Easter Sunday – March 27, 2016 – Canon Britt Olson

Welcome to the 1,983rd celebration of Easter Day, the Feast of the Resurrection. It’s nothing short of a miracle that we are still living into that great Mystery. After centuries of violence, suffering, injustice and oppression, we Christian people continue to gather in joy and in faith that there is another way, there is another story, there is a greater reality.

It’s certainly amazing that we are gathering here this morning in the middle of a city known for its secularism, in an area of the country known as the None Zone (for the number of folks who select “none” as their religious affiliation), when we could be participating in all the other options before us on a beautiful spring morning in Seattle. We’ve been drawn together this morning as friends, family, neighbors and even strangers to celebrate the dawn of hope, the transforming power of love and the triumph of life over death.

It’s incredible to me that we are here, at St. Luke’s, Ballard after all the changes and challenges that this community has experienced. Through 100 years of ups and downs, faithful people have continued to practice the power of resurrection in this place, praying, worshipping and caring for the least, the last and the lost by feeding and sheltering the most vulnerable. At some points it seemed that all might be lost, the property sold, and the buildings demolished in order to make way for new development. But beyond all expectation, the Spirit is moving to bring new life and a new way forward as a community of faith, hope and love in the middle of this city.

Each of you has a story to tell as well. It probably involves challenge, suffering and maybe even death. Perhaps there is betrayal, wounding or brokenness. And yet, here you are. Something has happened to bring you back or to bring you here for the first time. You have been drawn into the great drama of Jesus’s Passion, his suffering, death and resurrection. Something or someone has shown you a different way, a path forward, a new direction.

How is this possible? How does resurrection become real?

Resurrection only becomes real when someone witnesses to its reality.

Resurrection becomes real when there is a witness.

The first witnesses were women. They were disciples of Jesus and they had been with him through it all. They were healed by him. They saw all the good he did and his power to free those who lived under the oppression of evil. They listened to his teaching and they observed the way he treated people, especially those who weren’t in the center of things, especially the poor, especially women. And so when the dawn broke, at the first opportunity they didn’t abandon him even in death. They arrived to care for his broken body only to find an empty tomb and two unusual figures with a message they could barely believe. But then they remembered what they had learned. Their grief-numbed brains began to whir with memories of all Jesus had said and done. Their hearts began to thump with excitement and anxiety. And they knew that everything had changed. Nothing would ever be the same.

These were the first to testify to the resurrection but soon there would be others. All those who experienced the resurrected Jesus became his witnesses. Their testimony was risky. It was considered foolishness and weakness. It got many of his followers killed. And yet they could not keep silent. That thing that happened to the women, happened to them. Life was snatched from death. Love came forth in the midst of hatred. Hope sprang up from despair.

For the past 6 weeks 25 people have been on a Spiritual Pilgrimage through Lent at St. Luke’s. Each week we have heard testimony from someone who has experienced the power of the resurrection. It’s probably just a coincidence but all those who testified are women! They shared how God brought them through difficult marriages and the challenges of being a single mother. They told how God became their closest and dearest friend when they felt abandoned by the death of those they loved. One told how she is moving from a position of privilege and safety in order to see more of the resurrected Christ in the face of the other. They shared the compelling reasons why they are willing to get up every morning to serve those on the margins of society, those who are addicted, mentally ill or simply struggling to maintain dignity in the face of loss. They care for elderly parents, they create beautiful gardens, they fight injustice and… they’re really, really uncomfortable right now! These women are witnesses to the resurrection.

Witnesses are not perfect or sinless or always faithful. Witnesses are real people with flaws and failings. Witnesses don’t point to themselves but rather to the glory and grace of God in the power of the resurrected Christ. Most of the time they don’t even realize what they’re doing. Witnesses bear truth by their authentic lives.

We are, each of us, witnesses to resurrection. Every time we make a choice for life over death we testify to resurrection. Every time we forgive as we have been forgiven we demonstrate the way of Jesus. When we make the effort to love our enemy and to see the face of Christ in the stranger, we stand up for resurrection. When we open our hands to give generously, we trust in resurrection. When we share a meal where all are valued, all are welcome and all are one in Christ, we live in the reality of resurrection.

Resurrection is not something you prove or disprove. It is not a doctrine that can be taught or memorized. Resurrection can only be witnessed. And to witness is to put your very life on the line. To witness is to let your life show.

Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

With faith, hope and love,
Canon Britt