Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Great Welcome of God

Easter Day, April 4, 2010

St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, the Rev. Paul Moore

For the Christian this day has no equal for being a day of light and joy and peace. We talk about bunnies and chicks and Easter eggs, all cultural symbols for this day that over the years have had Christian interpretations overlaid on them. I am no exception. My symbol this year is my birthday present. She's just 10 weeks old, full of fun and energy, a Jack Russell Terrier pup named "DC" for "Dangerously Cute!" Her energy and enthusiasm is already challenging the status quo among my other dogs!

Our Easter Joy is, in a sense, a completion of the joy of Christmas. Christmas was the celebration of the birth of hope in the midst of winter's darkness. Easter is the fulfillment of that hope in the midst of the brokenness of our world. But perhaps we understand Easter best when we take on that particularly Anglican perspective of the Incarnation. Christmas is all about God coming to be with us, welcoming us, including us, being with us. There is in the Hispanic worldview a very important concept called "compañerismo." If you go to the store someone will jump up and say, "Te acompaño," or, "I'll accompany you." You should have to go alone, so I'll go with you so that you will have company. It is a radical desire for togetherness, inclusion, and validation. Christmas is all about God's accompanying us, joining us in our world, and transforming it by His presence.

That Christmas hope is brought to fulfillment at Easter. The great purpose of God joining us was to transform our world. Our world is broken, out of touch, alienated from God, its creator and sustainer. That's not as things should be, so God set out to do something about it. The first thing is to join us, the second thing is to set in motion those dynamics that will restore us. The end goal in mind is togetherness, inclusion, and validation. So both Christmas and Easter express God's radical desire to welcome back into fellowship those who had become strangers.

Those strangers are you and me, for because of our sin we alienated ourselves from Him. Yet He did not wait until we sought reconciliation, He provided it starting at Christmas and fulfilling it at Easter. Because of Easter we have the option of being reconciled with God, with one another and with the very creation itself.

If you find yourself far from God this day, for Easter's sake, He welcomes you back. Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them. There is no better place to seek reconciliation with God than in the Family of God. Here in the Body of Christ is everything you need, here for the asking. Be reconciled to God and know the full joy of Easter!

Reconciliation would not make much sense if it were only with God. We are reconciled with God so that we can be reconciled with one another. Who is it that has become a stranger to you? My eldest son since he was a very small child was one of those kids who "never knew a stranger." We had fears that he would walk up to just anyone and, without thinking twice about it, jump in a strange car and we would never see him again; not that the person might have malice in mind; we just knew our child would not know enough to be afraid! But perhaps he was showing us all how fearlessly God seeks to reconcile us with one another. If we are reconciled with God, what have we to fear? There is no personal hurt or rejection we might feel that He has not suffered ten-fold already, and still he seeks us out. Can we do less? Truth be told, most who are strangers would love to be reconciled of that strangeness and count us as friends. In fact, if we have become strangers to God through our sin, then you can flip the idea around and say that those who are strangers to you are Christ, reaching out to you through the strangeness. To reach out to them is to reach out to Christ. For Easter's sake, be reconciled with one another and know the full joy of Easter.

We are reconciled with God so that we can be reconciled with the rest of creation. When Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden the earth itself was cursed for Adam's sake. Food would only come at the expense of toil, and by the sweat of our brow we eat our daily bread. Yet never lost is the knowledge that even so our daily bread is a gift from heaven and not earned. In Romans chapter 8 St. Paul makes it abundantly clear that, as creation was subjected to decay on account of us, it will be renewed when our redemption is complete. Creation's redemption and ours are caught up in one great act of reconciliation. Therefore the earth and we are intimately linked; it is no stranger to our soul, for it is intimately tied up with who we are before God. If we feel distant it is because we are distant from God. Yet in Creation the very face of God is evident, His fingerprints are everywhere. Be reconciled with creation, then, and treat it as the sacred trust it is, and know the full joy of Easter!

Today we restore the great word of praise, "Alleluia" to our worship. Throughout the dark days of Lent we refrained from using this word. Its absence reminded us that we are alienated from God, from one another and from the earth, yet today we restore it because, by His great gift on this day, we are free to approach God and offer our praise. The earliest Christians developed a refrain which has come down to us through the ages as the ultimate shout of Easter triumph, of our reconciliation and restoration to who we truly are, as those who accompany God in that great act of reconciliation in the world. With them and with Christians of all times and places we exclaim:

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed, alleluia!

"A ghost doesn't have flesh and bones, as you see that I have." Lk. 24:39.


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