounds her own, and the loss of even his mortal frame adds to the cruelty.  Yet the empty tomb becomes an echo chamber for good news:  “why weep?” they ask.  He is not here!  Why weep, indeed?  The gardener himself is risen, like wheat that springeth green.[2]  What joy she feels!  As she reaches out, he warns, “No, don’t cling to me.  But go, go and tell my brothers I am ascending.”  Let go the strings, dear Mary, find your voice and your feet, go and share the news of rising life.  The bridegroom is leaving his earthly home to cling to the world for which he has given his body in troth.[3]  And now, as his body has been broken, this loaf must also break and be sent out with good news of great joy.

The Orthodox call Mary “apostle to the apostles,” the first one sent to teach the truth of new and risen life.  She shared that truth, and the risen Lord appeared and shared it himself, until a small band of frightened human beings began to find their courage, and re-member who he had been among them, and what he had shown and taught.  He continued to eat with them and encourage them until he returned to the Godhead, and sent the yeasty spirit to enliven us to the end of the ages.  This body here cannot contain that living presence – we cannot cling here; we must go and share good news of rising joy.

Rejoice, believers, he is risen!  Be at peace, go in peace, and be his peace in the world.  Be of good courage – remember you are beloved, and Christ will strengthen you.  Hold fast to what is good, and die to what is not.  Honor the body of God’s creation with your own body.  Rejoice, give thanks, and make a feast, for God is with us.  Death no more has dominion; light abounds in the heavens and on earth; we are raised with Christ, to be-love and befriend the world he cherishes for eternity. 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

[1] John 10:9

[2] “Now the green blade riseth” John MacLeod Campbell Crum (1872-1958).  Cf.  http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-now-the-green-blade-riseth

[3] Cf. Genesis 2:24