A Sermon Delivered by
The Reverend E. F. Michael Morgan, Ph.D.
Trinity Episcopal Church
Second Sunday of Easter
April 28, 2019
Today is what is inappropriately called, in my view, “low Sunday,” because it comes one week after the festivities of Easter Day; and by way of contrast to the number of people attending church last Sunday, attendance is way down; very low. That is probably to be expected, considering the enthusiastic and positive responses we got from our Palm Sunday and Easter Day offerings. The services of Holy Week, and the Paschal Feast on the Day of Resurrection celebrated here at Trinity Church were truly remarkable; and even though this First Sunday after Easter Day may not be quite so spectacular, it marks an important calendar truth that every Sunday throughout the church year is an Easter Sunday; and in fact, we are now launched on what the Lectionary calls the Second Sunday in the Easter season, “Easter-II.” During this fifty-day period leading to Pentecost three things occur: one - we continue our Alleluia’s; two - we have a reprieve from confessing our shortcomings; and rather than grovel and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness as miserable offenders; we – three - focus on the joy of the Lord’s saving work in the resurrection of Christ, There is good news all about us, and we are challenged to recognize it.
In what, then, may be an intentional and focused way, the theme for this particular Sunday (and for the Easter season in general), is the relentlessness of God’s love which endures forever. In spite of the brokenness of our world, and even in the face of the deplorable and perilous state of our current human condition, God’s love prevails and continuously reigns forever, just as we sang in our Easter hymns last Sunday – Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia! And while the glorious music and the words of the Easter liturgy lift our spirits, the implication of what we are supposed to do also begs the question. How can we act as responsible Christians in a complicated and often-times bizarre world, where institutions seem to be frayed at the edges, and where leaders all too frequently lose their moral and ethical bearings?
One commentator described what’s happening this way.
Modern Life in the year 2019 is a baseball game, and in the first inning since the millennium year 2000, “Y2K,” we have seen the rise of the computer age with smart phones in our pocket that have more capacity than refrigerator-sized motherboards and processing units which initially powered government, large businesses, and educational institutions. Today’s smartphone can do all that, and even more. Take note. The first inning of this hypothetical baseball game was the start of the digital age; a time of innovation and flowing venture-capital to such an extent that there was a rush and a thrill, indeed a great hope that our computerized machines and the marvels of their apps and platforms, would bring us to a new level of peace, joy, and well-being by means of shared, readily-available human communication. In the first inning the human race managed to get several runs up on the scoreboard. It looked as though an exciting game was underway.
But then something changed in the second inning which probably just started a few years ago. A new word in our traditional lexicon emerged. “Hackers.” These weren’t your usual thugs, thieves and robbers; these were bright, often scruffy, mostly young and well-educated (but misguided), talented techies who lived right down the street, and were doing their surreptitious work on laptops hiding-out in their bedrooms, at Starbucks, or Barnes and Nobles cafes. The second inning which is now well underway has shown that Social Media has been compromised. FaceBook finally admitted that millions - who knows? - maybe hundreds of millions of subscribers have had sensitive personal information stolen or misappropriated, and private information has been sold to the highest bidder. The Digital World has been hijacked, and what was presumed confidential and private is now laughably available online by simply pushing the button “click here.” Google, Apple, Cambridge Analytics, even highly-regarded academic-based IT units – all are currently facing extensive legal charges and indictments. Consequently, as a result, overall regard and trust has been diminished on the world-wide-web, whereby internet customers are now reluctant to believe anything that pops-up on their screen. Caution online is well advised.
And in this second inning of our hypothetical Baseball game, we also note as well that the heralded advances promised by “robotics” seem to have come up short. Indeed the wonders of drone-delivered packages and driverless cars and trucks came to a jarring halt when, just over a year ago, an Uber driverless automobile tragically killed a pedestrian in Tempe Arizona. Please note that at this point, the second inning isn’t even over – in fact, there’s only one “out,” and no runners on base. What then does the future hold, and will this baseball game-of-life eventually go into extra innings? Who knows?
So…Before my hypothetical Baseball game gets completely out of hand, let me close today’s sermon with an illustration offered by Will Willimon, the former dean of Duke University’s Chapel, and a leading Bishop in the Methodist Church. It speaks to the matter of God’s relentless love during this Easter season, even as we find ourselves surrounded by hi-tech confusion, existential doubt, and frequent despair. In our digital baseball game of life, Bishop Willimon brings us back to reality by recounting a coffee conversation he once had with a parishioner, a mom with a troubled son. What follows speaks volumes about the ambiguities and paradoxes of every-day life in the real world, but it also reveals something about the everlasting triumph of Easter and the relentlessness of God’s love which endures forever. In this conversation the discussion is admittedly raw and blatant – and yet it’s highly relevant.
“How have you been?” Willimon asked the Mom. “Not so good,” she said. “Our son’s been putting us through hell.” “I’m so sorry,” said Willimon.
The Mother continued “We haven’t known where he has been for the last six months, and then he shows up the other night, unannounced, during dinner, just pounding on the front door asking to be let in. We open the door and there he is. And then out of his mouth comes this string of profanity.”
“I said to him, ‘we’re eating, come on in, sit down and join us’; but he refuses to sit down at the table, instead storming into his room, slamming the door, and locking the bolt closed-shut. My husband sits there a minute, then gets up, pours himself a drink, and turns on the TV. His way of coping.”
“Not entirely sure what to do, I get up and go out to the garage. There, I pick up this big hammer from my husband’s toolbox. I go back in the house, upstairs to my son’s room, stand in front of the door, and say: ‘Open the door.’”
“And then, again, a burst of profanity pours out of his mouth on the other side of the locked door. So I take that hammer and I lean back and, with all the strength I can muster, I slam the hammer against the doorknob. I knock the whole knob clean off the door, the lock, and everything. And then I barge through the door to confront my son. He looks terrified. And I go over to him, throw my arms around him in a bear hug, squeeze him as hard as I possibly can, and I say: ‘I went into labor because of you. The hell if I am giving up on you now.’”
That’s the meaning of Easter.
The good news is just this. We have a God whose love for us breaks through every door we are able to put in the way; a God who rolls away every stone from the tombs in our lives; a God who refuses to leave our side no matter what level our self-regard may be; and a God who in spite of our arrogance and indifference cares for us. We have a God who walks with us through even the darkest hours of our despair; and we have a God who, like a mother, longs to embrace us. So let us open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts this Easter season and greet our risen Lord. He is waiting for us.
Alleluia – The Lord is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
CREDITS, NOTES, & REFERENCES: available on request.