April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday

Acts 10:34-43

John 20:1-18

Preacher: The Reverend Dr. Cathy S. Gilliard

Christ is risen!  Alleluia!  Christ is risen indeed!  “He is not here,” declared Mary, “for he is risen as he said.”[1] With these words we begin not only a new day, my brothers and sisters, but we also begin a new life of resurrection with Christ.

The horror and agony of Friday have been settled once and for all.  The claim we make and the claim God makes to us and the whole world is that even the most horrific, the most final and ultimate realty of all – death – has been subverted by God’s love.  Even death has been caught up in God’s sway.  This is a day of new beginnings.  May we look to it with hope and promise.

What does it mean for us to live as resurrected people, whole and forgiven, claimed, alive, and open to new realities and new possibilities breaking forth all around us?  Can you see them?  What will it take?

Death, O, death, where is your victory this morning?  We ask.  Where is your sting?  Though inevitably, our bodies die and the breath that once inflated our lungs cease, there is life beyond this temple and beyond this earth.  And even when our hearts break in the absence of those we love and those who have loved us, we weep not as those who have no hope; but as those who have every hope.

Though these words are so familiar, it still takes something for us to believe it, doesn’t it – to believe and live into it the mystery and wonder of it all?

All too often I think we live our lives in the tombs of Good Friday.  The news reports from television and newspapers, from doctors and brokers and bankers, and friends and family sometimes – are often full of stories that make us anxious and defeated, judged and confused; angry and afraid.  The murkiness of life is often an unpleasant road to travel.

But today we say that nothing can separate us from God’s love.  No word or deed.  No action; nothing. Not one solitary thing.  Nothing can separate us from God’s love.  Not death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation[2] – for God has spoken through God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ who lives in our heart.

Today, we say that love is the supreme way and all can be raised up if we dare to love enough.  All can be raised up, if we lay down our weapons.  All can be raised up if we learn to forgive and look at one another and see one another for who we are.  When we look into the eyes of the stranger and extend the message of peace and civility and our common humanity – they can be raised up.  I am sure of it.  And if you doubt, just give it a try.  Just try loving someone or something more than life itself – truly loving them – not in the ways you want to love them but in the ways that they need to be loved – in the ways that looks beyond their faults and shortcomings and sees their needs.  That’s how God loves us.

On Easter morning, April 21, 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr. in his sermon, “The Questions that Easter Answers” put it this way:

This is the meaning of Easter… People are always asking, “What is the most durable power in the universe? And the fact is that Easter answers that question too. You wonder about it. What is it that is the heartbeat of the moral cosmos? What is it? Philosophers have tried to grapple with it over the years, and they moved back, and maybe Heraclitus comes out and says that it’s pleasure. Maybe somebody else comes out and points out to certain moral established principles. But I tell you I want to reach out and get one morally established principle for you, and said that that is the basic and underlying principle of the universe, that is the most durable power in the world. And do you know what that is? It’s the power of love. Easter tells us that. Sometimes it looks like the other powers are much more durable. Then we come to see that isn’t true. But the most durable, lasting power in this world is the power to love. And my friends, it seems to me that history tells us that. History’s a running commentary of it. We have seen the forces of military power hold the throne for a while, haven’t we? And it looked like this was the most durable power in the world. It seemed that might made right. It seemed that somehow the more guns and the more ammunition you could get, the greater the power was, the greater the durability of it. Then at every point in history, we have been able to see that this kind of power passes away. This is the Easter message, this is the question that it answers. It says to us that love is the most durable power in the world than all of the military giants, all of the nations that their way on military power.[3]

I think King was right about it.  He was right about so many things; history has declared and is still declaring.  I think love will endure, my friends.  It must.  “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see.”[4]

There in the darkness, amid death, turmoil, terror, grief and fear…  there in solitude, alone or at best with a friend or two… Resurrection happened for Mary and it also happens for you and me a million times over, every day, if we’re truly blessed.

May we not keep silent for the world needs our witness.  This morning is about remembering.  It is also about pressing forward and living out of faith in the day-to-day realities of our life and world.  Through all the twists and turns of life, Resurrection is a real and present reality right here, right now.  As Christ is raised, so are we.

In just a few moments we are going to gather around the table; all will be welcome.  No one is excluded – no, not one. Today, on public display, everybody knows who the real king is.  The whole world will pause to pay attention.  Jesus Christ is King.  King of Kings and Lord of Lords and he shall reign forever and ever and ever.

Hallelujah.  Amen.



[1] Matthew 28:6

[2] Romans 8:38-39


[4] UMH #378