The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
How many of you are back to eating chocolate today –
did anyone get into the kids’ Easter baskets already this morning
for that first taste of chocolate in forty days?
Or back to drinking coffee?
What else are you going back to this morning?
It is easy for us to think of Easter as getting something back.
In celebration of Jesus coming back from the dead
we go back to the little luxuries we gave up for Lent –
we go back to singing “Alleluia” –
In some ways, it feels like going back to “business as usual,”
after the various ways we’ve observed Lent.
But Easter is not about going back.
When Jesus died,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
saw the life they’d known in the years they followed Jesus disappear.
So what did they think,
when they came to the tomb that first Easter morning and found,
not a quiet burial place,
but an angel with amazing news?
And what about the rest of the disciples?
What did they think when Mary and Mary came to tell them the news:
Jesus is alive! He will meet us in Galilee!
Did they believe that Jesus would be there to meet them?
Or did they just go on to Galilee with some slight hope –
because they didn’t know what else to do next?
Once they understood that Jesus was alive,
I imagine they looked forward to resuming the life they’d known
as disciples of Jesus.
But that life was no longer an option.
What Jesus has in store for the disciples
-- the gift of the Holy Spirit,
living, and for some, dying as apostles telling the story of Jesus –
is nothing they’d ever imagined.
Easter isn’t about going back.
Jesus doesn’t come back to take up where he left off,
returning to his life as a traveling preacher and healer.
With Jesus’ death and resurrection,
God has done something completely new.
Jesus died as a sign of God’s love.
Jesus was raised from the dead as a sign of God’s power
to grant new life in the face of evil and of death itself.
Jesus’ resurrection is not a return to the good old days,
to the way things used to be.
The resurrection we celebrate at Easter is a promise of new life,
beyond our expectations –
but it is not a chance to go back.
Easter is a day of joy and celebration.
But we did not come easily to this day.
This week we heard the story of the Passion of Jesus –
his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion.
It is not an easy or comfortable story –
but it is a part of the story we need to hear.
New life follows loss and grief.
There is no Resurrection without a death.
These past years have been difficult ones at St Michael’s.
We grieve for beloved leaders who have moved on –
Fr. Christopher, Fr. Brian, and Rev Sue
We wonder what will happen next.
We wonder who we will be without Fr Brian,
who shaped this congregation with his ministry for 30 years.
Some of us struggle with what it means to be the Church in
a time of change and turmoil.
Many of us here also struggle with personal loss and change.
I know of grief that has left some of you reeling these past weeks and months,
and there is so much more pain and heartache carried here today
than I could possibly know.
Perhaps the celebration of Easter is hard for you today,
and the cries of Alleluia ring hollow in your ears.
Perhaps you wonder what will be next,
how you will pick up the pieces and go on.
Some years ago I was at a churchwide gathering,
and each of us in attendance received one of these lovely glass angels.
The Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land was our speaker that day, and he shared the story of the angels.
During an Israeli military strike in April of 2002,
tank shelling and air strikes on Bethlehem broke hundreds of windows.
Broken glass became a symbol of the town’s destruction.
More importantly, the broken glass symbolized
the broken hopes and dreams of so many people.
A group of artisans began to gather the glass shards
and transform them into these glass angels.
The artisans worked with the International Center of Bethlehem –
a group that provides vocational training for unemployed Palestinians.
In their arts program, they encourage human productivity and creative skills
to enable people, through their own work,
to participate in shaping their future.
They could not change the horror of war and violence.
But they could move through that horror,
and transform symbols of destruction and war into symbols of hope and peace.
In the words of my mentor, Pastor Melody Eastman:
Resurrection promise isn’t about getting back what we’ve lost.
It is about being offered a new hope and a new joy that is different from anything
we anticipated or expected or could have hoped for.
Sometimes that makes it hard to reach for.
Sometimes to reach out for a hope that we do not understand is a difficult thing.
It would be much easier to reach back to a hope that we remember,
to claim something that was,
but that is not what Jesus offers you today.
Not the chance to go back to what was,
but to claim a new hope that exceeds your expectations.
My favorite Easter hymn is the one we sang just before the Gospel reading.
The bold Alleluias are fun to sing –
but what speaks to my heart are the gentler strains of
Now the Green Blade Rises.
Now the green blade rises from the buried grain
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain
love lives again, that with the dead has been
Love is come again like wheat that rises green.
Sometimes, some of us get a bold, bright miracle in our lives -
new life and revelation with a blast of a trumpet.
But I think Easter comes into our lives most often like this hymn – slowly, gently.
We tend the ground patiently
in the hope that green shoots will again peek out from the earth.
We gather shards of broken glass that could cut our hands and feet –
and maybe they do, and we bleed, and we weep.
But we hold the glass out to God, and with God
we shape it into something new and beautiful and full of hope.
In the grave they laid him, Love by hatred slain
thinking that never would he wake again
Sometimes in our lives we reach the end.
And that is where God meets us with the promise of Easter.
A promise of new life.
A promise, not that we will get back what has been lost –
but that we can have new joy, new peace,
new life beyond what we have imagined.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Amen.