Friday, April 9, 2010

Easter Day: Hail thee Festival Day

St. John of Damascus, called the golden tongued doctor of the church, an Arabian, a Christian, a priest, and mystic monk, reflected on this holiest of feasts in the eighth century:

Thou hallowed chosen day! That first

And best and greatest shinest!
Lady and Queen and feast of feasts,
Of things divine, divinest!
On thee our praises Christ adore,
For ever and for evermore.
Come, Let us taste the vine's new fruit
In this propitious day, with Chrsit
His resurrection sharing:
When as true God our hymns adore
For ever and for evermore.
Raise, Sion, raise thine eyes! For lo!
Thy scattered ones have found thee:
From east and west, and north and south,
Thy children gather round thee;
And in thy bosom Christ adore,
For ever and for evermore!

O Father of unbounded might!
O Son and Holy Spirit!
In persons three, in substance one,
Of one co-equal merit;
In thee baptiz’d, we thee adore
For ever and for evermore!

Today we gather to celebrate the great feast of the church, the resurrection of Jesus, the great prophet and ruler who brought to us the reign of God, burst into our world, taught us how to live in love with one another and with our God.

His Holy life, the Holy Meal, the Holy Cross, and the Holy Tomb have birthed for us, for our friends, for our families, for the church, for all of creation: new life, freedom, and resurrection.

Whereas the cross was the end of bondage to sin and death, and the invitation to live a new transformed life…the empty tomb of Jesus Christ is our new beginning -- our recreation. The empty tomb is the nativity of Christian faith and the renewal of Creation through an ever expanding communion with God and in community with one another.

On this day we do not linger on Golgotha’s hill top, at the foot of an empty cross, no we venture down into the new Garden of Eden in which resides our empty tomb.

The freedom redeemed on the cross is freedom purposed for the renewal of God’s covenant relationship with his people and with all creation.

People’s experience of a new and more powerful presence of Jesus Christ on Easter day and in the weeks that followed gave way to a continuum of transformation that flowed throughout the emerging Christian community.

Centered in Jerusalem and in ever expanding circles like the ripples in a pond, the resurrected Jesus appears in different ways -- traveler along the road -- in the midst of locked rooms -- he is there powerfully and emphatically -- a reality to those to whom he visits.

These resurrection appearances and the revelation which accompanied the risen Lord led to the ever clearer revelation of the Word of God and the opening of the scriptures in a way that had been veiled.

Before the empty tomb Jesus’ followers, the crowds, his detractors were deeply rooted in the ancient covenant of Israel. Their emerging understanding was that the cross coupled with the resurrection was a new covenant act provided, along with the Holy Spirit, an understanding of the apostolic mission and the nature of community formed in the aftermath of the empty tomb.

This resurrection and the experience of Christ led the first Christians to see the unveiling of the new covenant story and to understand their place within an ever expanding family of God.

Through the lens of the resurrection the first followers of Jesus began to understand that God wanted and desired and in fact designed creation to flourish under the stewardship of human beings. Jesus’ followers understood though that while this was the inherited promise to Israel they were not able to live within the law and were more likely to rebel against God and one another. And, that in this rebellion all of creation suffers.

The promises to Abraham and all the faithful mothers and fathers who followed God and made a life with him were constantly finding themselves in exile. Those who experienced the resurrection understood that Israel’s exile, their own exile, must be undone and the cross was the key to an empty tomb whereby the mosaic Christ was able to lead his people through exile and the darkness of death into the light of life.

In Christ we have a renewed, new covenant, empowered by the Holy Spirit, salvation and the freedom from sin and death is the gift given in baptism, sustained at the Eucharistic feast and nurtured in a life of daily prayer. The resurrection and empty tomb goes beyond salvation and creates a covenant community that is in mission and ministry in the world.

We do not claim the work of the cross and empty tomb for ourselves alone but for the whole of creation. We claim resurrection as stewards in God’s creation. We claim our mission and our work as the laborers Christ needs to take into the fields, the laborers whom Christ calls to serve the world under his commandment of love.

We are declaring that those who experience and claim the resurrected life of Jesus are part of the global family of the one creator God…we are the family of god, and God is with us as we seek to recreate, renew and restore God’s creation.

Formed in the Episcopal Church and later a Roman Catholic, pacifist, suffragette and the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, Dorothy Day understood the work of the resurrected community of Christ.
We must practice the presence of God. [She wrote.] He said that when two or three are gathered together, there He is in the midst of them. He is with us in our kitchens, at our tables, on our breadlines, with our visitors, on our farms…”

[She said:] What we would like to do is change the world – make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. Add to a certain extent, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the worker, of the poor, of the destitute – the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor, in other words – we can to a certain extent change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever-widening circle will reach around the world.

On this day, Christ’s day, we share in and offer to the world resurrection. Our hymns, our prayers, and our worship adore Christ and encourage us out into a world desperate to hear the voice of a loving living freeing God.

On this day, most hallowed of days, queen of feasts, all creation resounds in shouts of praise and thanksgiving feeling and knowing that from east and west and north and south, the great family of God is being gathered in. You and I are changed in the emptying of Christ’s tomb, we are changed, and the world can be changed…for ever and forevermore...

Meditation on the Cross of Christ

As I meditate upon the cross today I am drawn to the image of Jesus as the great prophet king who has ended his ministry and come to Jerusalem to claim his rightful seat upon the Temple mount; replacing the rulers of this world, freeing us from the rulers of this world -- who are corruption, power, greed and self-interest. In fact Jesus comes to take his rightful place as ruler of our hearts and minds and souls, freeing us from ourselves and our disordered lives.

It is an exodus moment for Jesus and an exodus moment for the whole creation.

It is a moment in which victory is won; death and all the corrupt powers of this world are overthrown.

It is a moment in which we see that evil no longer will have power over us; that we are ultimately freed from the bondage of sin and the bondage of death, the shackles of our own creating.

In the very earliest accounts and faith stories of Jesus handed down in our tradition, his death was understood as a saving act.

The Jesus story was inextricably connected to the servant song in Isaiah: “He had no form or comeliness…he was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows…Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows…He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed…When he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days…because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Is 53:1-12).

We see that these words were interpreted and written inscribed into our New Testament understanding of the life of Jesus which culminated on Golgotha’s hill. The suffering servant is the lens through which we read and interpret the passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (Specifically we can read in Paul’s letters and in the first narratives of the Gospel; see I Cor. 11.24, 15:3-5 and Mark 14.24 for details).

Hippolytus, an ancient father of our Christian Faith writing in the 3rd century, in his Easter sermon offered the following words regarding Christ’s battle with death:

"Death was angered when it met you in the pit."
It was angered, for it was defeated.
It was angered, for it was mocked.
It was angered, for it was abolished.
It was angered, for it was overthrown.
It was angered, for it was bound in chains.

Death swallowed a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth and encountered heaven.
It took what is seen and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is your sting?
O Grave, where is your victory?

We come to worship God on this day and at this hour, to venerate the Holy Cross because we have come to understand through our spiritual disciplines, our prayers in the dark nights, and the plain facts of life daily lived, that we are unable to truly have life within us if we do not cling to the cross and the sacrificial act of Jesus.

I will never be good enough. I will never please enough. I will never know enough. I will never have enough. I will never be a good enough son or a good enough daughter. I will never conquer my ailments of cancer, alcoholism, food, sex, or whatever pleasure or illness binds us to death.

All of our brokenness, all of our addictions to life and to power, all of our eagerness to hate and blame and lie and cheat, all of our anger and willingness to treat unjustly for the sake of justice, all of our darkest and innermost hauntings, those things done and those things left undone are taken up on that hill at the foot of that cross and then buried in the tomb to die along with death.

We discover that we must depend upon God alone and the saving work of Jesus Christ for our freedom -- for our exodus in this world and the next.

So let us contemplate the mighty acts of Jesus upon the cross. And when he has died, let us take him down into the miry filth of our lives. Let us bravely walk into the pit and carry Jesus with us; wrapped in the linens of our brokenness and suffering, and let us in this moment of darkness face our death. Let us lay in the spiced tomb all that we brought with us to the cross, let us bury it there, let us leave it there, let us allow all that we are and all that we have become to be bound with Christ and to lie upon the shelf of his garden tomb.

Let us role the stone in place and allow God and death and all our sin and brokenness to be locked away in a battle for life, resurrection, and rebirth – a battle which promises deliverance for you and for me, for the church, for the world, and for all creation.


  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball