Easter 2 April 28, 2019

The Rev. Janet Campbell

EASTER 2  Year C

Acts 5:27-32; Ps. 118:14-29; Rev. 1:4-8; John 20:19-31

 

Christ Episcopal Church

Tacoma, Washington

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Rev. Janet Campbell

 

 

Today is Easter Day

for

Eastern Orthodox Christians

(Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox

and others around the world).

 

(You probably already know

that their calendar

differs from that of the Western churches –

I won’t go into why.)

 

But today

the Orthodox churches

join us in Easter rejoicing,

and,

to mark the occasion,

the group providing today’s coffee hour

have imagined for us

a feast of Greek

(and perhaps some Russian) goodies.

 

 

When I learned of their plan,

I was reminded of

an Easter sermon

I wrote some time ago

 

loosely based

on the style of the Orthodox kontakion,

a chanted sermon form

with refrain

 

originated by

a 6th century deacon

in the Byzantine Church,

The Humble Romanos,

also known as Romanos the Melodist . . .

 

And I decided

to resurrect it,

with some editing and refining.

 

(Don’t worry,

I’m not going to chant it.)

 

The kontakion

begins with a short prelude

that establishes the refrain:

 

 

[Prelude]

 

It was evening of that day,

the first day

of the week,

the day

          of resurrection.

[1]

 

The disciples,

risking discovery and arrest,

left their places of hiding

scattered throughout Jerusalem . . .

 

Under cover of evening’s

spreading darkness

they hurried through its hostile streets

to the house

where they

were accustomed to meet . . .

 

bolting the doors

firmly behind them.

 

For they did not yet know

it was

          the day

                   of resurrection.
[2]

 

A small, fragile fellowship

in danger

and afraid:

 

shocked

by the dashing

of all their expectations

and full of despair . . .

 

gravely disappointed

in themselves

and each other

for their

desertion of Jesus . . .

 

hiding in a locked room,

behind the locked doors

of their own hearts.

 

 

Overcome by

sorrow,

regret,

guilt,

 

they had yet

          to discover

                   resurrection.

 

[3]

 

Something else

hovered at the edges

of their understanding,

a

wild and vague hope

stirred up by

Mary Magdalene.

 

Gone to the tomb

early that morning

to grieve,

she had found it

open

and empty.

 

Suddenly,

someone

standing behind her

spoke her name,

 

She turned  . . .

 

and found herself

          face to face

                   with resurrection.

 

[4]

 

Mary hurried,

shaken and excited,

to tell the disciples –

 

and so

we find them

gathered in their familiar meeting place

by strange anticipation . . .

 

suddenly Jesus himself

came and stood among them . . .

 

and their locked room

and guarded hearts

were

invaded by

                    resurrection.

 

 

 

 

[5]

 

Resurrection stories . . .

Easter week is full of them,

in the daily office,

in the weekday Eucharists.

 

The Risen Christ

seeking out his disciples

at the empty tomb,

on the road to Emmaus,

on the beach in Galilee,

in their meeting place,

 

revealing himself to them

in Scripture,

in the breaking of bread,

by the wounds of crucifixion –

 

The stories tell

their confusion and excitement

as the Risen Christ

joined them

in the ordinary moments

of everyday life:

 

walking along in conversation,

breaking bread together,

sharing an early morning breakfast

of broiled fish

after a long cold night

at their fishing nets.

 

Sorrow and despair

became

wonderment, reawakening hope – sudden Joy

 

as the disciples were

          caught up                              

                   in resurrection.

 

[6]

 

In those long-ago moments

and in the stories of them told today,

the disciples of Jesus

encounter a Mystery

that

 

stretches our sense

of the possible

to the breaking point;

 

challenges our notions

about

what can happen in this world

and

what might be possible for us

and

just what it is we are for . . .

 

A Mystery

that challenges us to

lay aside our own doubts and fears,

open the doors of our own hearts,

and, with those first disciples,

become available

to resurrection.

 

 

[Interlude]

 

When the Risen Christ

said to his disciples

“Peace be with you,”

he was not simply soothing

their unsettled hearts and minds . . .

 

He was giving them his own peace,

that solid core of faith and trust in God

at the very center of his being,

 

that they might be able to meet

the challenges of their new reality.

 

For everything had not suddenly

gone back to normal,

as they may first have thought . . .

 

Jesus had not come back from death

to a life that would end in another death –

 

he had gone on, THROUGH death,

to a new order of living

that would never die,

 

and was imbuing them,

by the gift of the Holy Spirit,

with power and daring

to join him in that life

and pass it on to others –

 

Through baptism

we also have received that gift.

“As the Father has sent me,

so I send you,”

he said to the disciples

in that locked room.

 

And something new

and uncontrollable

settled upon them.

 

Now they roamed

those dangerous Jerusalem streets,

doing the previously unimaginable:

 

proclaiming Jesus

crucified and risen,

making converts,

baptizing them into risen life –

 

and running afoul

of the civil and religious authorities

who had thought the crucifixion of Jesus

would put an end to this

inconvenient movement.

 

But arrest, imprisonment, flogging,

even the threat of death

(from which the disciples

had so recently been hiding)

could no longer deter them.

 

 

 

For, as Peter boldly declared

to the High Priest

and the council,

“We must obey God

rather than any human authority.”

 

And he might have added,

“rather than the doubts and fears

we once obeyed

when we abandoned

our leader and savior

to you . . .”

 

For they had all been

transformed

                   by resurrection.

 

 

[7]

 

In these fifty days of Easter

as we share

the stories of the early Church

in the Acts of the Apostles,

 

we will recognize both

continuity and discontinuity

in the disciples  –

 

they are the same people

we came to know

before the crucifixion –

 

 

 

yet they are now

radically changed –

they are

bold,

they are

daring,

they are

confident,

they are sent . . .

become

apostles,

proclaimers and do-ers

                              of resurrection.

 

 

[8]

 

What were the last words

of Jesus?

 

Do you remember?

 

Did you think of

 

“I thirst”

or

“Father forgive them

for they know not what they do”

or

“It is finished.”

 

 

 

Some of us, in other times and places,

may have experienced

a Good Friday service

of three hours’ duration

and much preaching

on what came to be known as

“The Seven Last Words of Christ

on the Cross.”

 

But Easter says, “Wait!

There are more words

after ‘It is finished’.

 

“The work of re-creation

unleashed by resurrection

has only begun.”

 

How many of us

have spent three hours in Church

meditating on the last words

of the Risen Christ?

 

“Peace be with you.”

 

“Receive the Holy Spirit.”

 

“Blessed are those who have not seen

and yet have come to believe.”

 

“As the Father has sent me,

so I send you.”

 

“And remember, I am with you always,

to the end of the age.”   [Matthew 28:20]

 

The early churches

were communities of believers

that had experienced

and knew they continued to experience

the risen and living Christ,

 

communities

that took their self-understanding and direction

from the words and presence

of the risen and living Christ

in their Sunday gatherings,

 

communities

that had received power

and dared to imagine

in the strength of that power

that

they might draw the whole world

into the knowledge

of the risen and living Christ . . .

 

communities of

liberated, healed, risen people

abroad in the world,

proclaiming and doing

the good news

of the Gospel,

offering the freedom and healing

of new life in Christ

serving the world in his Name . . .

 

communities    

          overflowing

                   with resurrection.*

[9]

 

Let us remember

that those first disciples

had as many reasons

as we do

to question, to fear,

to doubt, to despair . . .

 

Oppression, cruelty,

violence, terrorism,

were endemic in their world,

as in ours.

 

They faced disbelief

and opposition

from their own culture

and the cultures around them,

as we do.

 

But they persevered,

serving in ways large and small,

 

and celebrated their successes

no matter how inconsequential,

inadequate,

those may have seemed,

 

even as they

deeply grieved the evil of

a sinful world.

 

For their vivid experience

of the risen Lord among them

fed, strengthened, and encouraged them.

And so it is with us,

for we too

are children

                   of resurrection.

 

 

[Postlude]

 

“Peace be with you.”

 

“Receive the Holy Spirit.”

 

“Blessed are those who have not seen

and yet have come to believe.”

 

“As the Father has sent me,

so I send you.”

 

“And remember, I am with you always,

to the end of the age.”     [Matthew 28:20]

 

The last words

of the Risen Christ

call us to be a courageous

Easter church . . .

 

 

 

Nourished on the Lord’s Day

by Word and Sacrament

and one another,

 

Grounded in the peace of Christ

and alive with the power

that is ours

through the gift of the Spirit,

 

we are sent out

from our familiar meeting place

to be

daring

brave

bold  . . .

 

that the whole world

may be

          caught up

                   in resurrection.

 

 

*For section 8 (on the last words of the risen Christ and the

qualities of the Easter Church), I am indebted to

The Last Words of the Resurrected Christ, Richard O. Singleton,

St. Mary’s Press, 1997, Winona, Minnesota.

 

[With thanks to the Humble Romanos, 6th century deacon,

poet and singer, author of the chanted sermon form

 called the kontakion, the poetic voice of the Byzantine Church. 

The form of this homily, with refrains,

is loosely based on the structure of the kontakion.]

 

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