Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus often occurs in the calendar at about the same time as the annual resurrection of the populace of Seattle. In April we begin to emerge from the tomb, umm… cave of our long winter hibernation. We come out of the darkness into the light. The gloomy tenor of our faces is replaced with a smiling, friendly visage and instead of grey and black, we put on clothes with colors and patterns.
Ferdinand and Isabella, the pair of Mallard ducks that come to St. Luke’s every spring to nest and raise their chicks are back. This year is special since we just completed our Rainwise project with cisterns to catch run off from the roof and a beautiful new rain garden that operates like a pond to filter water naturally back into the water table. The ducks love it!
The new homes for the honey bees are up on the roof. This is the first year they will take residence at St. Luke’s to help pollinate our beautiful SLUG garden, and the new native plants we have added to the landscape. By the end of summer we expect our first harvest of local honey which we will serve in the Edible Hope Kitchen. Our hope is that its healthy properties will combine with the nutritious food and services we offer to 180 guests every weekday morning will be a benefit and a sign of our love and care for folks experiencing homelessness and hunger.
This past week I was reminded of God’s promise from the book of Isaiah. God promises a feast for all peoples, a feast of rich food, of rich food filled with marrow. In the holy days leading up to Easter we had our Maundy Thursday meal in the Edible Hope Kitchen where our fabulous cook, Robert had prepared not just ham, but roast pork and Tuscan chicken. Volunteers, guests and visitors sat around a table to share the meal where the love of Christ is tangibly present. The good news is that the same quality of food and care is served up five days a week, year round, to anyone in need.
These signs of resurrection life and the presence of the risen Christ are all around but we are often prevented from seeing or celebrating them. And we’re not alone. The gospel of Mark ends with the disciples scattered in their fear and discouragement and the women terrified and amazed. The power of God over evil, death and the grave had already taken place that first Easter morning, but no one had yet been able to see or receive it.
Fear, of course, is one of great blinders to resurrection life. Fear prevents us from seeing the other in the light of Christ. It makes us either timid or aggressive. It shuts down our options. It turns others into enemies. Fear prevents us from flourishing, from taking risks, from being vulnerable and therefore, from experiencing the deepest, richest connections of intimacy and love. Fear seized the women at the tomb of Jesus. It temporarily paralyzed them.
But then they are given something to do, something they alone can do. They are given the message of hope. The women are asked to bear the good news first to the disciples and then to the whole world. As they make their way from the tomb, each step creates confidence and strength. By the time they see the resurrected Christ, they have become the apostles he always knew they could be.
Shame, too. It keeps us locked up, unwilling or unable to accept the light of resurrection life. Shame sends us into isolation. Peter, in spite of all his protests and best intentions had denied Jesus three times. The shame of his cowardice cut him off from Jesus and from his friends.
It’s no surprise that the messenger of God instructs the women to tell “his disciples AND Peter.” Peter needed desperately to hear that he had not lost the love of Jesus. He needed to know that God’s power and the forgiveness of Jesus were greater than the very worst he had done. The hope of the resurrection brings Peter out from hiding and transforms him into the rock and leader that Jesus always knew he could be.
And then there is the betrayer, Judas. By the time of Christ’s resurrection, he was probably already dead by suicide. He had traded the faith, hope and love of Jesus for his own idea of power and privilege. He had substituted a political solution for a transformation of life. He had sold his best beloved for silver to corrupt and venial officials. He was in a despair that led to death.
And yet, even in that dark place, the life of resurrection touches him. Jesus descends to the dead. The resurrection of Jesus has power not only for the living but for the dead. The resurrection defies time and space and makes a way where there was no way. The life of Christ is extended to all for all time and God is not willing that even one should perish, not even the most notorious betrayer in history.
It’s funny how resurrection life keeps popping up where we least expect it. A few months ago I needed to move some furniture here in the sanctuary. As I often do, I went out to the courtyard and into the dining room to ask if any of our guests could help me out. When I first began at St. Luke’s I wasn’t sure how safe it would be to do something like that. Fear and distrust of the homeless is often the result of unexamined prejudice and simple lack of contact and connection. Fear keeps us from seeing the other as a beloved child of God.
A guy in his thirties offered to help me that day. I was on a mission so I marched ahead of him into the sanctuary to get the job done. Suddenly he wasn’t with me. I whirled around but didn’t immediately see him. The lights weren’t on and he wasn’t anywhere in sight. I looked closer and saw his form huddled down just inside the door, and I immediately was on alert. We were alone in the church. The lights were off. I didn’t even have my phone on me.
As my eyes adjusted, I realized what was going on. He had removed his baseball hat. His hair was dirty since he hadn’t been able to get a shower or do laundry on the weekend, but he had bared his head. He was kneeling and his head was bowed. As he rose up, he dipped his fingers in the holy water of the baptismal font and crossed himself. He had come into this place, this holy space where the presence of the risen Christ is acknowledged in the waters of baptism, in the reserved sacrament of bread and wine and in the light of Christ candle and he fell to his knees to worship. That day he reminded me that the resurrected Christ is alive and going before me. My fear, shame and busyness often prevents me from seeing and responding to God, but nonetheless, Christ is present.
This Easter Day we experience the risen Christ in light. In word and song. In the beauty of the earth and in the beauty of the faces surrounding us. We receive Christ in bread and wine and in the prayers offered by and for us. And we see the light and love of Christ in Skyler and those who love her and present her to God for baptism.
Baptism isn’t about being perfectly clean and pure. Baptism isn’t about what we can understand about God and reciting correct doctrine. Baptism isn’t magic to protect the child from evil and death. Baptism is grace and goodness, the life of the risen Christ offered freely for Skyler and for each one of us. Baptism is a gift from God that acknowledges the power of Christ’s life and love for us, no matter what! We are given the opportunity of a lifetime to live into it. We are washed daily from shame and freed from fear in the waters of resurrection life. We are given a new beginning over and over again as we follow the way of Christ. Today I am so grateful for Skyler. She shows us the openness of a child, the trust of one who is beloved and hope for the future. It is so easy to see that she is precious and she reminds us that each one of us is precious too, each one of us is the beloved of God. Her life began in the waters of the womb, is made alive with Christ in the waters of baptism and will be fulfilled when Jesus goes before her and with her into life eternal.
Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!
Easter Day, B
Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8