Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Sunday, 2015-B: Our family story

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector
Lectionary: Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; John 20:1-18

Note: The theme of this sermon is the same as the one given Saturday night at the Great Vigil, adapted for the lectionary for Sunday.

Happy Easter everyone! And what a glorious, brilliant day it is!

We gather today as the family of God to remember how we came to be who we are, what we believe and why. We came to hear our family story.
Every family has stories… We hear them told and re-told at family gatherings: birthdays, graduations, weddings, funerals – whenever the family comes together. I remember as a kid, hearing my Poppa, who came to the US from Ireland, tell how he bootlegged whiskey and was a chauffeur for the Rothschild’s to keep his family fed during the Depression.

I remember hearing the story of how my Mamacita (who died before I was born) would snap green beans in the local market to test their freshness. When the store owner would try to stop her, this tiny but fierce woman would respond with the only sentence she knew in English. It started with “Shut up you…” but it ends a cuss word, so I won’t finish it.

It doesn’t matter how many times our family stories are re-told, they fascinate, educate, and delight us.
Some of them make us laugh, others make us cry, but they all help us remember who we are, where we came from, even why we look or act the way we do.

Our family stories ground us in the present, giving meaning to our past and pointing us toward our future. It’s why we tell them over and over, generation after generation.

And that is exactly what we do every time we gather as the family of God. At every celebration of Holy Eucharist we read from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the New Testament, and a Gospel. We hear the stories of our forebears in the faith who are the source of our identity as a people of God, followers of Christ, and pilgrims on an eternal divine journey into unity.

These stories show us how those who came before us did their best – succeeding and failing in their “growing up” in the faith. They weren’t perfect, and neither will we be, but it’s OK, because God is perfect and that perfection is made most real in the world through our weakness. When we fail, God redeems and another generation witnesses it and is transformed. When we repent and return to God, we leave a legacy of faith for those who will follow after us on this eternal pilgrimage.

Each time we gather on Sundays and holy days and re-tell the stories of our faith the words and images in them become part of our very essence. Over time, they begin to live deep within us.

For example, when we hear the story from the book of Acts where Peter proclaims of the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ, his words: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality….” resonate deeply within us and guide how we see God, ourselves, and others. We know how hard it was for Peter to reach that understanding and it gives us hope for ourselves.

The vivid images in the gospel of John play in our imaginations like a movie: Mary Magdalene going to the tomb while it was still dark and seeing the stone already rolled away. We share with her in a moment of panic when she sees the Tomb is open and runs back to tell Peter and John that Jesus’ body is missing. We share her devastation and helplessness as she weeps outside the tomb.

We share Peter’s shock as it transforms into belief as he walks in and sees the cloths but no body – and he gets it. We feel Mary Magdalene’s surprise and joy in our bodies as she hears her Lord call her name, “Mary,” and we sigh our relief with her as she replies, “Rabbouni.”

The re-telling of our family stories Sunday after Sunday, season after season, helps us to remember how our forebears responded to God faithfully, even as they confronted events impossible to understand. It consoles us to remember that they failed sometimes too, and God redeemed anyway. It renews our hope to hear of God’s love, mercy, and desire for union with us repeated again and again as in our Psalm: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his mercy endures forever…” and “I shall not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord.” We believe that, but it’s good to hear it again.

And it calls us to wake up and live our lives – right now, starting today – in the divine unity Jesus made eternally real by his life, death, and resurrection.

In her book, “The Interior Castle,” St. Teresa of Avila describes this divine unity as complete and permanent, saying, “it is like rain falling from the heavens into a river or spring; there is nothing but water there and it is impossible to divide or separate the water belonging to the river from that which fell from the heavens.” (235)

Theologian and Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr describes it like this: “In Jesus, matter and spirit were presented as totally one. Human and Divine were put together in his ordinary body, just as in the rest of humanity. That's Christianity's core and central message! … Christians believe that God chose the human, the material, the physical, the earthly in which to reveal God's very Self. Two thousand years later this is still a scandal for most of the world. It just doesn't seem "spiritual" enough!

It is a simple, profound, impossible truth - and it is our family story.

So, as we celebrate this holiest of feasts today, we re-tell our family stories, as impossible as they may sound, and we remember. We remember that the Triune God, who created us out of love and delivered us time and time again from our lost-ness, entered into our human experience in Jesus, the Christ, and remains with us in the Holy Spirit, loving us and delivering us, even now.

May we walk in the steps of our forebears and respond faithfully (if imperfectly), that we may continue to shine the light of hope for those who will come after us.

Happy Easter! Amen.

No comments: