Readings and reflection from Sunshine Cathedral in Second Life on Sunday, April 5, 2015 Easter Sunday.
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The Call to Worship
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
All: CHRIST IS RISEN INDEED!
Darkness has been vanquished!
All: THE BRILLIANT LIGHT OF HOPE HAS COME!
Come let us worship and celebrate the Good News!
All: ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN!
How blessed is this day, when earth and heaven are joined and humankind is reconciled to God!
May the light of Jesus shine continually to drive away all darkness. May Christ, the Morning Star who knows no setting, find the light ever burning in our hearts— blessed is the One who gives light to all creation, and who lives and loves forever and ever. Amen.
(Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer -1979, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.)
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (10.34, 37-38, ESV)
The Apostle Peter said, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality…” [He continued], “You yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and with power. Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were [bound by fear], for God was with him.”
A reading from the wisdom of Kathleen Rolenz
Somewhere across the world,
Easter is breaking;
not the Easter we may think of,
with arms upraised and “he is risen” echoing from canyons,
but a much quieter, less dramatic Easter.
Somewhere in the world – perhaps not this day, but someday soon,
a woman and a man rise from their beds,
shaking the sleep from their eyes, and find their children already awake and preparing for their morning prayers.
There has been no gunfire, no drug wars, no yelling or shouting or screaming, only the quiet of the night and the peace of silence around them.
And somewhere in the world, perhaps not this morning, but soon, very soon,
A soldier is packing his duffle bag, has emptied out all his bullets, is changing into civilian clothes,
and is coming home, for peace has long been established, and there is no need for his presence.
And somewhere in the world, Easter dawn breaks over the earth,
not only on this day, but every day,
and the familiar pulse in our veins throbs of “peace, peace, peace.”
A reading from the gospel according to Mark (16.1-8, GNT)
After the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices to go and anoint the body of Jesus. 2 Very early on Sunday morning, at sunrise, they went to the tomb. 3-4 On the way they said to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” (It was a very large stone.) Then they looked up and saw that the stone had already been rolled back.
5 So they entered the tomb, where they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe—and they were alarmed. 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here—he has been raised! Look, here is the place where he was laid. 7 Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter: ‘He is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him, just as he told you.’” 8 So they went out and ran from the tomb, distressed and terrified. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
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“Christ is Risen!”
Allelujah! Christ is Risen!
Happy Easter! Once again the dawn has broken and the night is over. Once again we celebrate the fact that death does not triumph and new life is not only possible, it is inevitable.
This year Easter is even more poignant for me for several reasons. The winter in New England was epic. This weekend is the first weekend in 10 weeks that we have not had snow. 10 weeks. Mercy. At times during this winter, my mind knew that spring would eventually come, but my spirit had begun to lose hope. I imagined that we would be wearing coats forever, that the warm summer sun would never return, and that a white and grey landscape would never give way to green grass and blooming trees and flowers.
But, just as the sun rose again this morning, spring is returning. The broken and battered trees that spent the winter buried in snow are about to burst open with new leaves. I even saw pansies for sale at a local garden shop on Friday. It’s happening again. The barren trees that look for all the world as if they’re dead are waking up. Soon a symphony of birds will hide in lush green leaves and the cycle of life will return to hope and promise and the memory of dead leaves, deep snow, and howling frigid winds will once again be a memory.
On Good Friday Jesus’ friends had lost all hope. They were convinced that joy would never again come to them. They were convinced that the teachings of Jesus were buried with his body in the tomb. I imagine that they may have quickly begun to have difficulty remembering the warmth of his smile and the joy they felt when listening to his teaching. I cannot imagine how difficult those days and nights must have been as his body lay in the tomb.
But early on the morning of the third day Mary the mother of James, Mary Magdalene, and Salome went to the tomb to fulfill their final mitzvah to this beloved one. They came to properly prepare the body, as was their custom. You will recall that they had been unable to perform this final act of love on the day that Jesus died because the Sabbath was approaching and they were prohibited from doing this last act on the Sabbath.
As they approach with heavy hearts they turn to practical matters. Who will roll away the stone so that that they can get into the tomb? But when they arrived they found the stone already moved and the body of their friend not laying dead as they expected, but were told by a man in a white robe that Jesus was not there and that, in fact, he was on his way to Galilee… alive and carrying on his ministry.
The Christ had not been destroyed by the execution of a single man. The Christ had risen, overcoming death and the grave, and continuing to spread the Good News of God’s love throughout the world. For my part I do not know what happened to Jesus’ body. I do not believe that the simple resurrection of a corpse has the power to change the course of the history of the world. What did change the world was the return of hope and the belief that death is not the end
The disciples who experienced the risen Christ carried on the work that Jesus had begun. The Good News of God’s love for us became the central message. This Good News trumped all the stories of God’s anger and fury. The Good News of God’s love gave hope to those living under the occupation of the Romans. And then human beings began to interfere in this simple message of love and justice. We co-opted the teachings of Jesus to suit our own purposes. We decided that some are worthy and some are not. We wrote rules that would exclude some and elevate others
But the message of Easter has nothing to do with power, exclusion, hierarchy, and hate. The message of Easter is a message of love. Love that the teacher from Galilee showed by refusing to capitulate to the power of the Roman government. Rather than save himself he gave his life to show the world for all eternity that death is not the last word, darkness does not win, and the powers of the world cannot silence the call from heaven for justice. The love of God expressed in the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth exposed the hope of the risen Christ and set for us a pattern that can carry us through any trial that will come in life.
I remember well sitting on the back pew of my home church in Nashville Tennessee in about 1985 talking to a young, gay, black man who was dying of aids. He had gone blind. He was withering away week by week as the virus slowly took his life. We didn’t even know how it was transmitted at the time. I asked him that morning how he was feeling, if he was in pain. And he smiled and said, “Whatever I feel is nothing compared to what my Jesus endured so I can make it through whatever comes.” Hope. That is what the resurrection means
Even when we are afraid and alarmed by events in the world and in our lives we have access to hope. We know that the women who went to the tomb that morning came to this conclusion because they did not stay silent. They did overcome their fear. They did tell the story of what they saw. They did find the hope of the resurrection in the tomb that first Easter morning
Hope that spring will come again. Hope that pain and suffering will not endure. Hope that death is not the end. The resurrection is a mystery. I do not know what happened but I am very sure that Jesus’ message of love and justice has endured for these 2000 years and will endure forever. I am sure that God loves us because that is what Jesus life and death taught us. And I am sure the the risen Christ is here with us now, in our dark days of history.
So today we celebrate life and love. We sing the joyous hymns of Easter and refresh our souls remembering that love is what matters and justice is our call. Hallelujah! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Amen!