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The Resurrection of the Lord (Easter)
March 27, 2016 

Click here to listen to this homily (mp4 file)

    The British playwright and short story writer, Somerset Maugham, tells a story in one of his collections which never fails to send a chill up the spine. The servant of a wealthy man was walking one day through the great marketplace of Baghdad when he saw Death gesturing toward him.  Terrified, the servant ran home as fast as he could, told his master of the encounter, and begged him for the loan of a horse so he could flee to Samarra. The master gave him the horse, and then went to the marketplace to see for himself. He, too, saw Death standing there and asked why he was trying to frighten his poor servant.  Death replied rather casually:  “I wasn’t trying to frighten him.  I was just surprised to see him here in Baghdad because I have an appointment with him tomorrow in Samarra…!”

     Since we last celebrated Easter, death has kept a full calendar of surprise appointments. Some were headline deaths like the chilling acts of terrorism in Brussels, Paris, and San Bernardino; and the heartbreaking drownings of refugees in the Mediterranean, too many to count. Other deaths got no headlines at all, although they should have. I think of the daily deaths of the deaths of tens of thousands in the developing world – many of them children – who die each day from hunger and disease. And then there are the deaths we marked here at the parish – a large number this year – deaths that have touched some of you very directly and left you in mourning.

     All of this is a way of acknowledging how much we need to celebrate Easter this year, how much we need a renewal of hope.  With Mary Magdalene and those other courageous, faithful women, we need to find the stone rolled back and the tomb empty and to hear from the two men in dazzling white the staggeringly good news: “He is not here!  He is risen!  Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

     Some people spend their lives looking for the living among the dead.  Because death seems to have such a powerful grip and seems always to get the last word, some people do seem to spend their lives looking for the living among the dead.  But, my friends, Jesus is not among the dead.  Jesus is risen!  And because he is risen, death has lost its power. That is what we celebrate on this Easter morning. It is the bedrock, the very foundation of our faith.

      Because of the resurrection of Jesus, death has a new meaning. That’s because the moment God raised up the lifeless body of Jesus, the cosmic universe at is deepest level began responding to a new set of laws. Does that sound radical?  Well, it is!  The resurrection of Jesus is radical. It’s as radical an event as the Creation itself when God, in whatever marvelous way, caused light to explode from darkness and all manner of living beings began to exist. It’s no accident that the church calls the resurrection of Jesus the “New Creation.”

     But some people prefer to live in the old creation.  They continue to seek the living among the dead. Are you among them?  I don’t think you would be here this morning if you were. And yet it is possible to go through the motions of the Christian faith without allowing the resurrection to make any real difference: without awakening to the fact that in Baptism we are new creations - “raised up with Christ” as St. Paul put it in that reading from Colossians - “our lives hidden with Christ in God.”  These are not just words, my friends, they are reality. Each of us is a new creation, filled with life and beloved by God beyond all imagining. The very power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in us right now, shaping us for glory.

     But let me be honest. There are lots of times I don’t feel any of this - feel anything like a new creation and you probably don’t, either. But that doesn’t alter the reality. It only makes a celebration like today’s a necessity, an urgent necessity.  On this Easter Sunday we need to feel the baptismal waters running down our faces as they will in a few minutes during the ritual of Renewal, and we need to let those waters remind us of who we are even as they replace the tears that flow whenever we forget who we are. We need to be shocked out of our senses by the resurrection of Jesus, struck to the ground and blinded as St. Paul was.  Totally overcome by this Divine Surprise.

     We need to wake up to the fact that if Christ is risen, then no manner of tragedy, no death toll no matter how devastating, no personal loss, personal limitation, personal failure or defeat can alter the fact that we are loved beyond all measure by a merciful God and that, because of this, life will ultimately triumph.  For the resurrection of Jesus proclaims to a troubled and terrorized world that, in Jesus, a merciful God has absorbed all human sin and tragedy, defeating it with love, making all things new – all things.  And that includes the likes of you and me!

     I close with some words from a fourth century Easter homily of the great St. John Chrysostom, words that I hope will speak to each of us - the fragile and the fervent, the skeptical and the certain - on this Easter Sunday of Year of Mercy

     “You rich and poor, rejoice together.  You sober and slothful, celebrate this day.  You that have kept the fast and you that have not, rejoice today, for the table is richly laden and God’s gifts flow like choice wine.  Let no one mourn that he or she has fallen again and again, for mercy has risen from the grave.”

     Happy Easter!

     Father Michael G. Ryan

 

 

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Seattle, Washington  98104
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