31 March 2013

Happy Easter

Here's the best I have to offer this year for Easter.

Judson Sermon 20130331 "Rolling, Rolling, Rolling" from Jacqueline Thureson on Vimeo.

print version.  in the fashion that I read it.  not a complete text, but pretty close to it.

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling
text: “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.” (Luke 24:2)
Easter Sunday – 31.March.2013
Judson Memorial Baptist Church
Minneapolis, MN
The Rev’d G. Travis Norvell

Jesus gave his life to a cause worth dying for, the non-violent transformation of humanity, centered on the ancient teaching of the prophets & poets of ancient Israel. 

He sought to bring to life
  the beloved community
    the flowering of liberation,
            & to proclaim  -  through his life  -  jubilee. 
He died on Good Friday
and mocked. 

On Saturday the world waited and rested.

And on Easter morn the women with Jesus who had come from Galilee,
under the shadow of dawn,
stole away,
to give him a proper burial. 
When they arrived at the tomb the body was absent and they discovered, or actually they were discovered,
by two holy messengers in dazzling white clothes. 

Instantly the illuminated tomb was transformed,
it became a liminal place where the separation between heaven and earth is membrane thin,
where righteousness and peace kiss. 

         We have exaggerated up Hallmark images of harps, lullabies, frolicking, and such but those aint biblical images.  To inhabit a liminal moment is to inhabit holy ground, all expectant bets are off.  Rather than soothing, calming, caressing, or tranquil words, the women encountered two messengers with sharp tongues.

         Why seek ye the living among the dead?

The provocative question stirred the souls of the women enough for the messengers to deliver one imperative: Remember. 
Remember the words,
the healings,
  the feedings,
    the embraces,
      the teachings,
        the moments of grace,
          the power of forgiveness,
            the experience of life,
              the elation of truth,
remember, remember, remember. 
The holy messengers asked the women to remember.  Remember their memories, experiences, and encounters with Jesus. 

They remembered. 

Even thought this morning we are separated by 2,000 years, at least six languages and cultures, yet…even still we can feel the release of fear in this moment when they fully remembered. 

They were instantly transformed - ready then, more than ever, to live. 
When God invades our heart, unexpectedly, we find our selfsame existence ceases. 

Instantly the great fears of the early community vanished when the women remembered and began to tell their idle tale.  When they left the tomb they were prepared to live lives that Jesus called them to live. 

         Last week we celebrated Palm Sunday and the baptism of Ben and Seneca.  It was also the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.  Father John Dear tells Romero story this way, After his friend Jesuit priest Rutilio Grande was brutally killed for speaking out against injustice on March 12, 1977, Romero (who was a safe, conservative pick for Archbishop) was transformed overnight into one of the world’s great champions for the poor and oppressed. At the local mass the next day, Romero preached a sermon that stunned El Salvador. Romero defended the work of Grande, demanded justice for the poor, and called everyone to take up Grande’s prophetic stand for justice.

         Two weeks before Romero was executed he told a reporter, “I have often been threatened with death.  If they kill me, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people. If the threats come to be fulfilled, from this moment I offer my blood to God for the redemption and resurrection of El Salvador. Let my blood be a seed of freedom and the sign that hope will soon be reality.”

For the early church, the memory of Jesus was symbolized in the image of the cross and their propelling vision was the resurrection. 
It was the symbol not of death but of life, a way of life worth living. 
The cross has been largely translated as Jesus dying for our sins,
Jesus did not die for our sins, Jesus lived for our hearts. 
The resurrection has been largely translated solely as an event in the afterlife. 
Easter would be much easier for you and for me if it were just about the afterlife.  
It isn’t about the afterlife, it is about this life, here and now. 

 Taken together
  the cross
             the resurrection
were the generative symbol and vision for the way of God in this world,
a prophetic call to non-violence as the way to transform the world. 
Jesus sought to create a way,
based on the ancient teaching of the poets and prophets of Israel,
to stop the spiral of violence in the first century. 

To offer a way towards peace through love,     
      the rebuilding of communities,
        embracing of the Other,
          the outcasts,
            the expendables,  
              those with their backs against their walls,
through radical hospitality,
through letting the spirit of God permeate every inch of his body,   marrow deep.

On Easter morn God honored Jesus’ life, work, words, embraces, healings, spreading of an infectious truth, and expansive love. 
God resurrected Jesus, an act akin to the Old Testament portrayal of God with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm rescuing Israel. 
A resurrection of the body, not just of spirit or of soul but of body, wounds and all. 
God honored Jesus with a resurrection of Jesus’ entire body of work. 

We are all going to die, so what are we going to do with our lives to make the world a better place? 
How are we going to live our lives with the time we are granted on this earth to heal,
to love,
  make peace,
    to reconcile,
      to establish equality,
      to make the beloved community a reality. 

How are we going to use our time to offer a body of work that God honors? 

Recently Andrew Young, now 81,  was interviewed on the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.  He said, I was really upset that I didn’t get shot, too. I was more afraid of living without him and his leadership than I was afraid of dying.

Death is no problem. We’re all going to die. It’s the one thing we have in common.
(The late civil rights leader) Hosea Williams once told Martin Luther King III: “Your father helped me become a man. He helped me conquer the love of wealth and the fear of death. And when I conquered them, I could become a real man.”

For me, it was the same thing. You have to start living for something that’s worth dying for.”

Young went on to tell the rarely told story of King’s scar.  On September 20, 1958 Martin Luther King, Jr. was in New York City on a book signing tour, Stride Toward Freedom, his account of the Montgomery Bus Boycott had just been published. 

During the signing a woman approached him and stabbed him in the ribs. 

The knife went in at such an angle that the doctors had to open his chest with both a horizontal and vertical cuts. 

Upon the healing of his chest King had a cross scar on his chest.  He said every morning when I brush my teeth I’m reminded that today could be my last.  How am I going to live today to make the world a better place? 

As a congregation we are going to throw all of our love energies at making sure there are full rights and privileges for our LGBT brothers and sisters,

at the helping to change the way we view the environment – it is God’s gift to us that God has entrusted to us,

by offering alternatives to violence as the only way to solve conflict resolution,

helping the friends of God to experience human flourishing through art, prayer, and forgiveness, and doing all we can to live our lives as ambassadors of reconciliation. 

I invite you to join with us in our sojourn as we seek to counter the spiral of violence,
the powers of death,
the three great evils of racism, poverty, & war,
& the ubiquitous temptations of meaninglessness, and apathy. 
They are not the ways of God. 
The ways of God in this world are threaded together through the cross and the resurrection
 spelled out as
    the beloved community,
      social equality,
          and passion. 

I invite us to claim
the cross of Jesus
and his resurrection
as the generative symbols
and metaphors
for our lives as Christians. 

On Friday night we read the names and some of the stories of the 54 homicides of 2012 in Hennepin County, they were old and young, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, rich and poor.  They were largely domestic disputes, they were people caught in the crossfire of gang turf war, they were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.  It isn’t enough to tell their stories and mourn their deaths;  we can no longer sit idly by. 

Their names and stories were all reminders that what the world needs most is a few people,
a practicing beloved community,
a cross-centered
resurrection-full community
dedicated to ways of non-violence,
      and forgiveness. 

The resurrection of Jesus of is the clarion call for us to live with our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls open to this world. 

Let us put aside the time we have wasted and live lives full of resurrection. 

Brothers and Sisters may this be the day you greet resurrection with open hearts, minds, bodies, and souls. 

May this day and your life be full of Resurrection. 

Amen & Amen.

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