Sunday, April 11, 2004

Easter: the new possibility

Easter: the new possibility

Alleluia. Christ is risen. My message for this morning is: we lose our own, old, identities, sometimes painfully; we cannot manage the acquisition of our new identities, in Christ -- we must receive them as gifts from God.

It is as if there were a gateway between the old life and the new: a lychgate at the entrance to the church through which we must pass. "Come to me, all ye who are weary and heavy-laden," we read on the lintel as we approach. And we haul our old burdens, our sins, our nafs (lower selves), and we lay them down. We shed our old carapaces, shells, (seedpods), at the gate. And as we walk through we say goodbye to the old Adam, the old, false self. All that passion, all that obsession, ends in silence. It is over. It is finished. And as we pass through the portal it is as if there were now a sign over our heads, "The kingdom of heaven begins here. The new life begins now."

Jesus preached this kingdom - and it got him killed. The old regime, the empire, was, he told them to their faces, a passing fantasy, a dream of old men. It was just about to be blown away, with a little puff of God's breath. It is time to shed the old skin, the old self. And to walk into the new life. Let the day begin.

The old self can only take us so far, the life according to the flesh has its limits, the old world ends. On Holy Saturday [1995] the Jesus Seminar voted .82 red: "Jesus' body decayed." That is as far as that kind of thinking can take us. All our philosophy, all our science, all our theology, commerce, common sense and good intentions can only take us as far as Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The stone is in front of the tomb. For the new to begin, for Easter to start, we have to wait on God--and let the Spirit move the stone.

If you went downstairs late last night into the sacristy, I don't know what you would have found. Quiet, silence, dark. Maybe a whiff, a hint of fragrance. But I do know what came up out of there this morning: Easter lilies!

The old life ended, the old world came to an end, on Good Friday. Jesus took on his back all our burdens, all the sins and bad wishes and good intentions, all the old hard cold shells we carried on our backs, weighing us down. He gathered them to himself like a free diver, who wants to plunge straight down to the cold dark depths at the bottom of things. He carried with him all our expectations - an earthly Messiah, a worldly kingdom, a hero - and let them pull him down, so much dead weight, into the depths of Good Friday.

Holy Saturday came. It was quiet. It was silent. It was cold. Nothing moved. The face of the deep was still.

And then, ...

Last week I tore up all the plants that were growing scraggly and bent in the front yard. I pulled them all out by hand and stuffed them in the compost can. Then I hacked at the ground with a hoe until it was loose. And I raked it, and I raked it again. Then I got my hands full of seed, and threw it up in the air. It feel down and scattered on the ground. And disappeared. I raked the earth, and I knew I had buried those hard little pods, those messengers, in the earth. I went away, and I waited. On Friday, nothing. On Saturday, nothing. Then this morning,.... [a little, green glimmer.]

A woman had three identities. A mother, a wife, a minister's wife. Her husband left her. Her old identities, two of them, were stripped away. The old year ended. On the eve of the new year, a new possibility emerged....

It was night. It was dark. It was silent. It was cold. Nothing moved. Then, there was a whisper of breath, a glimmer of green. Wind ruffled the surface of the deep, little waves began to lap, then laugh. The sun arose and the new day began. What had been old and dead and gone emerged transformed. Not the old life, not the resuscitation of a corpse, but a new life. A new creation. Behold, I make all things new. A new order of the ages has begun. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Now we begin to live into that new possibility. All we have to do is step into it. Let the day begin. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Easter Sunday (Luke 24.1-10)
April 11, 2004
St John's, Lakeport CA

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