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Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter Imagination

A Sermon for Easter Day
(the Rev’d Dr) Elizabeth Kaeton
All Saint’s Church, Rehoboth Beach

It’s always so wonderful to see the church filled on Easter Day. Everyone looks so wonderful, all decked out in their Easter finest.

If you haven’t been to church in awhile, please consider coming back. We do this every Sunday – well, okay not with all the lilies and hyacinth and tulips …..but the music is always fantastic (Thank you, Alex and the choir).

And, I know it sounds cliche, but the spirit of the people here is always genuinely warm and welcoming (and, let me tell you from personal experience, they know how to cook! And, eat!).

And I can personally attest to the fact that, after 26 years of ordained ministry myself, you’ll not find a better pastor than Max Wolf. (And, he’s not paying me a red cent to say that. I will, however, expect the inside information about where to find the best Easter Egg in the hunt after church!).

What I really mean is that every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection. Every Sunday, we hear the ancient stories of our faith and sing the old, old hymns – and even some new ones – that put our old faith into new words and music. And then, we celebrate Eucharist and share in the Body and Blood of Jesus. And then...... we eat!

I really consider myself deeply blessed to be part of this faith community.

On this Easter Sunday, I’ve been thinking a great deal about that empty tomb we heard about in today’s scripture. Both Mark and John’s Gospel go to great lengths to tell us two things: (1) that Mary Magdalene was the first one to see the empty tomb and (2) The tomb was empty.

I mean, really empty. No body there. Just the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head, which was still lying in its place, separate from the linen which had shrouded his body. Nothing else. No one else. It was a really empty, Empty Tomb.

So, here are my questions: How is it that you see nothing and suddenly know everything? How do you look at emptiness and see fullness? How do you stare into the face and breathe in the stench of death and see new life? New hope? New possibilities?

The easy answer, of course, is “faith”. Right. Of course. Faith.

Well, if what you mean by faith is that I have to shut my mouth, cover my eyes, and leave my brain at the door then, I don’t know about you, but that’s not ‘faith’ to me.

I guess I’m really an Anglican who is an Episcopalian. I like my faith messy. No easy answers. Lots of room for doubt. Plenty of space to struggle and question and risk going deeper into confusion and uncertainty.

Like, for example, that empty tomb.

Like Mary Magdalene and Salome and Mary the mother of James, and Johanna, I need time to tend to what is dead and dying in my soul.

I need to honor death the way Peter and the rest of the disciples did, going to it, grieving what once was but is no more and think it is finished.

I need to look into the emptiness and be astonished by it. Troubled by it. Confused by it. Scared to death by it. Amazed by it. Inspired by it.

Here’s the thing. No one here will ask you to believe in the facts of the resurrection. Indeed, I think even if Perry Mason laid out the facts of the Case of the Resurrection in a court of law, even he would end up with a hung jury.

As a matter of fact, it's pretty clear from Scripture that the first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus and His first evangelist were Mary Magdalene and a few other women but you would never know that from the way the Church has treated women for centuries - and, some parts still do.

Never let facts get in the way of what it is you want to (and have others) believe. 

There are facts but facts are not The Truth. The Truth of the Resurrection is more than mere facts.

Christianity is not built on the facts of the resurrection. Our ancient faith is alive today because it is built not on belief in facts, but, rather, belief in a mystery:  The mystery of our faith in a God who loved us so much, God came to be with us as one we called Jesus of Nazareth. This God came to walk with us, to know our sorrows as well as our joys. To know our pain as well as our celebration.

The mystery of our faith is that God loves us so much God not only came to be with us – to know us more fully so we could more fully know God – but God also promised to be with us to the end of time through the power of the resurrection – so we could be with God thought the gift of Life Eternal.

If that doesn’t make any logical sense to you, then rejoice because you have real reason to celebrate. Why? Because you are getting closer to a mystery.

In order to believe in a mystery, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist. Neither do you have to be an engineer or a mathematician or a chemist.

Oh, you can be those things, certainly, but in order to believe in a mystery you’ve got to engage the part of your brain that believes in possibility. It’s the same part of your brain that allows you to see past what is and envision what might be.

It’s really that same part of the brain that allows rocket scientists and engineers and mathematicians and chemists to be who they are and do what it is they do: to look beyond mere facts and see possibility.

How else are bridges built over mighty, roaring rivers, or chemicals mixed together to create new material, or rockets sent soaring into space? It’s not just about intellect. It’s about imagination!

Being able to see possibility means that you have to engage your whole heart and your whole mind and your whole soul and all of your senses. In order to be able to be open to possibility, you’ve got to embrace a mystery so you can be able to engage your imagination.

That’s what I think the real gift of the resurrection is: imagination. It’s a wonderful, powerful gift, and most of us are afraid to use it, so we hide behind facts and recite them blindly and by rote.

That’s okay, I suppose, but it’s not going to get you to the heart and the joy of the resurrection. It’s not going to open your eyes to see beyond what is so you can see what might be. And, when you can see what is possible, you will find the gift of hope.

And, when you find the gift of hope, you will have found Jesus.

We have a little joke in our family. Most of us will look at a pile of manure and think, “Ewwww! Gross!” One of our daughters can look at that same pile of manure and she claps her hands with joy and says, “Where’s the pony?”.

Now, that one understands the power of imagination. She is able to see beyond what is and imagine what might be possible. Oh, she gets disappointed from time to time, but she knows two things: she knows joy and she knows hope.

Let me give you another Easter image from the words of a poem by Martha Postlethwaite which appeared a few years ago in Parabola Magazine. It’s called “Clearing”…
Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life
and wait there patiently,
until the song that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know how to give yourself
to this world
so worthy of rescue.
That is what this day of the Resurrection of Jesus asks you to do. To make space in your life for your own imagination. So you might know possibility. So you might know hope. So you might know the deep joy that the apostles once knew.

May your Easter be filled with these things, that you may have faith and believe in the power of the Resurrection.

Alleluia! The Lord is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!


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