Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Day, 2013: Subversive love

Lectionary: Isaiah 65:17-25; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Acts 10:34-43; Luke 24:1-12
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector

En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

Happy Easter!

Today we have the privilege of bringing another person into the community of love known to the world as the Church of the Redeemer in Shelby, NC. The Baptism of Aveleigh Craver is an important event because by it we are made whole in a new way. By incorporating the one, the whole of us is made new.

It is also a big responsibility for us who are her family of faith. God has created Aveleigh for a purpose. She has been gifted for that purpose, and it is up to us, her community of love, to help her discover those gifts, nurture them, and then use them to build God’s kingdom of love here on earth.

This is no small thing, and it isn’t just about Aveleigh. The same is true for all of us. We have a responsibility to one another to help each other discover our gifts, to nurture them through a life-long commitment to Christian formation, and then to use them where God has planted us, right here in Shelby.

Each one of us has been created by God, gifted, and sent into the world as partners with God bringing the redeeming love that was revealed to the world on that first Easter day.

In our gospel story, we hear that the women who were followers of Jesus went to the tomb to finish the burial rite and found it empty. As they stood there trying to understand how it could be empty, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes were standing with them, and they were terrified.

But the two men simply asked the women a question, “Why are you here looking for the living among the dead?” That might be an awfully strange question in most every other circumstance, but not this time, and here’s why: “Remember what Jesus told you…” the men said.

The women did remember and returned to tell the others – who, of course, didn’t believe them. They had all heard Jesus say these things, and yet, they still couldn’t believe it. So Peter runs off to see for himself. Finding it just as the women described it, Peter returned home amazed.

What amazed Peter? That Jesus hadn’t lied to them? That the women hadn’t lied to them? That he, Peter, who had a history of doing so, had missed the point again?

Everything was just as Jesus said it was going to be. So what amazed Peter?

I think what amazed Peter is that death was no longer what Peter thought it was – neither was life, for that matter. Peter was finally beginning to understand that the power of the love he had witnessed in Jesus, the Messiah, now risen from the dead, was an act of the subversive love of God which set humankind free from the bondage of sin and death forevermore. The resurrection ushered in a new thing, a new age, new life - just as Jesus said it would, and it took some time for his followers to let go of what was and live fully into this new thing.

Luke tells us in the first chapter of Acts that the disciples were “constantly devoting themselves to prayer” in that upper room. The reason is, resurrection isn’t something we can understand ever - at all. We can only prayerfully respond to it.

The resurrection isn’t about bodies, or breathing. It’s about presence.

As we heard in Isaiah, God says, “Before they call I will answer.” God is present before, during, and after our understanding of anything.

That is the hope we proclaim: that in Jesus we have been given the gift of living in the eternal presence of God. God, whose mercy endures forever, God who is our strength and salvation, is always with us, IN us, redeeming all things before we even recognize the need for it. In fact, that’s how we recognize the need for it. God reveals that to us in prayer that so that we can use our God-given gifts to bring the light of Christ in us into darkness of the world.

It helps to remember that God shows no partiality. God didn’t pick Peter because he was so astute. Right? Yet look at Peter’s legacy. God created Peter, gifted him, and sent him to live out his purpose. And Peter did that – in all his imperfection.

God chooses each of us too. We were created us for a purpose and that purpose is simple: to do God’s will. So… what is God’s will?

According to our catechism, Episcopalians believe that it is the will of God that the whole world be reconciled to God in Jesus Christ by the forgiveness of sins. Reconciled people live in harmony and unity with one another and with God.

Our purpose as Christians is to find the one who is oppressed or exiled or lost, and reattach them to the body of Christ, reminding them and everyone who might exclude them that God shows no partiality – which means, neither can we.

Jesus Christ is Lord of all – no exceptions. As St. Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “The death he died, he died to sin, once for all.”

As followers of Christ, we are commanded to love one another as he loved us - even our enemies, because the truth is, we have no enemies. We are all children of one family, the family of God.

I had a discussion yesterday with my daughter. She wanted to tell me about an online argument she’d been having on the issue of homosexuality. The argument was with friends who were Christians and mostly opposed to homosexuality.

The friends kept bringing up Bible verses to support their position – the usual ones: Leviticus, 1 Corinthians… You’ve all heard the arguments. We all have.

Here was my daughter’s response, and I share it with you because I can’t make a better point on Easter Day than this: “All those words [in the Bible] are different ways of illustrating one message: lovelovelovelovelove. God is love. Period. You don't have to understand it. You don't have to agree with it. You can try to collect all the rules you want, and I'm sure that's a comfort. It's just not the point. I will say it until I die: God is love.” ~Jessica Sherer

I will say it until I die: God is love.

We gather on this Easter Day to remember the power of that truth: God is love. We gather to remember that in Jesus we have been made into a community of love. We gather to make another Christian, and we commit to be the community of love that forms her so that she can fulfill the purpose for which she was created.

As we gather at the font and baptize Aveleigh Craver, we will renew our own Baptismal vows and proclaim our commitment to them again, remembering that what we’re doing, is making a commitment to love: extravagant, inclusive, subversive love – the kind our Savior gives us, today, everyday, and always.

(Invitation of the family, friends, and children to the Baptismal font)

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