Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Scott Wesley Borden, OHC
BCP - Easter B - Sunday 12 April 2009
Alleluia - the Lord is Risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Here we find ourselves on a joyful Easter morning celebrating the risen savior. Our observance at Holy Cross Monastery is not just joyful - it’s a bit of an endurance test... We’ve kindled new fire, rehearsed the whole of salvation history (at least up until now), renewed our baptismal covenant, had the liturgy of the word, and soon the liturgy of the table - and only then do we even come to breakfast...
What a day. I haven’t even had my first cup of coffee...
This story of death giving way to life, of despair giving way to joy, of failure giving way to triumph is a story packed with meaning. There is layer after layer, texture after texture. The intervening centuries have barely given theologians time to scratch the surface. And I propose to only scratch a little more now and I don’t pretend in any way to have anything like a comprehensive idea of the meaning of the Easter story.
Its easy, amidst all the joy, to loose sight of the difficult meanings of Easter. Jesus is risen - what more do we need to know?
But the reality is that Jesus didn’t just die - Jesus was executed, murdered if you will. And since that day a lot more blood has been spilled because we have decided that someone else is responsible for Jesus death - and we know who that someone is.
Our liturgy deals with this in a very powerful way. It puts us in the midst of the crowd shouting crucify. The crowd is not them, the government, or the religious leaders, or a backroom conspiracy, but us. We are the anonymous crowd shouting crucify. Blood is on our hands - the blood of Jesus.
Sometimes I fantasize that if I had lived back then, I would have been a hero. It’s an enjoyable thought - a handy distraction - but to be honest, its probably a lie.
The crowd wasn’t made up of nasty, evil people. It was made up of ordinary people, people like you and me.
But my place isn’t limited just to the crowd. The disciples failed Jesus in various ways. And to be honest, disciples now (that’s us) are not much different than disciples then. Daily I join Peter in denying Jesus. Daily I join Judas in betraying Jesus. Daily I join the rest of the disciples in falling asleep; not in huge and dramatic failures, but in little, unremarkable failures.
For me, part of the vital Easter message is to remind me to be humble. In our triumphant Easter celebration, its easy to sacrifice humility. Jesus is victorias... not me.
Our church year has a fascinating way of compressing things. A little more than three months ago we celebrated Jesus’ birth and here we are, having remembered his execution, celebrating his resurrection. There were more than 30 years between these events in real time, but not in the way we remember them.
This compression creates an urgency in the flow of events. Its as though God becomes incarnate, Emmanuel, and just three months later we can’t stand any more of it. We execute Emmanuel. Having God with us is just too much to bear.
This is my story. God comes into my world and I rejoice. But at the same time I rebel. I do everything I can to get God back out of my world, because having God in my world is not easy. It makes demands of me, changes me. I want it both ways: God with me and... I get to I get to stay “me”, I don’t have to change.
I’ve got lots of company on this particular journey. We all want God in our lives and at the same time we all want God out of our lives. It happened then. It happens now. It will happen in the future.
God comes into our lives. We push God out as best we can. And the good news of Easter is we are fail. Our best is not nearly good enough.
Jesus rises. Jesus lives. Jesus loves us. Jesus is triumphant. We are failures. Alleluia.
We are not heroes in this story. Just as the disciples were not heroes. God does not call us to be heroes. God calls us to be followers. We do that as best we can. Sometimes our best is heroic. Sometimes our best is failure. Its doesn’t really matter.
Jesus calls us as we are, not as we think Jesus wants us to be, or as we think we ought to be. My personal failures are part of Jesus’ victory and so they have a place in the Easter story too.
The story of Easter calls us to recognize our own failure and surrender to God. In this surrender lies our greatest joy and freedom.
I don’t admit failure easily, and that is part of my struggle with Easter. I have a strong desire to find ways to be a winner in this story, and the only way to win is to loose. That paradox sits squarely at the center of our baptized lives. To live we must give up our lives.
God comes into our lives and for good and practical reasons we want God out of our lives.
Incarnate God makes demands: Feed my sheep. Comfort the sorrowful. Tend the sick. Honor to those whom society rejects. Aid those in need. Look out for those who can’t look out for themselves. That all sounds fine until the food that goes to the hungry is coming off of my plate.
Welcoming gentle Jesus meek and mild into my life would be an entirely joyful and happy thing, but that is not the deal. Jesus, Emmanuel, is not meek and mild. And its not that I welcome Jesus into my life, its that I give my life to Jesus - to God. It is joyful and sorrowful, happy and heartbreaking, all at the same time.
Jesus isn’t going to come into my world as a welcome and well-behaved guest - Jesus will take my world. And worse than that, Jesus will fill it with people I would just as soon avoid, with people who disturb me, with people who frighten me. It’s a terrifying thing.
What do we do when we get scared? We fight. I’m going to fight to protect my home, my stuff, my self as best I can. I’ll shut the doors and lock the locks. I’ll put bars on the windows. I’ll patrol my boundaries and erect strong fences.
I’ll have my regular Good Fridays where I think I’ve finally gotten the last nail securely pounded in and thus have protected my status quo.
And just as regularly Jesus will return to life... to my life.
I will fail and Jesus will triumph. Alleluia.
Those who would follow Jesus must leave self behind. To save our lives we must loose our lives.
This is resurrection. As we die to who we have been, we rise again to who God calls us to be.
So let us joyfully celebrate our own failure and God’s victory. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. Alleluia.