Wake up! Morning has broken! Christ is risen!
Our message this Easter is a very timely one—the abundant and overflowing Love of God! Today, with singing, and bells, and lots of flowers, we proclaim the Good News of this Love of God for all--that Jesus Christ came into this world to show us all how to Love one another, died on the Cross, was raised in three days, and lives again to continue that message of Love in us.
Our Gospel today from Luke tells the story of how this Easter morning went some 2000 years ago. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and others went to the tomb in the early morning darkness of the third day after Jesus has been crucified and: 1) found the body of Jesus was not there, and 2) they talked to angels, who assured them that Jesus had done just what he had said he would—die and rise again! This is the resurrection story! The Light of Christ!
The first verse from our Psalm today says it all about this resurrection story: “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast Love endures forever!” There is nothing clearer about the Love of God for us, than this act of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for us on Easter morning.
Before this Easter day, over the past few weeks at St. Mark’s, your preachers have spoken about this theme of God’s Love, with each preacher using a different Gospel message.
Corby, in talking about the story of Mary pouring the sweet nard all over Jesus: “So we all can express abundant, extravagant Love in our own way. Mary doesn’t wait for Jesus to die to pour her Love upon him. At his coming death, she will have great sorrow but she will not have regrets. You see, that is the thing with the abundant Love we have from God. There is always enough. God is not stingy with Love and we mustn’t be either. Today is the day to express your Love. Please be extravagant with it!”
Joyce: “In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father speaks one of the most stupendous sentences in all of scripture when he says to the elder son, " .. all that is mine is yours". The point is that God is saying that to us now: "All that is mine is yours -- Life and Light and Love and Hope and the possibility of making a difference in your family and in the world out there - it's all yours." To Love one another as God Loves us, is what we are called to do.”
Lorraine: using the parable of the fig tree, said: “Our Lord wants to give us another season, another year, some more space to begin living our lives in ways the Lord expects from all of us. We have another moment of grace to produce the life of Love our God desires of us.”
Bonnie: “Jesus is offering abundance--the abundance of God’s Love, the abundance of sharing, the abundance of caring about the world and the other people in it.”
Three days ago we re-enacted in our Maundy Thursday service how Jesus showed his disciples what their ministry needed to become, knowing he would not be with them much longer. As their teacher and leader, he then became their servant, by washing each one’s feet and explaining to them how to be loving servant leaders. We read this Gospel story, and the twelve of us there did the same for each other, and it was reminded us how we can be servants to others, to show God’s Love in our communities.
We are at a time in our lives in this world, where the Love of God needs to be shown by all people more than ever. There is major turmoil, fighting and death because of extreme beliefs and doctrines in religions. In the United States our own collective Christian faith as a whole has so gotten lost in what the point of the whole life of Jesus, his ministry, and his death and resurrection was all about. It has worked itself into these polarizing “debates” over voting rights, gun rights/controls, the focus of the budgets of our governments—federal and local, how our economy should run and who it benefits, the rights of everyone to marry or not, and the rights of the LGBT community.
But there is hope, both worldly, and locally! The new Roman Catholic Pope Francis has already won over many hearts and minds with his simple style and focus on serving the world's poorest. Earlier this past Easter week, he told around 20,000 people in St. Peter's Square to avoid "a tired and routine way of living the faith," and resist "the temptation to withdraw into pre-established patterns that end up closing our horizon" to God. And, Francis has already disregarded church law by washing the feet of two imprisoned girls — a Serbian Muslim and an Italian Catholic — during a Holy Thursday ritual, and he reached out in friendship to “his many Muslim brothers and sisters” during a Good Friday procession dedicated to the suffering of Christians from terrorism, war and religious fanaticism in the Middle East.
Our local hope comes about in a much different way. Instead of fighting about what is right or wrong with each one’s Christian expression of faith, we instead have a common mission led by our Montesano Ministerial Association. Night before last many of us met for an ecumenical Good Friday service, at our local Methodist church—over 100 people attended. Our 8 churches run the spectrum of the Christian tradition and experience: from liturgical churches--St. John’s Catholic and St. Mark’s Episcopal, all the way to evangelical churches--Montesano First Baptist and Calvary Chapel.
This service showed the wonderful respect we have for each other, and how we come together in our common call to mission in our community, not only to bring the message of Jesus Christ to all who will hear it, but also to help those in need in all walks of life. There was a beautifully designed service of music and messages about the life and death of Jesus, looking toward the Easter resurrection, presented and shared by everyone there.
We read and hear Christian people across the entire spectrum of our faith use this mantra all the time, “What would Jesus do?” There is actually nothing left to speculate about what Jesus would do—from our Gospels we know what Jesus did already! He moved and worked with those on the margins of society, the poor, the oppressed, those without the privileges of the politically and wealthy few in the communities his ministry took him. To present his ministry only as about focusing on his resurrection and “saving all who believe in him”, even on this Easter Day, is to lessen what his message for us is about. And his message to us today is so very clear--to act as he did, by giving up ourselves for the sake of others!
From the Rev. Dianne Andrews, the Interim Missioner at several cluster churches in the Skagit area of our Diocese: “This great story of Easter is just beginning to unfold. In Easter all is not meant to be as it was, nor are we. The incredible power of this incomprehensible, mind shattering event is to open us in new ways...to see, and feel and taste anew...to recognize Christ's presence in our midst as we never have before... to have life in Christ in simpler and more meaningful ways, serving one another and God's good creation with new light and fresh passion.”
This Sunday and through the Easter season how will you bring the Cross, the Resurrection, and God’s awesome Love together, so that others may experience the fullness of Christ's Great Gift to all?”