Mercifully short mini-sermon from an Easter celebration of scripture, sacrament, and song at the hospital chapel today:
All living things have a survival instinct woven into them. People are no different on that account. It seems, however, that we human beings are the only creatures that know that we will die. That knowledge can feel like the cruelest of jokes the universe has ever played. We try to live lives of purpose, of meaning, to use the tools of our selves and our relationships to craft something real. But then death comes, snuffing out our flames. We don’t see what becomes of our work, of our life, of our love, and the whole notion of there being some purpose, some great meaning to our time in this world begins to smell like a mirage, an illusion.
The disciples of Jesus in the gospel had such great hopes. As he went around the countryside doing good and proclaiming the kingdom of God, as he entered in triumph into the holy city of Jerusalem, they just knew that everything was about to change for the better. This was to be the moment of their salvation. And then he is caught up by the enemy. Caught up by the cycles of arrogance, of injustice, of oppression. Caught up by the chief priests, yes, by the Empire, yes, but also by the greatest and most powerful of all tyrants: Death itself. And it is all over. Hope has come to nothing.
But that is not the end of the story.
For the Christ we meet in the gospel is risen, never more to die. The enemy is vanquished. Christ, the firstborn of the dead. Christ, who ransoms us from the powers of the age. Christ, who is God’s own way of reconciling us to the divine self, of reaching down and bringing us into the divine reality.
In conversation with the grand story of Christ’s resurrection, we take strength to live in the faith that life need not be without meaning, that WE need not be without meaning. And we meet the risen Christ in all those things we use to craft meaning in our own lives. We meet the risen Christ in the sacred story, sacrament, and solidarity of our faith. We meet the risen Christ in the beauty of nature returning to life in springtime, in art and music and literature, in the ecstasy of falling in love, in the mundane work of being family. Most powerfully, we meet the risen Christ when we heed the message of the gospel that the life most fully and most vibrantly lived is the one in which we give of ourselves in loving service to others, especially those who are the most needy and those who are the least loved. May we be strengthened by our gathering around the Lord’s table today to renew our commitment to this gospel life.