Bishop WolfeEaster Day
The Rt. Rev. Dean E. Wolfe, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas


 

Resurrecting Hope
Come, Holy Spirit,
and grant us the courage to peer into the empty tomb.
Grant us the strength to hear the angel say,
“He is not here.”
And grant us the hope which sends us to Galilee,
or to wherever in the world Christ would send us to meet him.
Amen.

There is a hope. Out of the wreckage of life… out of the obscenity of death and tragedies unnumbered; out of the carnage and the catastrophes and all the chaos of this world… there is a brilliant hope.

Today we’re celebrating this hope with grand music and ornate liturgy. The flowers are arranged, the candles are lit, and this morning, we’ll shout our trust in this hope from the rooftops! But, more often than not, this hope arrives in a much less conspicuous manner.

To some it comes like the light of a distant, dying star; tentative, detached, terminal. For others, it’s simply the ground upon which they walk; the only constant in a world devolving into impermanence. No one ever expected this hope to come in the form of a man and, if they did, no one expected that man to die.
(This story is so complex it takes four separate versions to express it. You heard John’s more elaborate version. Now hear Matthew’s comparatively economical one.)

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and set on it.

It’s a wonderful, outrageous story. For many, this hope looks like an absurd and completely indefensible proposition. It’s a cheap assurance based on a dodgy story sprinkled with fairy dust. For the unbelievers, the Resurrection is a calculated lie, gobbled up by gullible people who are too weak of mind and too soft of heart to even know they’re being conned.

(“The Angel’s) appearance was like lightning and his clothing as white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.”

We should be more kind to the unbelievers… because we are skeptics, too.
Angels like lightning rolling back stones?
Men rising from the dead?

Who couldn’t help but be skeptical? We who inhabit the 21st century trust what can be reasonably supported. Can you see it, taste it, touch it, smell it, or hear it? Then it has the possibility of being real. We’re men and women of a scientific age; things must be verified and we don’t really have much capacity for the parts of reality which can’t be empirically proven.

“But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.”

Still, this irrational hope has a way of getting to us. It burrows under and crawls over our best defenses. It continues to penetrate even the most skeptical of us, this hope.
We just can’t seem to completely dismiss the “what if?”
What if it’s true? What if it’s for real?

Maybe you remember a day when you were in the midst of an intense argument and you heard, over your own voice, the faint whisper of a voice calling you to take a step back. And though you later denied it to yourself, and tried to explain it away, somehow deep within you, you knew it was something; an important something; maybe even THE Something, over which you possessed no control.

This hope haunts us because once on a clear day in the city when you were young, you remember following an urge/a hunch/a whispered voice, beckoning you to go this way instead of that way… and now you see, as you look back over your life, that you are completely changed as a result of that single, hope-infused moment.

Maybe you’ve seen the sun rising over an ocean, or you’ve come across a snow-capped mountain turned a dazzling gold by the setting sun, and you felt an inexplicable urge to give thanks to something; to Someone.

When your infant child is finally delivered safely or when you have, by the very narrowest of margins, avoided complete catastrophe, you know, even though you cannot explain it…you know there’s a reality more enduring than time and greater than death.

Christians believe what you see is not all that you get.
This present world is not all there is… nor all that there will be.
Christians believe this deeply and against all odds.

“Come see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him. This is my message to you.”

You and I live in a hope-less age! Literally, we live in a time when we have less hope than we once had. Do you doubt it?
Name the category and fill in your answer.

Are we more hopeful ecologically or environmentally?
Do we think the earth is becoming a cleaner, more fertile, more prolific place? Do we believe we will soon stop the global warming which puts future generations at risk while we trade convenience now for a sustainable future later?

Are we more hopeful economically?
It is nearly undisputed that our children will not have the economic opportunities enjoyed by our generation, or the generation which preceded us. Do the markets feel more certain and your investments more secure?

Are we more hopeful politically?
Do we feel the extremists on either end of the political spectrum will soon find a reason to come together for the nation’s good somewhere closer to the middle?
Do we believe the highest ideals of our democracy will be lifted above the money offered by billionaires flooding political contribution boxes with their wealth and their agendas?

Do we feel safer knowing a whole subculture of people has emerged in our country who prepare for the apocalypse in its varying forms by stockpiling guns, ammunition, and other supplies?

Spiritually, is our nation becoming more religious, more moral, or more faithful?
I know…I know… its Easter and you came to hear the Good News. But before you can receive this Great news which we call Good, I need you to understand the context… what German biblical scholars wonderfully call the, sitz im leben; the “setting in life” into which we are introducing the greatest story ever told.

We bring this Resurrection story before the skeptical.
We are unveiling it before the unbelieving.
We are bringing it into a world which mocks the naiveté of those of us who cling to it like it’s the last lifeline left to save us.

“So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to tell the disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings. And they came and took hold of him and worshipped him.”

Of course, there are many more ways to die than to die physically. It is a kind of death when you lay down a dream and can no longer continue to believe in it. It is a kind of death when you lose a foundational relationship.
And so the idea of the Resurrection is perhaps not so strange after all. We see various forms of deaths and resurrections every single day; everywhere we go.

• The shattered relationship out of which a new and good and kind relationship is born;
• The lost job which becomes the opportunity for a discovered self;
• The injury which, instead of dis-abling, more accurately alternatively-ables, giving a gravely injured person skills he never knew he could possess;
• The illness which awakens the patient to the miracle that is her life; the illness that won’t allow her to take one single, beautiful, solitary moment of her precious life for granted.
• The terrorist bombing which draws an entire city together, making it stronger; the monstrous deed… which ends up highlighting the very best impulses of our humanity;
• The hate-filled shooting which brings an entire community together from every faith tradition to proclaim their God is stronger than evil and their love for one another is stronger than hate.

Peter Gomes, of blessed memory, that great preacher of Harvard University, wrote,
“When I talk to some of my psychiatrist friends and some of my psychologist friends and some of my medical and clerical friends, and even with the few legal friends that I have, and we get down to cases, we discover that the basic fundamental thing that appears to hold our professional lives together and define all our relationships with our clients and our parishioners and our colleagues is not sin, which you might expect me to say, but fear.
Everybody is fearful, terrified of some public or private demon, some terrible unnamed fear that gnaws away even in the midst of our joy, some cloud that hangs over our head or in the recesses of our spirit. It is fear that not only holds us together but keeps us from being whole………Every one of us is a hostage to fear. ”

Fear that we’ll fail. Fear that we’re not good enough. Fear that we’ll be humiliated. Fear that we’ll make a mistake. Fear that we may have already made the wrong decision. Fear that we will not have enough. Fear that our time is running short.

“Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid.” This calming instruction appears twice in Matthew’s account of the Resurrection. These are the empowering, revelatory, hope-filled words of the Easter story.
“Freedom from fear is the achievement of the resurrection- not freedom from death, but freedom from fear. ”

Because death may not actually be the thing we fear the most.
We fear the fear of death. And in overcoming that fear, along with all the other fears which immobilize us, I believe we achieve Everlasting Life.

It was only last Sunday, Palm Sunday; the eve of Passover, when a hate-filled man shot and killed a grandfather and his grandson at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park… and then killed another woman at the Village Shalom assisted living facility. At a service of remembrance held that night at Saint Thomas Episcopal Church, the gathered congregation was surprised to discover Mindy Corporon, the mother of the boy who was killed and the daughter of the man who was killed, was attending the service.

And I was even more surprised to learn that she wished to speak.
Now you must remember that only seven hours earlier she had been grieving over the bodies of her murdered father and her 14 year old son.

What would she say to us? What could she say?

First, she very calmly thanked the congregation for coming and “explained the random events that caused her father to be the one taking her son to the audition at the Community Center that day, while the rest of the family were juggling sports and other activities. She finally summarizing it by saying,

“We were in life; we were having life.”

And then she went on to say the most hope-full thing.

“And I want you all to know we’re going to have more life, and I want you all to have more life. ”

Now this, this is a woman who understands the hope of the Resurrection with every fiber of her being!
This is a woman who knows there’s something beyond this mortal life.
This is a w woman whose courage is a living witness to the power of love over fear.

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee where they will see me.

Out of the coldest, darkest, most unyielding night, came a morning unlike any other; filled with the brilliant radiance of hope.

There is a hope. Out of the wreckage of life…
out of the obscenity of death and tragedies unnumbered; out of the carnage and the catastrophes and all the chaos of this world…
there is a brilliant hope….

…and it goes out to meet us…. in Galilee… or in Overland Park or in Topeka…or wherever in the world Christ sends us to find Him; to find this hope….this pure hope….this absolute hope which cast out all fear.

Sermons; Biblical Wisdom for Daily Lives, by The Reverend Peter J. Gomes, 1998, William Morrow & Company, New York, New York, page 77

Ibid, page 77

Time Magazine Internet Article, By Fr. Benedict Varnum and Fr. Gar Demo, April 14, 2014.

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