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immanuel lutheran chicago

Proper 7C-19

Immanuel Lutheran, Chicago

Years ago, I spent a week with 18 high school youth on mission trip to Juarez, Mexico. We helped build a community center and lead vacation bible school for a small church. Every day one youth sent a reflection back home by email.  Often, they wrote about the poverty they observed.  One wrote, ‘It is remarkable how little we actually need. I feel almost liberated.  Back home, we fiercely guard our possessions. But I wonder, is it we who possess all our stuff, or does all our stuff possess us?’

We waived goodbye as we drove away in a beat-up old school bus that broke down before we reached El Paso. We walked the last two miles or so.  We carried our backpacks and suitcases to the bridge and across the border.  We were relieved to be home.  Yet, our crossing taught us about some of the human costs inherent in our way of life.  Following Jesus in mission can quickly lead us to question what we think we already know.

The prophet Elijah is another example. It seems like he had everything figured out. In the chapters preceding our first reading (1 Kings 17-18), Elijah is a prophet “in charge.” Everything goes his way. He confronts kings and followers of Baal, performs miracles, raises the dead, and calls down lightning from heaven.  But now, in 1 Kings 19, everything is changed. Elijah is intimidated, filled with complaints, and plagued with self-doubt. Like so many servants of God before and after him, Elijah is deeply discouraged when things don’t go his way.  To be fair, serving God put his life in danger. Now he wants out of the whole prophet-of-God business.

On Mt. Sinai, a despondent Elijah encounters a persistent God who refuses to let him off the hook regardless of the difficulty of his mission.  On the very same mountain God handed Moses the Ten Commandments, God confronts Elijah—not with a mighty wind, not with an earthquake, nor with fire, but in the sound of sheer silence—as if to say God will not be confined to one way of speaking.  Don’t expect divine power always to show up “obvious” ways. Contrary to what Elijah thought, he was not alone, but one among a whole community, a holy remnant, numbering at least seven thousand (1 Kings 19:18) faithful people.

Doing God’s work, speaking God’s words, transforms hearts and minds—beginning with our own. It happens again when Jesus orders the disciples into a boat and said, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ (Luke 8:22).

To them it must have seemed like a bad idea from the start.  This wasn’t a little trip from one side of a lake to the other.  It was a journey into a foreign land, the unknown, the defiled, the less than human. To make matters worse, they nearly drowned on their way. Now, from the moment they step onto dry land, they’re confronted by the so-called Gerasene demoniac, a naked, filthy, and demon-possessed man who lived among the tombs! The experience must have confirmed all their stereotypes about unclean Gentiles.

It turns out the people of Gerasene would also have preferred that Jesus stayed away too.  Sure, they’d admit, life with a demoniacwas a little crazy at times, but they had learned to cope.  It wasn’t perfect, but it worked most of the time. At some point, they figured out how to keep him chained, post a guard, and isolate him from other people. Problem solved. It worked for everyone –everyone of course except the so-called demoniac.

Trailing broken chains behind him, he wandered the wilds, tearing at his skin until it bled, trading one kind of pain for another. If he had a name, no one knew it. If he had a history, no one remembers it. If he has a soul worth saving inside his living corpse, no one sees it. No one looks. Until Jesus does. (Debie Thomas, “Legion,” Journey with Jesus, 6/16/19)

Our gospel confronts us with the confounding reluctance and resistance in ourselves that rebels against God’s grace to heal us and to reshape our communities. Like Elijah, and all of us on that mission trip years ago, serving God in Christ opens hearts, minds, and hands even where we did not realize we had closed them.

For all their supposed differences, the Jewish-born disciples and the foreign-born Gerasenes shared something in common: they were more than willing to leave well enough alone rather than make the sacrifices or take the risks required to truly make things better.

The Gerasene demoniac fell down before Jesus and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me” (Luke 8:28).  It must have been terrifying and overwhelming.  Yet Jesus shows us exactly where to begin in such situations. He began by asking him a simple, direct question. “What is your name?” Jesus starts to recall the broken man to himself. To his humanity, to his beginnings.  To his unique and precious identity as a beloved child of God.

The problems that afflict, torment, and distort our minds may be legion, multi-faceted, and myriad.  The sources of our brokenness may be braided together. And yet the way of hope and salvation lays open for us in Jesus. The crazy man speaks for us all and shows us how our own healing may begin. When the demoniac sees Jesus, he falls down before him without hesitation or apology.

Our gospel ends with Jesus commissioning the healed man to stay where he is and serve as the first missionary to his townspeople— the same townspeople who feared, shunned, trapped, and shackled him for years. Isn’t that just so like Jesus? “To choose the very people we consider the most unholy, the most unredeemable, the most repulsive and unworthy— and commission them to teach us the Gospel? THAT is God all over.” (Debie Thomas)

When we follow Jesus in mission, when we prayerfully apply ourselves to be his hands, his feet, his word, we may be surprised to discover, how this strange gospel story becomes our story. Here, we find a story about our truest names. Here is the story we share with the faithful of every time and place about our resistance and resurrection. Here is a story about the Jesus who found us naked among the tombs, clothed us with dignity, scattered the demons to save our soul, and turned us into storytellers who help heal the world. Here, then, is our story wrapped within God’s story. “Here is the One who makes us one. The One who breaks the darkness, turning blindness into sight” (ELW #843). Here is the One who opens our fisted minds and will teach us how to live.

Easter Sunday Immanuel Lutheran Chicago

Immanuel Lutheran, Chicago

Jesus only had time for a few last words before his arrest and crucifixion.  He told them to love one another as I have loved you. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

It’s interesting to notice what Jesus didn’t say.  He didn’t say ‘keep a systematic theology.’ He didn’t instruct them about proper worship, the sacraments, the priesthood, what to say or what to write down as gospel.  He urged them to love. In fact, he commanded them. Discipleship consists of loving one another the same perfect and unconditional way that God loves the whole world.

They sat in the second pew on the lectern side. Student pastor Betty Rendón, husband Carlos, daughter Paula, and grand-daughter Layla attended Immanuel for a year or so before leaving to serve Emaus Lutheran in Racine, Wisconsin. Betty had helped outreach to Latino familiesatMonday night tutoring, vacation bible school, and other community events. Layla was baptized in this church last July. ELCA bishop of the Greater Milwaukee Synod, Rev. Paul D. Erickson, said says the Rendóns have “been a blessing to every community that they’ve ever been a part of.”

Despite this, a week ago last Wednesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents forced their way into Betty’s home with their guns drawn. They had violently apprehended Carlos outside the home, thrown him against his car, and ordered him to open the door.  Once inside they arrested Betty in her pajamas in front of her five-year-old granddaughter and reportedly were “jubilant” after the arrest. When they left, the ICE officers failed to secure the door. Their home was ransacked, and any items of value were stolen.

Betty and Carlos fled to the U.S. from Colombia with their daughter Paula after armed guerrillas attacked the school where Betty taught. They applied for asylum in the US but was eventually denied due to the lack of a police report, although Betty says everyone in the area knew of the attack. Once her appeals were exhausted, she was issued an order of deportation, but it was never executed.

Your church, this congregation, stands with Betty, Carlos, Paula and Layla –and with immigrant families everywhere. Members of Immanuel stood in an interfaith prayer vigil outside the detention facility last Wednesday night, and national Lutheran leaders have called on federal officials to release her from detention.  With help from Stephen Bouman and Mary Campbell of the ELCA’s AMMPARO Betty and Carlos have legal representation from the National immigrant Justice Center. In less than 24 hours, staff and members of Immanuel wrote letters of support demanding their release from custody and a stay of deportation. On Friday, we met with Paula, provided a small amount of material support, helped re-connect her to legal services, and we have prayed.

We pray for the children and families in detention facilities throughout our country being blamed and victimized for our broken immigration system. It’s not right. People fleeing violence deserve compassion and to be treated with dignity.  Children deserve our protection and care.  Jesus said, they will know you are my disciples in how you love one another. Whose disciple do we become when authorities, serving in our name, traumatize and even kidnap children?  When vulnerable people are demonized?  When an ELCA pastor and her family, dedicated to loving and serving God, are arrested and treated like violent criminals?  We work and pray for the soul of our nation even as we seek to do the work of the church, the work Jesus commanded us to do—love one another.

Throughout Easter, we read about people dreaming dreams. Our scriptures are filled with stories about people hearing voices. Our lessons come from people we could easily dismiss with a wave of the hand or a roll of our eyes. They are people just brave enough, or fed up enough, or foolish enough to cast the reality of what is aside and give themselves to try to make something better.

They are people who discovered a deeper life within the world as it is turns on an axis of mystery and grace. They are ordinary people who come to know that hearing voices and dreaming dreams is what leads to awakening in us all. They don’t hang up when the Holy Spirit calls. They don’t let it roll over into voicemail.  They accept the invitation, the opportunity, the challenge, the sacrifice, the grace, and the glory.

Mary acts on the advice of an angel.  Joseph cleaves to a startling choice while he is asleep.  Peter rises from a trance to proclaim a vision of a new humanity in Christ.  Afterword, Christianity would become a world religion rather than another obscure brand of Judaism. John “saw a new heaven and a new earth” including all the tribes and nations of earth living together in harmony with God in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21)

Jesus has given us, his disciples, a new commandment, a new mandate, a new standard by which to measure our progress toward an impossibly grand goal. They are among Jesus’ last words at the Last Supper on the night in which he was betrayed. Jesus said, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

They will know we are Christians if we’re crazy enough, or brave enough, or fed up enough to live in such a way among ourselves that God’s dream of love for all things now living becomes a daily reality.  It’s what people of faith do, what we have always done and will continue to do.  Because Peter didn’t just go back to back to sleep.  He didn’t ignore the people standing outside his door.  He didn’t just tell people to shut up when his fellow Christians called him on the carpet to explain himself once he got back home.

Because we are people who hear voices and dream dreams that lead to awakening and transformation that is intended for the redemption of us all.  We stand with the hungry.  We stand beside the poor, the imprisoned, and the immigrant. We stand with Betty, Carlos, Paula, Layla –and Carlos’ cousin Felipé as one communion united in Christ.  We walk with the Spirit on the way to living the life God intended for us as children of a new humanity, citizens of the New Jerusalem, residents of a new heaven and a new earth, one people with God in harmony and solidarity with all the people of God.  And all the people say—Amen!

The credits roll.  The music plays.  Lights come up in the theater. Yet people linger in their seats.  They stay for the outtakes—scenes not included in the movie. Sometimes stories include an epilogue that reveals what ultimately happens to the principle characters.  We learn Oskar Schindler died bankrupt and penniless in Germany.  Bilbo and Frodo Baggins leave their beloved Hobbitsville and travel with the Elves.

Likewise, when we catch up with the disciples on Sunday, we already know how the story ends.  “The strife is o’er, the battle is done” (ELW #366). The twenty-first chapter of John is an epilogue. The disciples are on holiday back home. One story is at an end and another is just beginning.

But Peter isn’t sure he has a role in the new chapter Jesus is writing. That’s because he screwed up. He is painfully aware how he squandered all the hope and confidence Jesus’ had placed upon him. Peter can’t imagine Jesus would have any more use for him now.

He was supposed to be the Rock. Peter the “fisher of men.” It was Peter who was the first disciple to proclaim Jesus was the Son of God. It was Peter’s mother-in-law whom Jesus had healed. It was Peter who walked beside him on the sea. Peter who saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain. Peter who promised to stay at Jesus’s side even if he be killed. Yet is was this Peter whose courage failed so catastrophically around a charcoal fire when Jesus was arrested. Peter’s betrayal marked him as unworthy. ‘No. No, I am not the man! I swear, I don’t even know him.’ (John 18:17-27)

Do you know what that kind of failure feels like? Failure is where our dreams go to die. We withdraw. We don’t return eye-contact. We are weighed down with heaviness and dread. We tend to find comfort in familiar patterns and old routines. Peter went fishing

“Peace be with you,” Jesus had said in Jerusalem (John 20:26) He offered Peter and the disciples the gift of his continuing and abiding spirit. Now Jesus continues his healing, reconciling work beside the seashore. This time his strategy is simple. He said to them “come and have breakfast.” (John 21:12) He prepared a meal for them beside the Sea.

Notice “In the days following the resurrection, Jesus doesn’t waste a moment on revenge or retribution. He doesn’t storm Pilate’s house, or avenge himself on Rome, or punish the soldiers whose hands drove nails into his. Instead, he spends his remaining time on earth feeding, restoring, and strengthening his friends. He calls Mary Magdalene by name as she cries. He offers his wounds to the skeptical Thomas. He grills bread and fish for his hungry disciples. He heals what’s wounded and festering between his heart and Peter’s.” (Debie Thomas, Journey with Jesus, 4/28/19)

Jesus asks Peter three times.  Once for each time Peter had denied him.  “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (21:15) These questions open Peter to the future. Despite his failure, Jesus again entrusts Peter with the ongoing work of the Church. “He surrounds the self-loathing disciple with tenderness and safety, inviting him to revisit his shame for the sake of healing, restoration, and commissioning: “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me? Feed my sheep.”  (Debie Thomas)

The early church drew inspiration from the memory of Peter’s biggest failure as an example of the power of God to forgive our failures, redeem our past and renew our calling as followers of Jesus Christ. If God could do that for Peter, God can do it for all of us!” In the intimacy of loving words, Jesus calls Peter beyond his personal relationship with Jesus to lovingly embrace all of Jesus’ followers.

St. Maximos the Confessor, who lived in the seventh century, wrote that Peter and Paul became “successful failures.” They experienced the liberating truth that “the person who has come to know the weakness of human nature has gained experience of divine power. Such a person never belittles anyone, for they know that God is like a good and loving physician who heals with individual treatment each of us who is trying to make progress.”

Through simple acts of care in Jesus’ name, the disciples would spark a revolution that spread around the world and persists from that moment till today. They started down a path that would lead to the flourishing of millions and to their premature death. This is because Jesus’ potluck breakfast was for them and for all, for everyone who has failed in life, for those cast out by their families, those without a name, for the immigrant, the widow, the imprisoned, and the poor.

In this radical hospitality and love we find oneness with God and one-another.  It’s a simple plan we inevitably make too complicated. Will you, can you feed Jesus’ sheep? Will you lay aside your own fear of awkwardness and failure to say hello to someone you don’t know? Even perhaps, to invite them for coffee? Will you take from what you have to share with others? Will you take a stand with the afflicted? Can you invite and shepherd others into fellowship with God and all people here in this congregation? Feed my sheep. In so doing, we will feed ourselves.

Today we learn Jesus remains involved in the work and life of the church. Like Obi Wan Kenobi, he is still a force to be reckoned with. Jesus is not dead but alive. Jesus has ascended but remains eternally present in Spirit.  We may continue to see Jesus in our midst through the eyes of faith.

Kathleen Norris has written a beautiful little book that she calls, The Quotidian Mysteries, in which she describes the ways she often encounters God while doing simple everyday tasks like laundry or cleaning the dishes. We encounter Christ while gathered around the table for a simple meal. There, we are surprised to see him in each other.  We encounter the Living God at the bath. There, we are overjoyed to find God alive and working deep within ourselves.

Hoist a Sail to Sea

Poor tulips and daffodils are weighed down this morning with snow.  We are five weeks into Spring.  They look vibrant with color and full of the resilience of youth, but I must say, the poor things also look confused.

It is sometimes said that nature is God’s first bible.  The divine breath Jesus breathed upon the first Christian community to infuse an Easter life in them is the same spirit of resurrection alive and at work in all creation and now in us.  Something new already struggled to be revealed in them while they were yet weighed down by the cares of this world.

Today, we read of the disciples, in fear and confusion, hiding behind locked doors somewhere in Jerusalem.  Presumably, they are in the same place where they had shared the Last Supper with Jesus. Their dark little room had become lifeless as the grave.  They are paralyzed into inactivity and hopelessness. They thought themselves to be as good as dead already –just waiting for the Temple police to come and make it official.  They are not yet fully aware—and perhaps—will never be, of how much they are like seed sown upon soil, already in the process of transformation.

The Easter story had already begun to re-write the narrative of their lives. Yet, in their darkened minds, their expectations of what would happen still followed the arc of a more worldly story. They believed they were at an end. Yet God intended a new beginning.  In the immortal words of Gracie Allen, “Never placea period where Godhas placed a comma. GodIs Still Speaking.”

It was a week after Easter for the first disciples, just as it is for us. They are only beginning to understand the new situation they find themselves in.  Alleluia. He is risen (He is risen indeed, alleluia!). But the question for them and for us remains the same –what now? What’s next?  How shall we live as the Easter people we are?  If we hoist a sail to the divine breath, do we have courage to go where it takes us? Or do we yet live in fear, weighed down with the cares of the world?

Our gospel is a graceful reminder that we are not the first followers to struggle with what the resurrection means. John’s recounting the story of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples and then again, one week later to Thomas, is not to scold us into a style of believing that is afraid to ask questions, but just the opposite.

In fact, the bible is full of examples of faithful questioning.  Abraham, Moses, and Elijah; dozens of Psalms, and most of the Prophets, remind us that biblical faith is confident enough in relationship with God to bear up under any question.  Questions and the confidence to ask them, of ourself, each other, and God, is not a recipe for weakening faith, but for strengthening it.

In contrast to many religious people today, Christians who asks questions of themselves, others, and of God are necessarily humble. A questioning Christian has both the courage to boldly speak and the patience to actively listen.  A church built upon questioning faith is self-critical and constantly reforming.  Questioning faith speaks truth to power, even while challenging itself.  Questioning is essential to faith because without it our religious zeal too easily changes shape to become religious zealotry.  The Easter life God infuses in us becomes misshaped and distorted.

This Sunday we pray to receive the vital life-transforming breath of God in the dead zones of our lives –into the places in our minds and hearts which have become weighed down or walled off by fear, exhaustion, hopelessness, and/or confusion. “It’s a great temptation in the life of the church to huddle behind massive, beautiful doors, to hide out from a world in pain and great need, and to make our faith a personal, private thing that has nothing to do with that pain or that need.” (Kate Huey)

Here, we approach the heart of today’s gospel lesson: “Jesus comes again and again to these scared and confused disciples. The disciples have not warranted a second visit by Jesus, but they get one, and a renewed gift of his peace” (Gail O’Day). In the same way, if we long to see Jesus, he offers us the same gift of himself, not just once, but over and over.

Here is my body, Jesus said. He showed them his hands and his side. My body is wounded and broken.  You carry scars in your mortal frame, some may never heal.  Yet I still live and so shall you. Blessed are you for the wounds you endure for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, Jesus says.

Suddenly, unbelievably, in the midst of a living death, it was as if the hushed knot of disciples were brought to life again.  They were filled not only with life, but with joy.  They possessed a confidence that made them truly bold. It was as if they no longer feared death.  They, too, had been resurrected with Jesus.  The locked door of their tomb-like room burst open.  They returned to the streets.  They entered the Temple teaching in Jesus’ name. They sparked a movement that traveled by foot, ship, horseback, and by word of mouth throughout the ancient world.  Jesus had breathed new life into them.  They shared in a Spirit of reconciliation, mutuality, restoration of justice, and of peace.

So, what’s next? Because we are an Easter people, perhaps you feel drawn here at Immanuel to create a living sanctuary in Christ’s name with beautiful transcendent music.  Or, because we are an Easter people, you may be equipped to welcoming others in Christ’s name to find shelter in worship and liturgy that is full of the wisdom and memory of ancient times, as well as the hope and call of the holy spirit pulling us toward the future.  Or, because we are an Easter people, you may be called to walk in solidarity and with our siblings in faith, both Christians and non-Christians like so many here in Edgewater, in order to sweep hate away (just as 75 of us did yesterday to clean neighborhood streets and alleys). Or, because we are an Easter people, you may be pulled toward building a living sanctuary in Christ’s name to the hundreds of children and families who come here each week whom we support in learning; whom we support in exploration and play at our tutoring and play groups.  Or, you may feel called to aid in Immanuel’s mission to foster Christian community in our youth—including youth of diverse colors, cultures, ethnicities, and abilities in the name of Christ.   Or, because we are an Easter people, your eyes may be drawn to yet other opportunities to love and serve God in another way, or in some other place.  How can we, your brothers and sisters at Immanuel, be of help?

How shall our Easter story be written? Let us hoist a sail to the Spirit. Let us pray the Spirit of Christ will reveal herself in us like the Spring tulips and daffodils that remain vibrant with color and filled with the resilience of youth, even as they shrug off the late spring snow.

 

 

Easter Darkness

Alleluia! Christ is risen (Christ is risen indeed, alleluia!) Yet that first Easter morning, despite the fresh bloom of early spring, everything looked dead. Mary Magdalene and the women made their way to the tomb at early dawn.  As they did, the ribbons of color spreading through the eastern sky were not beautiful. The budding garden was not fragrant. The singing birds could not be heard. As the women went to the tomb their minds were shrouded in the grey colors of grief, their voices were hushed by the crushing weight of despair.

While the natural world throughout the Northern hemisphere testified to the promise of new life, neither these women, nor anyone else, expected anything but death. Bodies go into the ground and stay there. Springtime comes to grass, trees, and living things, not to bodies lying in the grave.

Regardless of what Jesus had told them—that he would die, and on the third day, rise again—Mary Magdalene, the women who accompanied her, and the rest of Jesus’ followers, still lived in a Good Friday world.

While we greeted Easter last night and this morning with jubilation and trumpets, we are confronted here with something quieter, more mysterious, and perhaps more resonant with our own daily lives.  It is what pastor and author Frederick Buechner has called “the darkness of the resurrection itself, that morning when it was hard to be sure what you were seeing.” While the benefit of two thousand years of hindsight have informed our Easter acclamations, what we read from the Gospels is that the first disciples stumbled in the half-light on that third day after Jesus’s crucifixion, confused and afraid. Where was the stone? Were those angels standing beside them in that unlit tomb? And where was Jesus? Are they sure the tomb is really empty?

It was “…the first day of the week, at early dawn” (Luke 24:1). That’s when Easter really begins. “It begins in darkness. It begins amidst fear, bewilderment, pain, and a profound loss of certainty.” The creeds and clarifications we cherish today would come much later. What came first were variations on a theme that sound a lot as if they come from our own lives—like a woman I heard sing about Jesus last Tuesday at the Synod Chrism Mass who struggles with cancer and must carry her own oxygen—or like another woman I visit who testifies to the power of God from her sagging nursing home bed. Easter is what happens when ordinary people brush up against an extraordinary God.  Easter looks like people of a  broken, hungry humanity encounter a bizarre and inexplicable Love in the half-light of dawn. (Debie Thomas, I Have Seen the Lord, April 14, 2019)

Theologian and writer Chris Barnes reminds us what actually matters during Holy Week: “The question that Easter asks of us is not, ‘Do we believe in the doctrine of the resurrection?’ Frankly, that is not particularly hard. What the Gospels ask is not, ‘Do you believe?’ but ‘Have you encountered the risen Christ?’”

Our gospels tell the stories of individual people having profoundly individual encounters with Christ. These encounters are not identical. Last night we read when Peter saw the empty tomb, he ran away and returned to his home. When the beloved disciple saw it, he believed but did not understand When Mary saw it, she ran to tell the disciples who dismissed her words as an idle tail. In other words, we come to the empty tomb as ourselves, for better or worse. The question is not, and never was, “Why should people in general believe?” but rather, “Why doyou believe? How has the risen Christ revealed himself to you?”

Easter comes like a lamb before wolves, with a word to shatter hard won common sense. Easter comes like a dove into our Good Friday world.  It is a dog-eat-dog dog; only the strong survive; white makes right; if you want peace prepare for war world.  But here comes Easter, telling its idle tales again.  Easter promises what we heard today from the prophet Isaiah, God is doing a new thing: a new heaven and a new earth. “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” No longer must we consume one another to survive in this new world.

Easter says hope never dies.  Easter says all your tomorrows can be different from your yesterdays.  Easter says life is stronger than death; light conquers darkness.  Here comes Easter singing a simple song about God’s grace.

Easter isn’t about one man’s death and one man’s rising.  It is a claim about the undying life we all share because of the unconditional reality and claim of God’s grace to embrace our lives and not let go.  The test of the Christian message of resurrection, therefore, is not what happened in the tomb, but is the capacity of grace to break through our Good Friday’s and with the fresh springtime of Easter.

Easter does not a return to the past but moves toward the future. When our false expectations, flawed speculations, wrong theologies, or hateful ideologies become a like a wall separating us from grace and each other, God’s Easter is going to break through that wall.

Since ancient times Christians have called Easter the “first day.” From Easter comes our practice of worshiping on Sunday morning. It is the first day of the week. It is also the first day of a new creation, sometimes called the “eighth day”, because on it Christ restored the image of God in humankind and in so doing also brought restoration and renewal to all creation. We are an Easter people. We are a new creation through the gift of God’s grace revealed to us in Christ Jesus.

Of all the things Easter promises this may be the most preposterous—that we are now members of the resurrected body of Christ.  Within you are seeds of hope to renew the hope of the whole world. The cross reveals the depths of cruelty, violence, and immorality to which we can sink, at the very same time it marks the path God has opened to the way forward. The cross is a Tree of Life offering healing for the nations.  “Now all the vault of heaven resounds in praise of love that still abounds. Christ has triumphed! He is living! Alleluia” (ELW #367).