Coversation about Easter Moments|
Rev. Dr. Robert R. Hansel and
The Rev. Canon Renée
(This sermon is also available in audio)
the green blade riseth
from the buried grain,
wheat that in dark earth
many days has lain;
love lives again,
that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.
("Hymn 204," from The
Copyright ©1985 by the Church
we are, we've come through the long journey of
Lent, and we've arrived at the day of Alleluias.
The day that is a witness that death does not have
the final word, the day that assures us that life
is eternal, the day that reminds us that God is
bigger than we might ever have imagined. For two
thousand years people of faith all over the world
have joined to celebrate the meaning of resurrection,
new life, reconciliation, peace, joy, meaning.
it. Hold it. Time out.
know you're not an early riser. You're not a morning
person, but I think you might want to look at the
have to tell you that all that stuff you're talking
about is very beautiful, and I'd be the last one
to disparage Easter. But I have to tell you, the
world is very messed up.
not a lot of joy, peace, and reconciliation. I
was just reading the other day this quote from
that astute philosopher of the human condition,
Charles Barkley, who suggested that things are
really messed up. All of our logic and reason is
totally a-tilt. Look at the world: the most famous
rap artist is white, the best golfer is black,
and the tallest basketball player in the world
is Chinese. We had a war and invited the Germans,
and they turned us down. And the French think we're arrogant.
What kind of world are we in here? I think we're
in danger of sounding like we're sort of whistling
Dixie. We're pretending.
would agree that there is a lot of chaos and dis-ease
in the world. You're right. I don't really read
the paper much, so it's good you point these things
out to me. I can count on you to do that, I know.
But in the midst of the
chaos and dis-ease of the world, we can still count
on the Kingdom of God. Sometimes
we're tempted to either dismiss the prospect completely,
or we think that we can only have the Kingdom life
once we get out of this life and twirl up to heaven.
In fact, we're living eternal life now.
really the surprise of Easter. We don't have
to wait until we get to heaven to experience it.
is happening all around us. But of course, the
problem is that because it is not fulfilled at
every moment, we don't see it because of what's
going on in the world. There's a chance that
we could miss it by simply not being attentive
aware to the possibilities of reconciliation
and peace and joy and all that language you're
about, that you think may not be so accurate.
I can understand that people might wonder, "Well,
maybe Easter just really didn't work out somehow." But
I think, Bob, that we really can see those moments
of resurrection around us.
make me think back to when Rabbi Kushner was here
during Lent. Rabbi Kushner is a great student of
Hasidic storie—Jewish stories that are very simple
in appearance but hold profound truths. He was
telling the story about how this man came to his
Rabbi at Hanukkah and said, "I know Hanukkah
is a season in which we are supposed to be looking
everywhere for the presence of God and to feel
that God is everywhere, surrounding us with love
and blessings. But Rabbi, I have to tell you, this
has not been a great year for us. The family is
really in disarray, and my health hasn't been good.
Instead of God being everywhere and surrounding
us and blessing us, I have the sense that God is
so put off by the terrible things that are going
on in my life and in the world that God is actually
hiding his face. I mean, he doesn't really want
to see it. He is just hiding somewhere." So
the Rabbi said, "Well now, wait a minute.
Let's think about this logically. If you know that
God is hiding, then God is really not hidden."
a profound kind of truth, the business about God
hiding. If we know that God is there all of the
time, then God really isn't hiding. It's like when
we play the game of peek-a-boo with a little child.
We put our hands in front of our face and the child
gets all anxious, and then we take our hands away,
and he laughs and cheers and so on. We haven't
gone anywhere. We're still there, still the same
person, and the fact that we were hidden to this
child doesn't mean a thing.
That makes sense to me. The famous theologian Paul
Tillich, once said, "that which is ultimately
true is seldom obvious." If we dwell in faith,
we know that the reality is only temporarily 'masked'--we
can't be fooled into thinking that the absence
of the reality is the truth.
reminds me of the time that the Israelites were
fighting the Syrians. Elisha, the prophet of God,
had risen early and went out and saw that the Syrians
had completely surrounded the city. The young man
with Elisha was terrified and asked the prophet, "What
they were going to do?" Elisha told the young
man not to be afraid because there were more of
God's hosts than could be numbered. Then Elisha
prayed that the young man might have eyes to see,
and when the young man looked up he saw that the
mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire.
The horses and chariots were there all the time,
but were masked until his eyes were opened.
like the words on a poster I once saw in the 60's:
believe in the sun even when
it is not shining.
I believe in love even when
feeling it not.
I believe in God even when he
(~A Jewish Prayer)
are always circumstances in life that appear
to be challenging God's presence, God's love,
God's power. And yet, behind that mask, in the
midst of all the world's suffering and turmoil,
God's face is 'peeking out'--and
when we catch a glimpse of God peeking out, our
hope is strengthened, our trust is deepened,
and we are energized and enthused to be a co-creator
with God in opening people up to that kingdom
what Easter does, I think. It reminds us that there
are these little islands in the midst of this vast
sea of storm and rage and chaos. We read the paper
and we say, "What's happening? How's it all
going to turn out?" We don't need to know
how it turns out. That's in God's hands. What we
need to know is that there are these islands of
calm, those moments of peace where real serenity
comes to us. However that comes to you--whether
that's with your family, or at your work, or in
your church--find that place where you can see
God peeking out. Those are Easter moments.
I have an Easter moment I'll share with you. You
know, sometimes Easter moments can be big events,
and sometimes they can be very small. This one's
a small one in some ways. A few years ago when
I was on the diocesan staff in Idaho, I was making
a visitation on our church in Pocatello, Idaho.
I usually stayed at the Quality Inn when I was
in Pocatello. On this particular evening, I went
in to register and found a long line, and a young
woman at the reservation desk who was frazzled.
Someone was butting in line to complain about something
in their room. The phone was ringing. Other people
were exasperated at the length of time it was taking
to get checked in. This young woman was trying
to be congenial, but she was not having one of
her "better nights!"
a rather crucial moment, yet another couple pushed
their way into the line and put a small styrofoam
box down on the desk right in front of the young
woman. "It's banana cream," they said.
It seems that before they had gone to dinner they
had asked the young woman for the name of a good
restaurant. She told them of one that had the best
pies ever made, and she mentioned that her favorite
was banana cream. So this couple, without provocation,
simply brought goodness into that young woman's
life that night. She looked at the styrofoam box,
looked up at them with a face that shone with joy,
and thanked them. Her night
was changed by a miracle piece of banana cream
pie! She was given an Easter moment and I saw God
peeking through in the action of the couple who
brought her that piece of pie.
are hundreds and thousands of those kind of Easter
moments, and they're the signs and tokens of the
promises of Easter that even though everything
is not perfect yet, life is good. Resurrection
is happening all around us if we have "eyes
to see and ears to hear," even when bleakness
stands very close. Those Easter moments are for
us a way to witness God peeking out.
the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong.
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows,
Lies the seed that with the sun's love
In the spring becomes the rose.
(from "The Rose" by
Gospel: John 20: 1-18
Early on the first day of the week, while it
was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and
saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other
disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They
have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not
know where they have laid him." Then Peter and
the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.
The two were running together, but the other disciple
outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent
down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying
there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came,
following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the
linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had
been on Jesus head, not lying with the linen
wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then
the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also
went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they
did not understand the scripture, that he must rise
from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their
homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As
she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and
she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body
of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the
other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman,
why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They
have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where
they have laid him." When she had said this,
she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but
she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to
her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you
looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener,
she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him
away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will
take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary" She
turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which
means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold
on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the
Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, 'I
am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my
God and your God. Mary Magdalene went
and announced to the disciples, "I have seen
the Lord"; and she told them that he had said
these things to her. NRSV
©2003 Calvary Episcopal Church
homily was delivered at Calvary
Episcopal Church, Memphis,
Tennessee, on March April 20, 2003, Easter Sunday.