Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
It is over, and it’s been quite a week!
The Gospel of John on Monday, Tenebrae on Tuesday with darkness and light, the story of Jonah on Wednesday, Maundy Thursday with a meal, foot washing and stripping of the altar. We prayed at the cross on Friday and here we are tonight.
The tomb has been opened – Jesus is raised and is going on ahead of us. Death is not the end. Cassie has come through the waters of baptism and we have remembered our own baptismal vows.
It’s been a very full week.
Cassie, as you took your baptismal vows, renounced evil and the spiritual forces that draw us from the love of God, agreed to put your trust in God’s grace and love and promised to follow Jesus as the Way, the Truth and Life, you reminded us all what it looks like to follow this Risen Christ: renounce evil, trust in God.
There are examples of evil all around us of when hatred wins out: when political leaders jockey their power, drop bombs, poison children, imprison gay people. Any attempt to convince any of us that we are less than worthy of the love of God, any action that says you aren’t worth as much as I am, your life is not worth as much as mine. That is evil.
But putting our trust in God’s grace and love. Trusting in that love – there are also some pretty fine examples of that too. And admittedly these are a bit closer to home because they are examples of what this community has shown me of what following Jesus looks like.
When you choose to come here to come to church, despite many of you carrying negative experiences of church in the past, choosing community here with each other over no church at all.
When Ezra and Sebastian were born and you showed up with food for their very tired parents. When you trust in this community, in each other and take care of each other and pray for each other – trusting God to be active both in this place and in your relationships with one another.
When you go with Mary Ann to the trans day of remembrance or stand on the street with other trans people to let them know that our understand of the Kingdom includes everyone. When you act out of love and not out of fear – that is when we see the kingdom of God draw dear.
Death is not the end when you don’t live in fear, but live out of and into love.
I have said to you before that I am not so concerned with what happens after death instead I want us to be very concerned with what happens here, now, in life and on this earth – with how we live.
Cassie we don’t baptize you to save you from death but to acknowledge the life that you are trying to live – to acknowledge the love that you live with and what looks like. One of my favorite theologians, Bishop Jim Cruickshank, who was a friend of mine and of many, used to say: in our baptisms we die to our old life and are born into a new life in Christ.
I pulled this from Peter’s sermon at Jim’s funeral because Peter remembered Jim’s words better than I could:
“Baptism, (Jim) taught, is counter to the ways of the world. The world says that we are born, we live and we die. But the Christian way understands it another way: we are born, we die at our baptism–buried in the living water of Christ…to live freely now and with Christ forever. We are born, we die and we live into eternity and nothing can separate us from that love. So if you’re free to die, Jim taught, you’re free to live and to give yourself over to serve the world God loves.”
We are acknowledging a reality that is already alive and well within you. We recognize you are beloved of God, and working hard to live a life that acknowledges that love in your life every day.
Jesus died the worst death because the world could not handle the life that he lived and wanted others to live too. He died because, as we were reminded over the course of this week and on Good Friday particularly, hate begets hate and fear – fear of losing what we have, fear of having to give something up, fear of being wrong.
But I am here to remind you that love is stronger than hate – all the time.
Love bursts out of sealed tombs and leads us on. Love cannot die. Love begets love – hate has only one place to go – to death. But love just explodes all over the place and offers life. When we act out of love there is no telling where we might go, who we might meet, the experiences we might have – there is no stopping the justice that we strive for.
When we live from love, when we live out of the love that our God has for each and every one of us, including us and this land – when we truly believe that we are beloved – then we are following on behind Christ. Then we too are living as Christ’s own. That is the love that Jesus came to show us. That is the love that cannot and will not stay locked up.
“Do not be afraid,” the followers of Jesus are told as they stand at the empty tomb trying to make sense of it all. Do not be afraid – this is what love looks like. It goes on ahead of you – and you will meet it in its followers, you will meet it in each other. Do not be afraid to live as Jesus taught – to love one another – to renounce evil – to find community – to take care of one another and to remember that you are beloved and made in the very image of the God who calls you.
You are free to live, free to love, free to serve God, free to refuse to be restricted to the bonds that this world would put on us. Death is not the end because life is what we are striving for life for all.
Tonight we re-tell the story of the risen Christ as a reminder that we do none of this alone. The love that is Jesus Christ is alive and well.