Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
This is basically THE Theme, and our Faith Statement on this Easter Sunday. We have come today, with singing, and bells (even a cowbell!), and lots of flowers, to proclaim the Good News that Jesus Christ died on the Cross, was raised in three days, and lives again.
Our Gospel today from John tells the story of how this Easter morning went some 2000 years ago. Mary Magdelene, Peter and another unnamed disciple came early to the tomb, and: 1) found the body of Jesus not there, and 2) talked to first angels, and then Mary actually talked to the risen Jesus, and he assured her that he had done what he had said he would—die and rise again! This is the resurrection story!
Before this Easter day, over the past several weeks at St. Mark’s, your preachers have spoken about this resurrection theme, with each preacher using a different Gospel message about Jesus.
Bonnie referred to Jesus rebuking Peter as being like Satan for chastising Jesus for talking about his upcoming suffering, rejection and death. After all, Jesus was the Messiah and those things didn’t fit with Peter’s ideas of how he saw the Messiah. But Jesus knew better, and things would be done God’s way.
Lorraine talked about Jesus’ claims to be able to raise up this temple in three day after it had been destroyed. He was actually talking about resurrection, of Jesus’ temple—his body, crucified and risen. Lorraine said that the risen Jesus is truly the new Temple, the sign of God among us.
Joyce told us about her favorite bible verse and how much it has meant to her. John 3:16--For God So Loved the World, that He gave his only begotten son (to live and die and rise again!), that whosoever believes in him, should not perish, but have eternal life.
And, Corby gave us this really cool perspective about Jesus preaching about dying and new life: “If Jesus had lived in Montesano he would have used a different image. We are uniquely suited in the Pacific Northwest to understand what he is saying. We know all about dying to give life because we know about nurse logs in the rainforest; fallen trees, dying and giving life through their decomposition to young seedlings. We know all about salmon swimming to their deaths after laying or fertilizing eggs and enriching the water with their decomposing bodies. We see around us these graphic examples of dying to give life. But there were neither nurse logs nor salmon in Jerusalem, so Jesus talked about wheat, which is not as good an example.”
Easter displays lots of symbolism for resurrection and life. I found a couple of new ones just this morning, looking on the internet at Easter news. Anyone heard of Easter fire? Bishop Jeff Lee from the Diocese of Chicago celebrated the start of Easter with an Easter fire (not a candle, but a fire in a container!) at the Cathedral there. I commented on Facebook that this just seemed like an excuse to play with fire. I also read that Palestinian Christians celebrate Easter by taking hard-boiled eggs and breaking them on other people to symbolize the breaking out of the tomb by Jesus the Christ.
A couple of well-known Easter symbols, I suppose considered to be secular ones, but which I think still are symbolic to us as Christians and especially for our children if we think about it. I’m talking about Easter eggs, and the Easter bunny. I’m sure some might even think that we are being heretical by celebrating these traditions at our church. I’m here to tell you I think they are not and that they fit well with our Easter faith.
Eggs have been viewed as symbols of new life and fertility through the ages. It is believed that for this reason many ancient cultures, including the Ancient Egyptians, Persians, and Romans, used eggs during their spring festivals, predating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This springtime Easter tradition has carried on to this day. The coloring of eggs is an established art, and eggs are often dyed, painted, and otherwise decorated. Eggs were also used in various holiday games: parents would hide eggs for children to find, and children would roll eggs down hills. These practices live on in Easter egg hunts and egg rolls. The most famous egg roll takes place on the White House lawn every year.
Rabbits, or hares, have also long been symbols of fertility and new life. The inclusion of the hare into Easter customs appears to have originated in Germany, where tales were told of an "Easter hare" who laid eggs for children to find. German immigrants to America – particularly to Pennsylvania in the 1700s-- brought the tradition with them and spread it to a wider public. They also baked cakes for Easter in the shape of hares, and may have pioneered the practice of making chocolate bunnies and eggs.
Okay, having said all this to include eggs and bunnies into our Easter celebration, I suppose another way to look at this is that the way we do Easter eggs here at St. Mark’s for the kids, with candy and coins inside plastic colored eggs, are indeed two forms of resurrection—of the children’s bank accounts or their spending money, and for their sugar levels!
Another hopeful form of resurrection, for the greater church, is of the Diocese of Haiti’s Cathedral. The Diocese of Haiti is one of the largest (and poorest) dioceses of the Episcopal Church. A member of Province II, along with such dioceses as New York and New Jersey, the Diocese of Haiti is home to nearly 100,000 members, 97 churches and over 200 Episcopal schools. The earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010 wiped out 70 percent of the Episcopal Church buildings in a country where the per capita income is about $480.
Their Holy Trinity Cathedral, a beautiful unique church that was home to some famous murals that depicted the Biblical narrative, was mostly destroyed in the earthquake, and is just now in planning to even be rebuilt. It took more than a year for just the rubble to finally be removed, and yet hundreds have continued to meet regularly there for worship outdoors under tarps and in the open. The Cathedral is an anchor of the Port-au-Prince community, a social service center and the heart of the Episcopal cathedral complex that provides education, health care and interim housing while also meeting the spiritual needs of the community.
Last year St. Mark’s participated in the Diocese of Olympia’s call to help with funds to get the nearby St. Vincent’s Children’s Hospital a clean water system. This year the whole Episcopal Church is raising $10M toward rebuilding the Holy Trinity Cathedral complex so it can continue and build on its role for the people of Haiti. Each $10 raised is being thought of as buying a brick toward resurrecting this Cathedral. Through Easter season we are being asked to give money for a brick each (or more as you desire) toward this effort, our diocesan goal is $250k.
After church I will have a display that shows pictures of the before and after wiped out Cathedral area, and also materials to take with you to read and decide what you can do to help resurrect this Cathedral over the next few years.
I think Jesus would like this symbolic resurrection of a place that represents the best of his church and his people, and I hope we can think about it in this way, on this Easter Day.
Finally, I close with some thoughts about Easter from our Diocesan Stewardship Officer, Canon Lance Ousley:
“There is no resurrection without death. We can't get to Easter morning without going through Good Friday. Stewardship is much the same. We must first die to ourselves to understand and live into the fullness of what it means to be stewards.
And so this Easter Sunday we know we have nothing to fear, and nothing to hide. The tomb is empty and our hearts are full. Through the Cross and his Resurrection Jesus has emptied our tombs, too.
This Sunday and through the Easter season how will you be good stewards binding the Cross and the Resurrection together, so that others may experience the fullness of Christ's Great Gift of Love?”