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Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day April 1, 2018 - The Rev. Samuel Torvend
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Sermon for Resurrection Sunday, April 1, 2018
John 20:1-18
 
Not long ago, I received a text message from a mother whose three-month-old infant was suffering a terrible viral infection and had been rushed to the intensive care unit at the hospital. Once I made my way to the ward, I found a sweet baby girl hooked up to oxygen, tethered to an IV, with a finger monitor taking her pulse. As you might imagine, she was uncomfortable, sleepy, and crying. And I found this, too: a young mother who had next to no sleep for the previous two days, holding her daughter closely as she moved gently back and forth, rocking her child, humming a melody, and then whispering in her ear that soon all would be well – a mother holding this precious life as if she were holding the whole world in her arms, coaxing this fragile life into health and wholeness.
 
Set next to that warm and secure room inside a hospital, the Easter gospel narrates astonishing things taking place outside, in a space that was anything but safe or comforting. Indeed, in John’s narration, we are brought to the place of death and hear of an empty tomb, hear of suspicion directed at unnamed others who may have removed the body in the pre-dawn darkness, of angelic figures clothed in light, of a friend who thinks a gardener is calling out to her, and the shocking revelation that he has been raised into a new mode of existence. 
 
Taken together, these scenes all seem to come from a world so different than our own, a world that may have more in common with fantasy than reality: in which the sky opens for celestial beings, in which heavy stones move easily, the dead walk free, and a beloved friend says, “Don’t touch me.” Far from comforting, John’s story is suffused with a surreal quality.
 
I wonder, then, if we, whose vision of life has been shaped so pervasively by modernity, by a rationality that will accept as plausible only that which can be verified by our senses, might find this narrative over the top; just too much; a story so alien to our experience that we are tempted to relegate it to the mythology of the ancient world or the fertile imagination of its author. Perhaps, then, we are tempted to pass by this gospel and find ourselves at a safe distance from angels and the dead raised to life. And, thus in doing so, perhaps we are tempted to pass by this gospel story, finding ourselves at a safe distance from the Creator of heaven and earth who just might do something unexpected in your life and mine, who just might coax your life and mine into greater health and wholeness, who just might raise up what has been cast down by the violence and injustice of this world. How easy it is to narrow the power of the Creator to what appears manageable, to what appears controllable for those who have control issues.
 
It would be so much easier to relegate such power to the past for if we do so everything could remain the same in the present, couldn’t it? We might enjoy a sip of bubbly at the Easter brunch, go for a walk, take a nap this afternoon, and get on with the same old thing, your attitudes and mine, your affections and mine fundamentally unchanged by what we hear and do in this place.
 
It would be so much easier to imagine that the promise of resurrection awaits you and me only at death rather than ten minutes or ten days from now. But I ask you to consider this: what if the God who raised Jesus into a new form of life might be interested in doing the same with you and me as we live and as we breathe in the present? What if this loving God were eager to draw you and me into God’s own desire to resurrect the earth from ecological damage, eager to nourish hope within you and me after a dismal rupture in our lives, eager to heal a painful memory or an estranged relationship that feels like a sharp stone in that shoe you call your life? What if this loving God were eager to draw you and me more deeply into a community committed to the full flourishing of life – a life marked by a greater sense of meaning and purpose?
 
If anything, it seems to me that this story we hear, this music we sing, this bread fragment and wine cup we soon will receive all point to this: that the One who was thought to be rendered powerless by a violent empire and silenced by death has been raised into a new form of life and that new form is you and me. That is, he has been raised into you and me through the water-washing of baptism, the silent outpouring of the Spirit, and nourishment offered freely in bred fragment and wine cup so that you and I might nurture health and wholeness in this fragile world; so that you and I might hold each other, our relationships, and this conflict-prone world with love, with love, as if we were all mothers holding a precious though endangered life in our arms.
 
It seems to me, then, that this most solemn and joyful day of the year raises for you and me this question: How will that life-giving presence be revealed with greater clarity in your life and mine, revealed in our daily living, revealed today and tomorrow?
 
Or say it this way: Do you know that you, with your brothers and sisters here, have the power to coax the fragile life in others and this world into health and wholeness and thus participate in God’s own project to heal this wounded world and raise what appears to be dead into unexpected life? If so, what are we waiting for?