Sermons

Like many clergy, I read mysteries in my spare time.  The revelation of the inner workings of the heart become oh so familiar for those of us who journey with others through life’s most intimate and troubled times.  My favorite series—bar none—is the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels wonderfully written by Louise Penny and set in Quebec (begin with Still Life if you are new to the series).  The most recent book in the series was published just a few weeks ago, and I devoured it immediately.[featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]Photo Credit: martinspix via Compfight cc[/featured-image]

Throughout the course of the novels, we learn that the Chief Inspector teaches his agents four key statements that can guide them toward wisdom in their detective work: “I don’t know,” “I was wrong,” “I’m sorry” and “I need help.”  I can’t imagine many real-life detectives encouraging their agents to say these things, but perhaps now you might begin to imagine why I love the series so much.  “I don’t know,” “I was wrong,” “I’m sorry” and “I need help.” Continue reading The Currency of Jesus

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If I had to sum up the guiding principle of my ministry I’d say this: I am called to make disciples of Jesus, following him in the midst of everyday life.  I yearn for the ministry we share be leading us closer to the way of Jesus, showing his love, encountering his forgiveness, engaging his teachings, walking in his way.  When I talk with others about faith and our call to being disciples, the response I often hear expresses a desire to live as a follower of Jesus but not knowing how to do that.

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So these past few weeks I’ve hatched a plan to focus on preaching a series entitled “The Marks of a 21st Century Disciple” over the next 9 months. While I’ve offered book studies and small groups in the past, the reality of living in this time and era nearly always entails having an overcrowded schedule.  This fall the LaBelle family calendar is not excluded from this reality.  We have at least one standing commitment every day of the week the next few months—between soccer, gymnastics, scouts, after-school programs and evening work events.  And I know that we are not alone, so trying to squeeze in another commitment isn’t really doable and would only lead to frustration when you’d have to miss for one reason or another and then feel disconnected.

But a 30 week series on being a disciple in modern day America preached here and then podcast online, that could work.  We could explore the characteristics and traits of a Jesus-follower and from time to time have a chance to extend the conversation during coffee hour or in meeting one on one.  So that’s my intention beginning today, to look at our texts through the lens of what they might mean for us as 21st Century disciples while looking for specific ways to put the life of faith into practice.  Continue reading The 1st Mark of Being a Disciple

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My stop for the elementary school bus happened in the middle of the route.  All the kids in my neighborhood would walk to the end of our street, Columbia, where it intersected South River Rd. to wait for the bus.  On a chilly fall day I climbed the steps and took my seat near a friend, as the bus took off again.  Rather than continuing to the next street we’d turn on about a half mile down, the bus driver stopped short, and we riders swayed forward unexpectedly.

There was a new kid.

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All pairs of eyes on that bus strained to see the new kid as he mounted the steps.  After getting a quick look at him, I leaned in to my friend and whispered, “He’s got a conehead.”  My friend guffawed.  It was the height of the late 70s, and Dan Ackroyd and Jane Curtin had been doing their sketch on Saturday Night Live.  Not that I’d ever seen it, I was tucked into bed long before the show.  But I had seen pictures and commercials, and the Coneheads were the talk of the school.

Continue reading Love’s Power Over Shame

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A number of years ago at a clergy conference, the ones leading our gathering lined us all up as part of an icebreaker.  They asked questions like this: If you prefer vanilla ice-cream step forward, if you prefer chocolate ice-cream step back.  We moved and looked around to see who shared the same proclivities as us.  We lined back up and our facilitators continued. Do you prefer winter or summer?  Books or movies?  Weddings or funerals?

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About 90% of us stepped back on that one, preferring funerals over weddings.  Now we clergy have a different perspective than most when it comes to this since we preside at both liturgies.  Weddings can become fraught with all the minute details—flowers and DJs and rings, oh my!  The couples tend to focus on the reception and getting ready for the big day and not as much on getting ready for their marriage.  Funerals, while very difficult and filled with grief, offer a chance to offer pastoral comfort and guidance.  Preparing the service, sharing stories, crying and praying together, all of these provide an opportunity for the compassion and care and love of Jesus to be shown. We can focus on the hope we have in Christ, the centrality of the resurrection to our faith.  All funeral liturgies are Easter liturgies; even at the grave, we proclaim our song: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!  And besides, there are usually no bridezillas at funerals.

But if you had asked me if I’d prefer a wedding over the burial of a son or daughter, well that would be another thing altogether. I once received a phone call from a good friend who’s also a priest.  She had a close family friend whose son had died unexpectedly as a result of depression, leaving behind his own young son.  He and his wife had encountered many difficulties and had separated, and this man’s mom wanted a church burial.  He resided not too far from my parish in Colorado, and I met with his mom who flew in from New Jersey to plan his funeral. His death devastated her.

Continue reading Needing Jesus’ Healing Touch

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I am drawn in by those men portrayed in movies and stories who are strong enough to stand on their own.  They have charisma and courage and a penchant for adventure. Women swoon.  Other men describe them as a man’s man.  They are the American dream in bodily form.  They can handle whatever situation they are placed in with a strong grace that leaves no doubt in my mind that I want to be just like them.  I want that life they are leading where it all works out, where fear is never present, where strength and right conquers all.

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Think John Wayne or Robert Redford or Brad Pitt.  Or, if you must, think Kevin Costner.

I am drawn in because in some ways I have bought into this myth that I can be strong by myself.  That if I have enough grit, strength, emotional stability, self confidence, or a certain je ne sais quoi, I will make it all on my own. Continue reading Why Faith Isn’t A Solitary Endeavor

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For a long time I’ve been fascinated by the night sky.  I’m currently undertaking learning the major constellations to complement the ones I already know — like Orion the Hunter with his familiar belt, or Cassiopeia the queen who looks like a “W” or an “M” depending on the time of year.  I bet all of you could point out the Big Dipper, which isn’t quite a constellation on its own, but rather a saddle on the constellation of the Great Bear or Ursa Major.  I’m using H.A. Rey’s books Find the Constellations and The Stars because he draws the constellations in ways that actually look like what they are trying to symbolize, and I highly recommend them if astronomy fills you with wonder.  If his name sounds familiar, that’s because it is: he wrote the Curious George books. 

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A sermon based on Psalm 8.

In the introduction to Find the Constellations, Rey writes, “Few people can tell one star from another. Most of us can tell an oak from a maple or a jay from a woodpecker even though we don’t see woodpeckers often, but the stars, which we see any clear night, remain a mystery to us.” For some of us the starry sky evokes wonder amidst the mystery of it.  Can we really fathom that the bright star at the point of Orion’s shoulder, named “Betelgeuse,” is 640 light years away? For context, the light we see this year from that star originated in 1376, 10 years or so before Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales.  Is it any wonder that the Psalmist writes, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you have set in their courses, What is man that you should be mindful of him?  the son of man that you should seek him out?” Continue reading The Mystery of Stars and Love

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We Americans love a good road trip.  It’s a motif of course in many movies — from the crazy like “National Lampoon’s Vacation” to the more dramatic like “Rain Main” to the art flicks including “The Motorcycle Diaries.” The call of the journey that takes us from home to a new understanding of ourselves and our world, well, what’s not to love?  As we’ve begun thinking about a National Parks camping trip next summer as part of my sabbatical, we’ve been recommended to check out RoadTrippers.com.  This site makes suggestions for places to stay, natural wonders to explore and roadside attractions that you shouldn’t miss.  The latter includes a statue of the Jolly the Green Giant, he of vegetable fame, who stands 55 feet tall in Blue Earth, Minnesota and is on our way from Southborough to Badlands National Park.  Watch my blog in 14 months for a selfie with Jolly.

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At the beginning of the book he simply titled Walking, Henry David Thoreau suggests that the word saunter is derived from those in the Middle Ages who chose to become pilgrims to the Holy Lands, la Sainte Terre in the French.  As they set about looking for funds to help them make their pilgrimage, Thoreau posits, the French children began exclaiming, “‘There goes a Sainte-Terrer,’ a Saunterer — a Holy-Lander.” He pushes back on those who might suggest it’s derived from sans terre, without land or having no home — a vagabond—claiming “the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more a vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while [deliberately] seeking the shortest course to the sea.” Mr. Thoreau may or may not be correct in his etymology; however, as a saunterer myself, I really like it.

The verses preceding our selection from John’s gospel are somewhat familiar.  Jesus has just told the disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house, and that they knew the way to the place where he was going. Thomas pipes up, “We do not know where you are going and how can we know the way?”  “I am the way and the truth and the life,” he replies, “No on comes to the Father except through me.”  Which leads to this statement from Philip, “Lord, just show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”  “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and still you do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

The word translated the way is hodos in the Greek.  It also means “road” or “path” or even “journey.”  When Jesus sent the disciples out on their mission to spread the good news, he told them to take nothing for their hodos, for their journey, because they were to rely on the hospitality of others.  Or the Magi, after they had visited with the child Jesus, were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, so, writes Matthew, they went home by another hodos, another road, another way.  “I am the way, the road, the journey,” declares Jesus.  “You know the hodos to the place where I am going. Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father.”

We’re celebrating the Day of Pentecost today with all of this spectacular red.  Besides Palm Sunday, it’s the only time we see red draped on our altar. It’s to remind us of the those tongues as of fire that rested on each of the 120 or so who were gathered together in that house following Jesus’ ascension.  They began speaking in the native languages of all those devout Jews who lived in Jerusalem but hailed from another country.  Those Parthians and Medes and Egyptians and Romans all heard the good news, the Gospel, in the languages of their homeland, in the language of their hearts.  Upon hearing the good news, some 3000 or so chose to follow Jesus, devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.  And eventually, as their numbers continued to grow and grow and spread out, the disciples of Jesus became known as those “who belonged to the Way,” who belonged to the hodos, the  road, the journey.  It wasn’t until much later that they became known as Christians, “followers of Christ.”  They were first know as those of the Way.

In his fabulous book, The Way of Jesus, Eugene Peterson writes, “To follow Jesus implies that we enter into a way of life that is given character and shape and direction by the one who calls us.  To follow Jesus means picking up rhythms and ways of doing things that are often unsaid but always derivative from Jesus, formed by the influence of Jesus. To follow Jesus means that we cannot separate what Jesus is saying from what Jesus is doing, and the way he is doing it.  To follow Jesus is as much, or maybe even more, about feet as it is about ears and eyes.”

“Where your feet take you, that is who you are,” writes Frederick Buechner in the collected essays that make up his Alphabet of Grace.  “If you want to know who you are, watch your feet.”  Obviously your feet took you here this morning, but where do they take you during the week?  If you were to create one of those Family Circus cartoons where we follow Billy’s path as he pets the dog, and jumps over the fence and plays on the swings, what would your path look like for this past week?  If you plotted your course, your interactions and all the rest, what would it show?  Based on your sauntering, who are you?

Understanding Jesus as the hodos implies one thing, of course: we haven’t arrived yet.  If Jesus is the way, the road, the journey, then the working metaphor isn’t a destination, a goal or a stopping point.  It’s a pilgrimage, a sojourning, a ramble.  Likewise, attending church isn’t the final stop either; this hour together isn’t the culmination or the zenith but a rest stop along the path.  A place to refuel and get a better sense as to the direction we’re headed and the encouragement to keep on trucking.

That’s the job of the church established on that first Pentecost nearly 2000 years ago, to be a means to the way.  To be a community that points to the love and mercy of Jesus and tries desperately hard to walk in his path.  It’s in showing love to the foreigners—like Jairus, the Roman centurion whose daughter Jesus healed, or the Samaritan woman who Jesus spoke with.  It’s by touching the ones feeling unclean and unwanted–like those 10 men with leprosy living in a cave outside the town whom Jesus healed.  It’s in giving food to the hungry and pointing the path toward of forgiveness and wholeness to those who’ve lost their way.  It’s in reminding our children that they are beloved and that, if we adults want to discover the kingdom of God, we’ll need to become like them and be filled with wonder and unwavering belief.  It’s in making time for prayer to talk and be present with God, and having fun at parties.  It’s in giving of ourselves so that others might find hope.  The way that Jesus embodied is the way of love. 

For many in our culture the focus has been on hate, distrust and fear.  In looking at our neighbors, we’ve seen the enemy and not children of God.  We do so in the name of safety, perhaps, or in protecting what we believe is rightfully ours.  That path of fear is a dangerous one, and it leads away from God.  Yet the coming of the Holy Spirit allows us to know more fully the way of Jesus, to see his path more clearly, to learn how to navigate the way before us.  The Holy Spirit continues to guide us as the one who illumines that path.

Is the path you’re taking, the journey you’re on, leading you toward love?  Are you able to see in every person, regardless of their address or nationality or what’s on their birth certificate or how they dress or who they worship, are you able to see them as beloved children of God?  Are you going out as you are sent from this place as someone declaring the good news, the way of Jesus?  Is the road you’re traveling—the life you are living—bringing you closer to Christ?  Jesus is the way to God, and if we have seen him we have seen the one he calls the Father.  May we truly see in the Almighty One the love and compassion and mercy shown again and again by Jesus, and may we saunter faithfully on the way that leads to eternal life.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

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I remember in a high school English class learning all sorts of words ending in -phobia for a vocab quiz.  Like acrophobia—the fear of heights.  Agoraphobia—the fear of open spaces. The one that’s been in the news recently: xenophobia—the fear of foreigners. Here’s a good one: ophidiophobia—the fear of snakes. There’s scotophobia—the fear of darkness.  My favorite in the list was the one that could get you running around like a dog chasing its tail if you thought about it too long: phobophobia—the irrational fear of fear.

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What are you afraid of?  Does it have some fancy Latin-based word to go with it? I suspect since you’re here this morning it’s not ecclesiophobia—the fear of church.  But I’d bet there’s something for each of us lurking deep inside that has the power to paralyze us.  Thankfully we aren’t in Professor Lupin’s Defense Against the Dark Arts class at Hogwarts with that tricky boggart which could sense your worst fear and then immediately take that shape right in front of you—like the giant spider for poor Ron Weasley who suffered from the one you all likely know: arachnophobia. 

A sermon for the 6th Sunday of Easter on John 14:23-29.

We live in a world saturated with fear and cynicism.  It permeates our news cycles.  For some, these things impact their moods and their outlook on life.  I offer the current presidential campaign season as exhibit A, an election cycle that may likely include two candidates whose negative ratings are higher than their positive ones.  Both of  their possible presidencies cause large portions of our country to stay awake at night and consider possible moves to other countries. 

We don’t get a sense of it, but there’s fear skulking in the shadows of our gospel lesson this morning.  Jesus and his disciples have just finished the Last Supper.  He’s already washed their feet, and told them that he’s going to prepare a place for them.  And now with these words—his Farewell Discourse as it’s called in theology books—he wants them to know that even if he goes away they shouldn’t be afraid.  He says, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  And then, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”  Don’t be afraid because the Holy Spirit is coming to be with you and then, at some point in the future, Jesus and the one he calls the Father will make their home among them.  Don’t be afraid for you will not be alone.

Out of all my childhood toys and stuffed animals, only one has made it with me to this point in my life.  No, it’s not Woody or Buzz, but a Smokey the Bear I found under the Christmas tree when I was four.  He had a plastic hat that broke just a couple of months after I got him when my cousin and I tried to put in on our own heads. His belt buckle emblazoned with his name split in half and came off sometime during my college years when I left him back at home.  Early on I rechristened him “Ted,” short for “Teddy Bear” of course, and these days Ted hangs out in Noah’s room.

That silly old bear brought me a lot of comfort during my early childhood while my parents still battled the ravages of alcoholism.  He took up a permanent residence on my bed during those years when I might not have admitted that I had a stuffed bear, but I fell asleep countless nights with him held close to my chest.  He was a comfort, keeping the fears of adolescence at bay.  And now I remember with nostalgia those days gone by when I see his worn face knowing that he was clearly well-loved.

“Perfect love casts out all fear,” writes St. John in his first epistle.  I suspect this belief germinated in words like these ones Jesus spoke to his disciples so long ago.  Sometimes it’s hard when we’re afraid and feeling all alone to remember those words.  To recall that Jesus promised the Spirit to guide and comfort us.  That he and the Father would make their home with us because we are loved by God. 

Love and home and comfort: things that can clearly dispel the shadows from our lives.  Things that can bring us such deep joy.

I love the opening words from our collect this morning: “O God, You have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding.”  Imagine the most joyous thing that you can.  Conjure up an image right now if you can—perhaps a person you love or place that holds your heart or a day where you uncover such great delights.  Not even close to the good things God has prepared us.  God continues the work of preparation in order to give us lasting and eternal joy when all our fears will be swallowed up forever.

But here’s the thing: I do not think that the joy given to us is meant just for us.  I don’t think that the effects of all of those good things that surpass our understanding will end with us.  Love is generative.  It expands and expands and expands.  While love’s opposite–fear–closes us off and leaves us scared and alone, deep and abiding love fills us with joy that spills over to others.  It cannot be contained.  We cannot help but share it with those around us.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the purpose of the church these days since I’ve been recently asked by Bishop Gates to work on a team tasked with drafting the mission strategy of our diocese.  What is it we are called to do?  What’s the point of a community like ours?

There are two basic answers to questions like this.  One is that we are here for our own institution.  We hope that people will come in and join us, but our focus clearly is on our parish’s longevity.  Sometimes, when congregations get small, the fear hovering in the background comes forward—we need more new people to help us keep our beloved parish going—and these types of congregations begin to feel alone and disconnected.

The other answer is that we are here for the world no matter our size.  We gather together to remember who we are and then go out to share Christ’s love with others.  We are disciples of Jesus who cannot contain the joy and love we have received and need to spread it around in the dark and fearful places of our world. 

Perhaps you think this too simplistic, and yet I’ve been involved with churches who’ve embodied each of these responses.  The church hoping to have enough resources to keep the heat running a few more years and the church wanting to make an impact in their town by spreading love.  One gripped by fear.  The other exploding with love.

We have been given the amazing gift of Christ’s love, and we cannot hold on to it. There will always be days when we forget the promises of Christ and do not allow the Spirit to break through our deepest fears.  But perfect love casts out all fear.  God needs us to share that love with our world, because it is a dark and cynical place.  Jesus overcame death and the grave not so that we could feel good about ourselves but so that we could, through his power, change the world.

And it’s all about relationships.  Notice the direction of things when we are afraid: we go deeper and deeper inside, shutting ourselves off from one another.  And love is the other way.  We are unable to contain the joy and the grace and need to share that with others. 

I’ve seen the love get shared when visiting someone who can’t get out anymore because of an illness.  Or in handing a hot meal to someone who hasn’t eaten in a couple of days.  I’ve experienced that love in sitting down with a teenager who feels they are all alone, listening to them and then praying with them.  I’ve watched it play over again and again while tutoring children after school or building a house for someone who’s never owned a home or playing a game with a child.  That love can be seen in writing a note to a widow or singing songs in a nursing home or grabbing lunch with a friend who lives alone or giving away quarters at a laundromat or sending extra money to a sponsored child in Africa.  We cannot remain paralyzed by fear’s icy grips; we must proclaim the joy and love of Jesus’ resurrection. 

He has been risen indeed, and we can live in a way that shows the power of his resurrection to our world.  He has not left us alone, the Holy Spirt comes among us.  We have nothing to fear, not even fear itself, for God makes a home among us, and we are called to find that home out in our world.  We’ll uncover it in those moments of redemption when love spills over in unbelievable ways.  Let us live as the ones who know deep down that we are loved and have nothing to fear for God is with us always.  May it be so.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

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Alleluia! Christ is risen!

I discovered the Charles Lenox mysteries this winter, reading a couple of chapters each night before heading to bed. The novels are written by Charles Finch and set in the late Victorian era of England. Lenox hails from a wealthy family, his brother Edmund serving in Parliament, and Lenox has a penchant for solving crimes much to the surprise of others in his social stratum.  The most recent book, Home by Nightfall, takes place primarily in the country town that Charles and Edmund grew up in, and where Edmund now lives in the manor house of their childhood. The novel begins by disclosing a significant loss in Edmund’s life, and so Charles travels out to be with him. Countless times in the book Charles worries about his brother, asking how he is doing.  Each time Ed slowly drifts back from the place his grief has taken him and responds with what amounts to, “I’m fine, fine.  Thank you.”  Charles, of course, recognizes that Ed is anything but fine, and so continues to try to support him.

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It seems that the obscuring intended by responding with “fine” when asked how we are is not a recent invention.  It’s our auto-pilot answer, regardless if we’ve hit the lottery or been hit by an emotional freight train.  “I’m fine, fine.  Thank you.”

Luke begins our reading by telling us that the women who had been standing at a distance and watching all the things taking place Golgotha head out early on that Sunday with the spices they had prepared.  They intend to go and anoint Jesus’ body, finishing the hard task of his burial.  The previous day, the Sabbath, had been spent in mourning and in following the commandment to rest on that day.  So, after a fitful night’s sleep, they make their way to the to tomb.  When they get there—and Luke explicitly informs us that they watched where the body had been laid, so they know exactly where that rock hewn tomb is—they discover the stone rolled back from the entrance.  Upon entering it, they find nothing.  It’s empty. 

Immediately two men appear—presumably messengers from God—who say, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”  At that point the women do remember all the things Jesus had told them, and they rush back to tell the others all the amazing things that’ve happened.

They arrive at the place, and tell their story recounting everything to the disciples.  When the women finally finish, the apostles look at them and say that it’s just an idle tale.  At least that’s the polite way our Biblical translation puts it in an almost Victorian sort of way.  “Well, I say, isn’t that an idle tale.”  In reality these salty fishermen were exclaiming, “That’s a load of bollocks!” (Or at least that’s what they would say if they knew their words would be uttered by a priest on Easter morning, and they cleaned them up a bit. You can take it further if you’d like, and you’d be on the mark.)  In the Greek it’s leros, the root for our word “delirious.” Completely unbelievable, a bit crazy.  These women have more than a couple of screws loose; they clearly have no idea what they’re talking about.

You’d think the disciples would be jumping up and down, right?  You’d think they’d be ecstatic because they’ve just had all their wildest dreams come true.  Instead they don’t buy it.  They know that your wildest dreams don’t come true even if you vote for Pedro, he of “Napoleon Dynamite” fame. Just like we know they don’t if we vote for Hillary or Donald or Bernie or Ted.  It appears that we don’t have the market on cynicism here in the 21st century. “You found the tomb to be completely empty?  Yeah right.  You’re delirious.”  It was all way too good to be true.

Theologian David Lose writes, “Imagine the possible disappointment if the women weren’t being honest, or were just plain wrong. It’d be like a terminally ill patient being told of one more miracle cure, or an abandoned child that his parents are waiting for him. Precisely because this news is what we want more than anything in the world, it’s terrifying. Already wounded by the loss of their Lord, the disciples fear getting cut once more by the shards of their broken dreams.” [ref] David Lose. http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=1576  Accessed March 22, 2016. I’m grateful for the direction of the sermon from Dr. Lose.[/ref]

What’s interesting is that many of us don’t believe it either.  We’ve gotten used to the empty tomb.  “Oh yeah, Jesus rose.  That’s nice.  Now pass the ham, please.”  We show up on this glorious morning in our Easter finery with a stilted view of what’s happened too.  We join them in thinking it’s just an idle tale, that it doesn’t really matter in our lives.  Jesus may have been resurrected, but that is little consolation in the face of the many hardships in our lives.  David Lose continues, “Maybe we know, deep down, that we’re dying, and so the promise of life is frightening… Despite all of our protests to the contrary, despite all of our pretending, despite our ubiquitous ‘fine’ to the daily question, ‘how are you?’ we know that we’re not fine. We know that we’re fragile, wounded, in need of saving. But we’re just afraid enough that no one will be able to save us that we can hardly admit our fear.”

We’ve so domesticated this story that it becomes just another tale to us as well.  But what if it were true?  What if Jesus did actually burst from the tomb early on that Sunday morning and because of that everything has changed?

Why, then, we’d have to believe that we don’t need to fear the possibility of death.  We’d have to believe that the recent diagnosis isn’t the end of our life as we know it.  If Jesus actually rose from the dead then we’d have to see that the apprehension of a job loss or a wayward teen doesn’t have to paralyze us in fear.  If the tomb was actually empty then we could live in hope.  We could pull down the protective walls of distrust and open ourselves up to the possibility of love and life.  If that tale isn’t idle, then everything in our lives could be different.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of living in the soup of cynicism and doubt.  I’ve become weary about the way fear creeps in to every corner of our society so that our anxiety hovers constantly at DEFCON 2.  I know that by deciding to believe in Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t instantly give us the prosperity that some preachers are promising this morning, but I also know that it can significantly alter the course our lives take.  The power of the resurrection offers us a chance to be free of the things holding us back from the life God has always intended for us.

With God’s help, you can decide to no longer live a life that is being crushed by doubt and fear.  Don’t allow this day to slip by as just another Easter, another holiday marked by your own hiding behind the reply of “I’m fine, fine.”  The dream we have of a life flourishing with joy and peace and love is here within our reach.  I know that Jesus Christ is risen today and the he has overcome death and the grave.  We have nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing whatsoever to fear because he is risen and promises to be with us even to the end of the age.  This is not an idle, worthless or frivolous tale.  These are the words of life and healing and joy.  May you hear them anew this morning and allow them to penetrate deep into your soul.  And may we all truly live as Easter People who intimately know the profound and life changing power of the resurrection.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

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