April 3, 2018
“Love one another as I have loved you” ~ Easter Sermon
Our gospel reading this morning is John’s account of Easter morning.
Mary Magdalene visits the tomb of Jesus alone and finds his body gone.
After alerting the disciples, she revisits the tomb and has an intimate encounter with the risen Christ.
Do not let the familiarity of this story preclude you for hearing it with wonder and awe at the amazing things that God can do.
Listen deeply for how the resurrection story might be speaking to your life today.
Hear now a reading from the Book of John 20:1-18.
Here ends the reading of God’s holy word. May God add to our hearing and understanding, God’s blessing. Amen.
Please pray with me.
We exult in your love, O God of the living, for you made the tomb of death the womb from which you brought forth your Son, the first-born of a new creation, and you anointed the universe with the fragrant Spirit of his resurrection.
Make us a joyful witness to this good news that all humanity may one day gather at the feast of new life in the kingdom where you reign forever and ever.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
Easter blessings to you.
I am so glad to share this holy day with you.
I hope that the Easter story will move you to seek resurrection in your own lives.
I think we are all in need of a bit of resurrection.
Each one of us has something that perhaps we ought to let die, just as each one of us has a seed of growth waiting to be nurtured.
We are living in tumultuous times and Easter is as good a day as any to take stock.
When you examine your own life, the life of your community and the state of the world are you happy?
Is everything as you want it to be?
Happiness has become a new science, studied, dissected, theorized.
It seems we all want to be happy and Amazon offers over 100,000 books to help us achieve this illusive goal.
Most of the titles include the word ‘happiness’ along with either ‘how to’ or ‘making the choice for.’
Authors range from philosophers and theologians to stressed out moms.
The dictionary definition of happiness is simply ‘the state of being happy’ which is described as ‘being delighted, pleased, or glad over a particular thing.’
The Happiness Project offers a Toolbox of pithy sayings representing the contemporary elements of a happy life:
- “To be happy, you need to consider feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
- One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy and one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
- The days are long, but the years are short.
- You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy.
- Your body matters.
- Happiness is other people.
- Think about yourself so you can forget yourself.
- What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you, and vice versa.
- Best is good, better is best.
- Outer order contributes to inner calm.
- Happiness comes not from having more, not from having less, but from wanting what you have.
- You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.”
At first glance this list along with the plethora of guides seem to be a product of our self-centered society, but then we remember that the pursuit of happiness was included in our Constitution as an ‘unalienable right granted by our Creator.’
Almost three hundred years ago our founders were searching for the happiness recipe.
When we look back even further, to scripture, we find our ancestor’s instructions for happiness:
In Deuteronomy 33:29 Moses tells his followers: Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help and the sword of your triumph!
Happiness, according to Moses, comes from knowing we are a people chosen and protected by God.
The psalms and proverbs are replete with suggestions for attaining happiness:
Psalm 128: Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways. You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy and it shall go well with you.”
Happiness for the psalmist is tied to loving and trusting God and being content with what you produce.
In Proverbs 3 Wisdom is defined as the route to happiness:
Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding; for her income is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold…She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy.
Jesus labeled as happy those who knew and understood that no one is better than another.
After washing his disciples feet he said: “Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things happy are you if you do them.”
So if we have all of these tenets for achieving our unalienable right of happiness…why aren’t we living in a state of bliss?
Writing early in the 20th century Italian theologian Carlo Carretto opined:
“We are not happy because we are unforgiving, and we are unforgiving because we feel superior to others.
Mercy is the fruit of the highest degree of love, because love creates equals, and a greater love makes us inferior.”
He suggested three premises:
- Those who do not love feel superior to everyone else.
- Those who love feel equal to everyone else.
- Those who love much gladly take the lower place.
Carretto believed that each one of us could place ourselves somewhere on this continuum with three specific outcomes:
- Death for those who do not love.
- Life for those who love.
- Holiness for those who love much.
Jesus had the courage and confidence to place this lofty ideal before us.
He himself lived out this beatitude of mercy stooping, out of love, to the lowest place, even to the extent of being rejected as a common criminal nailed to a cross.
Today, we celebrate Easter because we know that Jesus – amazing Jesus, overcame all death and destruction with his love.
It is Jesus’ profound love for us that led him to the cross and God’s deep, abiding love for Jesus that raised him from the tomb.
The lesson of today’s story is that God has all the power!
The seeds of our happiness are rooted in that one belief.
God is the one with the power.
It seems to me that we are given clear choices about whether or not we want to be happy.
Where do you want to fall on the continuum of love?
What are you willing to give up to allow yourself to serve others?
What or whom do you need to forgive in order to move forward into the kingdom as God envisioned it?
God created us – each and every living creature – with the capacity for happiness, for joy, for laughter, for compassion.
Created in the image of God and delivered with specific instructions!
God wants us to be happy.
Jesus’ final prayer for his disciples was that they ‘love one another as I have loved you.’
We can do this.
Make a commitment today to tend to those seeds of love that are planted in your soul.
Promise yourself that you will nurture them through acts of kindness.
Choose to forgive someone.
Practice smiling, laughing and expressing joy whenever you can.
We have the power to change the cultural moment we are in.
We are an Easter people…the ones who believe in new beginnings, transformation, healing, and divine grace.
The Resurrection is not a myth or a metaphor.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s love made visible which should leave us awestruck!
Let us pray.
O holy God of miracles we bow in awe before you.
Through Christ’s resurrection we have been witness to your amazing grace, generous forgiveness, limitless power and passionate love for us.
We pray that our faith will be enriched and energized daily by prayerful contact with the risen Christ.
Guide us toward resurrection living.
Grant us visions of new opportunities and appreciation of past gifts.
Remind us that an empty tomb is the sign of new life.
Help us to be a force for good in the world, bringing your message of love and compassion to all we meet.
Hear our prayers this day for those whom we love.
For those who are sick, we pray for healing.
For those who mourn, we pray for comfort.
For those who struggle with addiction, loneliness, anxiety and fear, we pray that your holy spirit might find them.
We pray for our leaders that their hearts be warmed by your love.
We pray for peace in our hearts, in our homes and in your world.
O God, on this Easter morning, we pray for the grace to live as Christians.
Hear now our silent prayer as we turn our hearts to you….Amen.