An Easter Sermon – Love Always Wins

 The promise of Easter is that when we are reborn into trust, we will cast out the demons of our age, we will speak new languages of compassion and justice, we will approach the fear and illness of our time with love and be unharmed by them.  What we touch with our hearts and our spirits will heal and find new life.  This is the promise of Easter. 

Easter Prayer by Ruth Gibson http://www.uua.org/worship/words/meditations/5636.shtml

Scripture:  The Gospel of Mark 16 NRSV

Sermon

Both today’s prayer and the scripture that we offered are about those who see and those who do not.  They are about how we react to truths that we are afraid to see.  Sometimes it is easier and more comforting to stay broken than it is to heal.  Sometimes it is easier to accept what is rather than hope for what could be.

In the short version of Mark’s resurrection story, the women come to Jesus’ tomb with spices to anoint his body.  In the ancient Jewish tradition you bathed the body in spices to prepare the spirit of the person to leave that body and go to the next part of their journey.  If the body was not properly prepared, the spirit would remain chained to it and that person would never be free.  I tend to think that most burial rituals while in practice are for the one who has died, they are much more for those who are still living.  When you care for the body of a loved one, it makes it very real that they are gone, but it also allows you to show your love for them when you are fresh in grief.  These rituals help us to unchain ourselves so that we can begin to learn how to live without the physical presence of the person who has died.

When the women came to the tomb, they came because they loved Jesus and grieved his death.  He had given them new life and then had been ripped from them in the cruelest way.  They were grieving not only his death but also their loss of the life they had as his followers.

I tend to think that the women ran in fear from the empty tomb not simply because they saw an angel, but because it was so spiritually dangerous to even consider that Jesus might be alive.  They had seen him on the cross, they saw his suffering, and they saw him die.  They had felt his spirit leave them.  How could what the angel said be true?  So they ran in fear and said nothing.  They were chained to their grief and their despair.  And who could blame them?  Who among us has not had moments when we were chained to grief and despair?

But Jesus didn’t make it easy for them to stay silent.  The next day, he appeared to Mary Magdalene, who is said to have been his favorite disciple, possibly his wife.  Surely she would see him.  She did and ran to tell the other disciples who did not believe her.  They remained chained to their despair.  The next day he appeared to two male disciples, who saw him, but were also not believed by the others, who remained chained to their despair.

Finally, Jesus appeared to all the disciples at once and basically read them the riot act, which I translate to be, “Heh, what’s up?  Haven’t I taught you anything?   If you are going to follow me, you have to trust each other.  Why should you have to see me to believe that I am alive?  Why didn’t you trust those to whom I showed myself?  Don’t you value Mary, don’t you value the others?  Aren’t they worth your trust?  You will not be able to carry my message of love to the world if you can’t work together.  When you trust each other, there is nothing you can’t do.  You’ll be able to face the greatest dangers, you will heal the sick and bring comfort and new life wherever you are, IF you trust each other.  Then you will be saved and find eternal life.”

This is how I read the resurrection story of the Gospel of Mark.  The Resurrection was not simply about one man coming back from the dead.  The resurrection was about his followers coming back from despair to hope through trust.  The resurrection was not complete until they learned to trust each other and believe in each other.

What this says to me is that the resurrection is about the fate about the whole of humanity.  The Resurrection will not be complete until we learn to trust each other.  Every sin, no matter how small or large, happens because of distrust.  All the suffering and injustice, the senseless losses, the wars, the violations of human rights, all stem at their root from distrust.  When we believe in each other, we will be freed into hope and new life.

This was a monumental week for this country.  Two cases about the constitutionality of equal marriage finally had their day in the U.S. Supreme Court.  America is being asked to take a whole group of people off the cross.   America is being asked to unseal the tomb of discrimination and to proclaim that it is empty.

It was a wonderful week and it was also a very difficult week.  What was wonderful was the sea of support.  Facebook went red!  Politicians were falling over each other to express their support for marriage equality.  Pictures of same sex couples were all over the net and marriage equality dominated the airwaves.  That’s what made it wonderful.  We got our day in court surrounded by love and support!

What made it difficult was to see so many others who have still chosen not to believe and not to trust.  It became clear that distrust still has considerable power, even as it grows weaker.  The mere existence of Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act are about not trusting a people so much that you would use legal means to prevent their equality.  Those who argued against equal marriage this week brought out the standard arguments that we all know so well.  While I understand the legal right to have each side express its truth, for me, hearing the case against equal marriage, the case against my marriage, was like a nail in the hand, every time.  The cross hasn’t come down yet, and the tomb is still sealed and there are many fighting to keep it sealed.

What I found in myself is that I still have not come to trust the change in public opinion.  The wound of being used as a wedge issue for years has not yet healed,  and through the week I started to protect myself by pulling back.   I started spending less time on facebook, less time reading the newspaper, less time listening to the pundits with their endless predictions.  It felt spiritually dangerous to trust.  I wondered, am I really standing in an empty tomb with an angel telling me Jesus has risen, or am I being dangerously fooled?  It was so easy to protect myself by falling back into the comfort of distrust, the comfort of not hoping.

What these cases are really about is trust.  Are we going to trust people when they say, “This is who I am.  This is how I love.”  Are we going to allow the law to trust the people it is supposed to serve?  I keep thinking about Jesus standing before his disciples, and to use the words of the writer of Mark, “and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.”  Jesus hoped that his disciples would trust each other, that when Mary Magdalene came to them, they would believe her and rejoice as she did.  Sexual minorities and their allies are asking the American people to trust them, to trust their stories, and to be willing to be changed by them.    It’s time to anoint the body of discrimination with spices so that we can be unchained from that body and find new life.

For those of us who are fighting these battles, allies and sexual minorities, it’s important to understand that we must above all not give up hope, not fall prey to the 24 hour news cycle, and not allow our identities to be defined by what 9 justices may or may not decide.   How they rule on prop 8 and DOMA may be very important, but it is not the law that rolls back the stone.  It is our hearts and our spirits and our willingness to keep trusting and keep hoping, for the ways of the spirit are sometimes not visible to the human eye.

Easter is about unchaining ourselves from what is dead so that new life can come, so that the tombs in our hearts can be opened and emptied, so that we can be the servants of the spirit of life and rise into our highest selves.

When Jesus stood before his disciples and showed himself to them, he said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.  And these signs will accompany those who believe: … they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick and they will recover.”

The promise of Easter is that when we are reborn into trust, we will cast out the demons of our age, we will speak new languages of compassion and justice, we will approach the fear and illness of our time with love and be unharmed by them.  What we touch with our hearts and our spirits will heal and find new life.  This is the promise of Easter.

May the spirit be with you and yours.  Amen

N.B. – These sermons are made available with a request: that the reader appreciate that, ideally, a sermon is an oral/aural experience that takes place in the context of worship – supported and reinforced by readings, contemplative music, rousing hymns, silence, and prayer – and that it is but one part of an extended conversation that occurs over time between a minister and a covenanted congregation.  This sermon may be freely shared and reproduced, provided that credit is given to the author.  

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About kristataves

I am a Unitarian Universalist minister serving the Unitarian Church of Quincy IL. St. Louis is my residence. I am a dual American and Canadian citizen living in the great state of Missouri and building my life in this wonderful and sometimes very frustrating state.
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