Easter — April 5, 2015
Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:14-17, 22-24, Colossians 3:1-4, John 20:1-18
Homily preached by the Rev. Canon Linda S. Taylor
I have two granddaughters. We spent a lot of time together when they were little. They lived in my house, so they were there a lot. One of the things we did was tell stories. I told them stories, I read them stories, they told me stories. Our favorite story was their very own story. Each child had her very own story, and from time to time they would ask to hear it and I would tell it to them. It began back when their mother was little and talked about growing up and having children and being a mommy. And it went on to the time when their mommy and daddy met and how they got to know each other and decided that they loved each other so much that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. And then I talked about the wedding and then I talked about their birth and about all the things up to date—the big important things like preschool. These stories were so important to both of us—both the child and to me—both little girls. I don’t know if anybody else ever heard them, but they were written on our hearts. And we’ll always remember them.
One morning—it was a morning, I remember, because we were driving. Katie, the younger one, who was about four at that time, said “Tell me my story.” We must have been driving for some time so there would be plenty of time for that. So I started telling her, and I had just gotten up to the wedding. I was talking about that when she stopped me. “Nana!” she said. “Katie!” I said. “What did I wear to the wedding?” And I said, “Katie, the wedding was a long time before you were born.” She was very silent—which was very different for Katie—and her eyes got big. I turned to look at her. She looked at me, and her eyes were about that big. She said, “Before?” “Before?” Because Katie was four years old, and she could not remember a time when she wasn’t the center of the universe. She couldn’t imagine a world without her in it, and it took her a long time to take that in—that this story had a starting point for her in it.
And we’re a lot like that, aren’t we? We come to this day of rejoicing—this wonderful Easter celebration—and we can’t imagine what it’s like not to know about the resurrection. We can’t imagine what it was like before the resurrection because, for most of us—there may be some here who learned about the resurrection later in their lives—but for most of us, this has been part of the world for as long as we can remember. (Baby laughing) He will never know a world without the resurrection. It’s always been here for him.
We come each Sunday to celebrate the resurrection. Well, a lot of us do anyway. It’s good to have you all here today. We come here each Sunday to celebrate the resurrection, to be together in fellowship and in worship, to meet each other and the living Christ in the meal that we share together, but we can’t remember what it was like before. So we keep coming back to this story that holds us—that holds our lives. We come back to refresh our memory—to re-member each week what it is that holds us and calls us. We come to remember this story that’s written on our hearts because sometimes we lose touch with it. Sometimes by Sunday afternoon we lose touch with it. And once a year we look at the larger story. This last week many of us have walked through that last week of Jesus’ presence on earth. We began with Palm Sunday—last Sunday—with hosannas and singing and praising. And then we moved through the week to Maundy Thursday and we gathered and washed each others’ feet, and we celebrated the institution of this meal that holds us together, when Jesus said, “Remember me. Whenever you do this, remember me.” And then on Friday, some of us gathered twice—first in the afternoon to hear stories that might have been told by people who were present that day at the crucifixion. And then we came on Friday night and took the body from the cross and put it in the tomb. And last night some of us gathered again—just as dusk came—in that strange, in-between, in the middle time—and we heard the story of salvation history—going back to the Red Sea and moving forward to hear God saying that there is grace for everyone. We listened to Karen sing the words of the Exultet—an ancient, ancient hymn.
“This is the night, when you brought our forebears, the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea on dry land. This is the night when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life. This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave. How wonderful and beyond our knowing, O God, is your mercy and loving kindness to us, that to redeem a slave, you gave a son. How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined and humankind is reconciled to God.”
And even as we walked through that week—with a little bit of self-consciousness because we know we are not in that week 2000 years ago–we’re searching for that remembrance of the resurrection. We’re looking forward to the light—the light of Christ that comes to stay with us. We look for that light, but we remember in this story that’s written on our hearts the gift of the night. We remember when hope died on the cross and hope was born again to us in the dim light of the early morning, and that holds us when our dark nights come. We can remember—we can cling to the hope that is surely going to be there.
When hope has disappeared from our lives, we can remember when hope died and was born again. When our pain is so great we don’t know how we will bear it, we can remember that Jesus knows pain and that the Christ comes to us to be with us in our pain.
And when our grief and loneliness are so deep that we can’t see over the edge of it, we can remember that night when the disciples—those who loved Jesus—were there in their fear—their uncertainty—their pain that this person they loved so dearly was lost to them forever. And because this story is written in our hearts, we know that in our grief, there is no ending—it’s a change—and we know that the Christ who rose again from the dead is there with us—to bring us new life over and over and over again. This is the gift of that night—and of that morning. The gift of God’s absurdly abundant and extravagant love that pours down on us when we least expect it—that washes over us—bringing us new life—holding us, strengthening us, giving us light to lead us on our way. This is the gift that lets us say: “Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!”