A Sermon Delivered by
The Reverend E. F. Michael Morgan, Ph.D.
Trinity Episcopal Church
April 21, 2019
Lord, lead us ever deeper into the mystery of thy life, and our own, that we may be interpreters of that life, through Christ our Lord. Amen
In the religious press, it was reported recently that one Easter morning at a trendy upscale Episcopal Church in New England, the rector gathered all the children of the church in the front of the sanctuary for a special children's sermon. He began with a thematically appropriate question, one that was on everyone’s mind.
"Children, he said, - today is Easter Sunday. What do we celebrate on Easter?"
One perky young girl spoke up quickly: "I know. I know” she said: “Today we remember our mothers and how much we love them." "Well, No; that's not quite right," the rector replied. "You're thinking of Mother's Day."
The girl sat down, just as another eager boy jumped up and took a shot. With considerable self-assurance he said: "Easter is actually a time when we say 'thank you' to God for all the good things in our lives." "Well that’s very true - We can always say 'thank you' to God," the rector responded somewhat guardedly, beginning to worry just a bit about the awareness-level of the children in his church. "But, I sense you're probably thinking of Thanksgiving, not Easter.”
Then as his desperation seemed to be increasing, he blurted out – C’mon now children, think carefully, …what is the meaning of Easter?" After a few seconds of awkward silence, another girl in a fancy Easter dress gave it a try.
"Easter," she said tentatively, "Easter is the day when we remember that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Then he was buried in the tomb. On Easter morning, God rolled the stone away and Jesus came out of the tomb."
"Excellent," cried the rector, relieved that someone had finally struck a chord.
"And then," the girl continued, "Jesus looked out and saw his shadow, so he went back into the tomb and there were six more weeks of winter!"
Well that certainly has pertinence for all of us this year, particularly here in Morgantown, where we got socked with some cold weather patterns that meteorologists like to call, “serious ice-and-snow-events.” C’mon now; the thought of “Six more weeks of winter,” after what we’ve already gone through? You gotta be kidding.
Perhaps it might be a good idea to start over again; and revisit today’s lectionary by referencing the Collect for the Day - so that we too, like the youngsters mentioned in the children’s sermon, may discover anew the meaning of Easter. Here’s what our Prayerbook says:
O God, who through your only begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: ….Grant that we may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit.
Liturgically, for countless Christian believers over the centuries, the ancient and traditional call to worship on Easter Sunday has been “He is risen. He is risen indeed.” That proclamation has a ring of truth: yet it’s not readily or easily explained because it contains the deepest form of complexity, and holds out the rarest type of mystery, that is present in our faith. Easter is the Day of Resurrection. It is what our faith is all about. It is about endings and new beginnings. It is about victory over the grave. It is about the triumph of eternal life. And it is about God’s loving action of raising Jesus from the dead. The Easter narrative is a compelling story, and it is the Good News we are both moved and called to share with others.
In particular, Resurrection is about the healing and restoration of wounded and severed relationships: relationships that are between God and humanity, between human persons and, ultimately, among all the elements of creation. An Orthodox theologian once put the case in the widest possible terms when he said: “The Resurrection is not the resuscitation of a body; it is the beginning of the transfiguration of the world.”
That’s what I try to preach about every Sunday during the year. Of course, I can’t control what people take away from their Easter celebrations, but we all can hope that faithful worshipers will be inspired and empowered; and that the so-called nominal Christians or the curiosity-seekers may be intrigued by having spent time with a resurrection community that is alive with the Spirit.
The primary task of the preacher, then, on Easter Sunday is not to recite or argue the evidence for the resurrection, but to help communities become the evidence itself that Jesus is alive.
The specific meaning of Easter and its cherished significance is a narrative with staying-power. Yet keep in mind, especially in light of the profound mystery of today’s celebration, that the resurrection – surprise, surprise - is not about you and me: it is about God and Jesus. We’re just onlookers. A plan of salvation has been revealed. The drama of God’s story has come to its crescendo, a denouement, and the ending or completion of this religious epic portends an incredulous victory of the forces for righteousness and truth over all the principalities and powers of this world.
Here’s the bottom line.
The Easter proclamation is that death is not the end, and failure is not the final word in God's reign. Through the resurrection of Jesus, death becomes a gateway to larger and eternal life, and failure is transformed and redeemed through God's compassion and forgiveness. Christianity offers forgiveness for the past, strength for the present, and hope for the future
We are encouraged by the church to go to others and tell them what we have experienced. We continue to seek Christ and God in the unexpected places, and among unpredictable people. Our task is simply to let everyone know about the transforming love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.
-Because “He is risen.
-He is risen indeed.” ...Alleluia
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. AMEN.
CREDITS, NOTES, & REFERENCES: available on request.