Sunday, April 25, 2010

Easter 4C - The Father and I Are One

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, April 25, 2010

When I was doing the Episcopal chaplaincy at Washington University, two of my best friends were Father Gary Braun at the Catholic Student Center and Rabbi Hyim Shafner, at Hillel. We had this natural chemistry and friendship that continues today … and I think two things were at the heart of it.

First, all three of us love to laugh and joke around. It didn’t hurt that they are truly two of the funniest people I’ve ever met … I’m talking Cricket Cooper funny for those of you who have been around here awhile. But the other thing was that even though we came from different traditions – Hyim an Orthodox Jew, Gary a devout Roman Catholic and me just as firmly an Episcopalian -- we saw that as a strength and even a great source of joy and richness in our relationship, not anything we ever had to tiptoe around or shy away from.

One day as the three of us were hanging out in Holmes Lounge, Hyim turned to us and said, “I had this idea … Have you ever seen the MTV show, ‘Loveline’?” We both said, yeah … It was a popular call in show where a comedian and a therapist answered audience questions about relationships, love and sex.

“We should do that,” Hyim said. “We should do that show.”

Gary and I thought for a second and then we started smiling, because we knew Hyim was onto something. A live audience and call-in show on Wash U. TV where students could ask questions about relationships love and sex to a Rabbi, a Catholic priest and an Episcopal priest. What a great way to engage students right where they live. And when inspiration struck that we could call the show “Missionary Positions,” we knew we had a winner. And it was.

Missionary Positions became the most popular show on WUTV. The Riverfront Times and even Scott Simon from NPR’s Weekend Edition did stories on us. And while it was fun to focus on the convergence of clergy and sex, we quickly realized the real text of the show and of the students’ questions … was a search for meaning. And the show’s real strength wasn’t that we had a great chemistry poking fun at each other and throwing around the odd double entendre … but that each of us never shied away from really representing … we never did anything else but just be who we really were and say what we really believed. Hyim would give answers from the best and richest parts of the Jewish tradition. Gary would paint pictures of Roman Catholic theology that showed me a beauty to that form of Christianity I had never seen. And I felt free to just be myself, mining the depths of our rich Anglican tradition of an expansive reading of scripture and a belief in the continuing revelation of God and Christ not only in history but in the world today.

What I found was that Gary being the best Roman Catholic he could be and Hyim being the best Orthodox Jew he could be helped me be the best Episcopalian Christian I could be. And I think I helped them, too. That’s how our relationship has always been.

The deepest moment of this truth came actually a year or so before the show even happened. Hyim had been riding in a car with a friend of his and had been hit by a delivery truck. The friend was killed instantly and Hyim was in intensive care at Barnes. Hyim’s wife, Sarah, asked me if on Saturday I could visit Hyim in the ICU then come by their house and leave a note detailing how he was doing on their door. Remember, Hyim and his family were orthodox Jews, on the Sabbath not only could they not drive to the hospital but they needed to be at synagogue.

So Saturday morning I got up, visited Hyim in ICU, prayed by his bedside – he was still sedated – talked with the nurses and then drove to their house and left a letter on their door. And I realized as I was driving away that something amazing had happened. My Christianity was helping them be faithful Jews. And their faithful Judaism was inspiring me and giving me the opportunity to be a faithful Christian.

This morning, Jesus says something bold and astounding: “The Father and I are one.”

When we read this story, when Jesus says this is as important as what he says. John puts this story at the festival of the Dedication of the second temple. But by the time John was written, the temple had been destroyed, and the Jews were in crisis. The Temple was God’s house on earth, where God lived. And so reminding people of the Festival of the Dedication was not only painful, it begged the question that was eating away at their heart: Where is God now that the Temple has been destroyed?

And it is to that question that Jesus’ words are addressed. “The Father and I are one.” Where does God live right now? God lives right here, in me, in Jesus. And as a post-resurrection community that meant that God lives right here, in us, in the community of the beloved, in what Paul would call the Body of Christ.

Bob Lipscomb dashed me off an email this week in reply to my “Gnaw on This” thoughts on this Gospel. He said simply, “This lesson is heavy and extremely important and powerful stuff. Upon this MUCH has been built.”

And all I can say, is AMEN, preach it Bob.

We make an incredible claim as Christians. We make it in our creeds. We make it in our baptism when we promise to follow Jesus Christ as our Lord and put our whole trust in his grace and love. We say that we believe that God became human in Jesus. That we believe that God’s Spirit, every bit as much God as the Father and the Son, infuses our lives and our community. We say that we believe that God in Christ gathers us at this table and sends us out into the world to love one another and all creation with the same self-giving love with which God loves us. We say with Paul that all things are possible through that love, through Christ who strengthens us.

I and the Father are one. Upon this MUCH has been built. As the church, this is our reason for being. And so it should be.

But it’s not that simple. Because our history isn’t that simple. The Church became not just the Body of Christ but the power of the Empire. The Gospel instead of being offered in the spirit of the servant Christ too often was cloaked in triumphalism and imposed by force. I have been to Cape Coast Castle in Ghana and seen the chapel that was built on top of the slave dungeon. A chapel into where the ancestors of me and many members this congregation marched the ancestors of others in this congregation for baptism before cramming them below deck on ships for a horrifying journey to a horrifying life of slavery.

But for those of us who, like me, are embarrassed of that piece of our history and others like it. For those of us who believe the Gospel must be offered but not imposed. For those of us who believe that other faiths have wisdom to offer, too, something has happened. And it’s killing us as the Christian Church.

In our deep desire not to repeat the mistakes of the past. In our even deeper desire not to be identified with people who would do the same today or who have such narrow view of the Gospel that we scarcely recognize it as Christ, we too often forget the promises we made at Baptism and the strength of the words we say in this creed every Sunday. We too often become, if not outright apologetic about our faith, certainly unwilling to state it strongly and passionately. To say anywhere but in this space once a week: “I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.”

And our failure is double. First off, in refusing to offer the Gospel in any compelling way out of fear of offending, or having someone mistake us for Pat Robertson, we are denying something that truly is lifesaving from a world that desperately needs it and in fact by our lukewarmness actively repelling people from it.

In a world where more youth know X Men and Wolverine than the stories of our faith. In a world where people invest in timeshares in Bimini while more than a billion people live on less than $1 a day, don’t you think the Gospel has something to say? When Larry Rice, using the mantel of the church as authority sends homeless men and women into a dangerous train tunnel to force a confrontation with the city and chooses to spend his energy defending their right to be homeless instead of supporting efforts to actually find them homes … don’t you think the Gospel has something to say?

But until we actually stand up and say it, we will continue to be a country where people are 10 times more likely to look to Oprah Winfrey for spiritual guidance than the Episcopal Church.

But it’s more than that, because the other failure is one of deep irony. Because when we live our faith out loud, when we proclaim Christ and the love he has for us and the love he wishes to love through us to the world. When we do that as a loving offering, as servant ministers and as leaders by example as well as word, we find that we don’t trample on others’ faiths. We find what I learned from Gary and Hyim … that when we live our faith with strength and love and with an openness to others, we invite them to live their faith just as strongly, just as lovingly and with just as much openness to learn. That the best way to help someone be a strong Jew or a strong Muslim or a strong Hindu is for each of us to be a strong Christian. To represent our faith in the world. To challenge one another and also be open to learn from one another. Forging relationships of friendship and love that are strong enough to handle the inevitable conflict … but never, never, never to shrink back and be less than who we are for fear of offending each other just as we should never expect a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu to be anything less than who they are for fear of offending us.

Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” It was a bold statement. A controversial statement. And on it much has been built and much has been done. Simply put, it means God is here. And that is good news. News worthy of being shared. News of a God who never worried about offending but was only concerned with speaking the truth and loving. News of a God who calls us to do the same. AMEN.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Easter 3C: "Feed my sheep, tend my sheep. Follow me."

Preached by the Rev. Canon John Kilgore at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, April 18, 2010

After this he said to them, “Follow me.”

This reading from the gospel of John is one of several post resurrection appearances. During Holy Week we walk through Jesus’ betrayal and passion. On Easter we hear the stories of the Resurrection. And in the Sundays of the Easter season the gospel readings recount the post Resurrection appearances. You know the stories: Jesus appearing at the tomb to the two Mary’s; Jesus suddenly appearing and standing in the room where the disciples are locked for fear of the Jews; the appearance to doubting Thomas; and the road to Emmaus when their eyes are opened in the breaking of the bread.

But this is an interesting vignette today. If you think about it, the disciples have gone back to their old way of life. After three years of living and walking with Jesus they have gone back to fishing. I wonder what Zebedee, the father of James and John who left their father tending his nets when Jesus called them thought… He may well have thought, look at those crazy irresponsible kids who ran off and left me. And now here they are back to work fishing. They want their jobs back?

So anyway several of the disciples are gathered together by the Sea of Tiberius and Simon Peter says, ‘I am going fishing.’ They go fishing and seem to have lost their touch. They caught nothing all night. They are out of practice. Jesus shows up on the beach and tells them where to catch fish, then builds a charcoal fire and feeds them breakfast. Now if you think about it, if Jesus were more influenced by his humanity than his divinity at this time, he could have been pretty ticked at these guys. They were the ones who did not stand by him, scattered when his trials came, and Peter had denied him three times. If any of us had been through such an ordeal – betrayed, denied, arrested, tortured, executed, and resurrected – would our first task be to make breakfast for those who abandoned us? Or to help them return to their old way of life, fishing? But Jesus was gentle. And the disciples hadn’t figured out the idea of the Resurrection yet. How could they? They had just seen Him crucified. They were in the midst of living the story; it was still unfolding.

In his book Resurrection, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury writes ‘One of the strangest features of the resurrection narratives is precisely this theme of the otherness, the unrecognizability of the risen Jesus…Whatever the experiences of the disciples at Easter were, it is hard to deny that this element must have played a part – that for some at least, the encounter with the risen Jesus began as an encounter with a stranger.’ A curious way to make a point. But out faith is not always so logical, not always two plus three equals five. It is not formulaic. It is interesting that when Jesus appears to Saul on the road to Damascus, or to Ananias in Damascus, or to doubting Thomas he is recognizable. But his appearances to his close friends, the Mary’s, and the disciples are characterized by His being unfamiliar, a stranger at first. When Jesus appears in your life, is He recognizable? Or is He a stranger?

What is Jesus to our lives? And what difference does it make? Perhaps it is illustrative to look at today’s gospel story again. An interesting thing happens in this story. After the disciples miraculously figure out that it is Jesus, they don’t have a reunion and check on how each other is doing. Instead Jesus questions them and then essentially commissions them, especially Peter. Commissions them to ‘tend sheep.’ Jesus asks Peter, ‘Do you love me?’ Three times. Most scholars believe that this threefold questioning of Peter is Jesus’ effort to redeem or rehabilitate Peter, to forgive him for his threefold denial of Jesus when the cock crowed. Henri Nouwen, that great theologian says that this is the most important question of the Bible. Do you love me? Three times. Do you love me? Do you truly love me? The most important question in the Bible.

And that is the same question for us here today, two thousand years later. Jesus asks, ‘Do you love me?’ We have been through Holy Week, relived the Passion, seen the glory of Easter, and reveled in the message of the Resurrection, the risen Lord. We have the benefit of the story having developed for two thousand years. We are not in the midst of living it out, figuring it out as it unfolds. Perhaps it is easier for us than for the disciples. But what difference has it made?

In his post Resurrection appearances Jesus calls to action; he turns Thomas’ doubt to faith and he moves Peter from faith to action. He sends Paul on a mission. And his message is simple. Follow me. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep. Follow me.

Interestingly Jesus doesn’t ask them, or anyone to be a leader. He calls them to follow. And to tend the sheep. A shepherd doesn’t lead the sheep. A shepherd tends the sheep. There are lots of leaders here. We esteem leadership, give it a high value in our society. Do we have it right? There is the story of a young woman applying to college. As she is filling out the application blank there is a question, ‘Are you a leader?’ She becomes very anxious, and while she fears it will doom her chances of admission she must answer honestly ‘No,’ she is not a leader. To her surprise she received a letter from the college: "Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower."

Jesus doesn’t ask us to be leaders, he asks us to be servants, to follow. To follow the way He did. Jesus led by serving. Another example of those paradoxes inherent in the Christian faith. He came not as a king but in a lowly manger. His Resurrection was a function of Crucifixion. He led as a servant. Didn’t he wash feet?

There is another story told: During the American Revolution a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers repairing a small defensive barrier. Their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help them. Asked why by the rider, he retorted with great dignity, "Sir, I am a corporal!" The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers. The job done, he turned to the corporal and said, "Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again." The person who got off his horse and helped the men was George Washington.

Follow me. Tend my sheep. What does that mean for us? We, so many of us, who like to be leaders, or think we should be leaders, what does that mean for us? It means hospitality and generosity and giving and kind words. It means being good stewards of the environment. Turning the other cheek, dealing gently with one another. Serving breakfast. It may mean phone calls to those having a rough patch in their life; driving someone to the doctor; taking communion to those at home; sitting with shut-ins; being gentle with the person who slows you down when you are in a hurry. It means respecting the dignity of every human being black white straight gay Democrat Republican liberal conservative. Respecting the dignity of every human being. Our lives are our testimony. Braziliam Bishop Don Helder said, ‘Watch how you live. Your lives may be the only gospel your hearers will ever read.’

Do you love me? Jesus asks. If you do, follow me. Tend my sheep. The Provost has chapter members reading a book on servant leadership. A bit paradoxical that term? Servant leadership. But that really is what Jesus calls us to. Servant leadership. One of the points of the book is that a truly effective leader is always servant first. There is a quote in that book that says, ‘We have seen what Jesus was like. If we wish now to treat him as our God, we would have to conclude that our God does not want to be served by us, he wants us to serve.’

C.S. Lewis sums it up well for us. In his essay The Weight of Glory he writes, ‘Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is Monday morning. A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to follow our great Captain inside. The following Him is, of course, the essential point…It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him or her to think too often or too deeply about that of his or her neighbor. The load, or weight, of burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken….There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal…Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.’

Jesus is really pretty simple in His call, in His instructions: Feed my sheep, tend my sheep. Follow me.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Second Sunday of Easter

Preached by the Rev. John Good at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, April 11, 2010

While the disciples were huddled together behind locked doors in that house in Jerusalem, scared that the enemies of Jesus would find them, another gathering was taking place across town in the palatial residence of Annas and Caiaphus. The high priest had invited the members of Israel’s governing and economic elite to celebrate the third night of Passover by reveling in their victory over the Galilean mystic and his peasant band who had threatened to disrupt the peace of the capital city. A number of the Roman officials, to whom the Jewish elite owed their power, joined them to celebrate the execution of the rabbi who taught a subversive way of life against the one they were living.

Among the good things they were celebrating was the unified submission of the Jewish people to their authority. Hadn’t Caiaphus predicted that the death of one man would save the nation? He knew the untold secret that communities can become united and obedient when the elite can find someone to demonize and victimize. All they had to do was characterize Jesus’ ministry as a threat to their national and religious security to convince the crowds gathered for Passover that he was dangerous. Then it was a simple matter of getting the Roman governor to go along, and they had their victim to unify a mob against him and for them. Making people afraid of so called demons worked to benefit the elite then, and it still works today.

They justified the crucifixion of Jesus by convincing themselves that they were doing God’s will. Like all ancient peoples who believed the gods favored victors rather than victims, the Israeli elite believed their God smiled on them for defeating the Galilean menace. Ever since a Sumerian creation myth identified the origin of civilization with the use of violence to redeem the world from the primal forces of evil, ancient societies believed the victors in any struggle had overcome the evil that threatened their existence. Their victories made them the darlings of the gods. And it did not matter whether or not their victim was actually an evil threat. The victim’s defeat was proof enough that he was a bad guy. No wonder Caiaphus and his cronies thought they had accomplished something good for God by executing Jesus, the evil menace to their social order.

In fact, all succeeding establishments to the Jewish elite have actually underestimated the threat Jesus was and is. His sudden appearance in that room of frightened men was an even bigger challenge to the standard political, economic, and social order than his ministry had been. The disciples who witnessed his appearing could see that Jesus was not just back from the dead; he had been raised to a new glorified life. He had not just cheated death, he had overcome the power of death. Jesus was the first to reveal that death was not more powerful than God, that death would no longer have ultimate control over human lives.

First century Jewish and Roman culture did not completely understand or appreciate the implications of Jesus’ resurrection for their domination systems that used violence to save their societies from evil. But as the years have gone by since that first Easter, we have come to appreciate more and more what God accomplished by that single act of raising Jesus to a new, immortal, and glorified existence.

In the first place, for those who put their trust in Jesus’s resurrection, God has neutralized the chief weapon of domination systems. Systems that depend upon violence to preserve the social order depend upon death being the ultimate threat to those people who would oppose them. Again and again Christians have stood up to such threats because they know death does not have the final say. From the earliest Christian martyrs who began the transformation of the Roman empire, to the Christian inspired nonviolent resistance to racism that changed this country, to the Christian underground in eastern Europe that toppled the Soviet Union’s hegemony, to the Christian witness that ended Apartheid in South Africa, the faithful have transformed the way the world’s nations are governed.

Second, God has revealed his preference for the victim rather than the victor. As much as Caiaphus and the others were congratulating themselves on having done something for God, God did not visit them that night. He came, in the person of the risen Christ, to the victims of official violence—the disciples who felt they were under attack by the authorities. In fact, as so many of the Psalms and stories of the Hebrew Scriptures testify, God has been on the side of the victim since he took Abel's side against Cain. He still is on the victim’s side, as that is revealed by Christian churches who minister to and advocate for the poor and powerless.

Third, rather than redeem the world through violence that roots out evil, God revealed that night in Jerusalem that he will redeem the world with forgiveness. Jesus commissioned his disciples to reconcile all human beings to God by forgiving them for the evil they have done. Forgiveness is still a powerful weapon against those who perpetrate evil. They are completely disarmed when they are forgiven because there is no retaliation against forgiveness. Whenever we see a report in the newspaper or on television of someone forgiving a person who has done violence to them or their family, we see how God’s mercy over comes the power of evil..

I do not have time to explore the many other consequences of Jesus’ resurrection. The three I have given are enough to indicate that God has undermined the domination systems that Caiaphus and his ilk have believed were necessary to save the world from evil. The pity of it is that so many people living today are so scared of the evils they perceive that they still look to political powers that depend on violence to save them.

We have come here, today, to affirm an alternative to violence. Jesus is standing in our midst once again to give us his Spirit and urge us to go into the world proclaiming that his resurrection has made God’s kingdom available to everyone. In God’s kingdom death no longer has the final say, God’s love protects the victims of oppressors and exploiters, and forgiveness overcomes evil. People who trust God and want to live in his kingdom can help transform the domination systems of our world. Let us remember that we are the people who trust God.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday - "Looking for the Living Among the Dead"

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

I don’t know how many of you ever met Bob Skinner, but if you never met him, I just want you to think of the strongest, most invincible seeming person you know.

Bob was a priest of this diocese, longtime rector of Emmanuel Church in Webster Groves. Bob was a mountain of a man, full of passion and love but also with a power to his personality and temper that could shake foundations of buildings. Bob was an edifice. A tower you could scarcely imagine ever being toppled. A booming voice it seemed nothing on heaven or earth could silence.

Think of the strongest, most invincible seeming person you know… and that was Bob Skinner. Bob, it seemed, is, was and always would be.

But of course, he wasn’t. Nobody is. But somehow it was still unbelievable when Bob got sick and began to die. Maybe if it had been a sudden death, a car crash or even a heart attack, it would have been easier to wrap our brains around – the starkness of it somehow matching Bob’s own boldness. The one great punch that knocks out the heavyweight champ.

But death came for Bob slowly. And instead of the one great punch, we watched this mountain of a man slowly erode. Never losing his dignity. Never losing the power of his love. But physically crumbling before our eyes. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you. You’ve seen it happen to someone, too. And if you haven’t, well, someday you will.

And as I watched Bob grow weaker and weaker, this icy realization grew in my heart. That if death could brick by brick take down a tower like Bob Skinner, there truly was no corner of life that death could not touch.

Emmanuel Church was packed for Bob’s funeral and I was lucky to grab a seat up in the choir loft. And I looked down and saw his wife Susie, who was actually our preacher here at the Cathedral this past Maundy Thursday. Susie had taken over for Bob as priest in charge at Emmanuel when he became too sick to function but this afternoon she was in the traditional spot of the widow on the aisle seat of the front row, dressed in black.

The service began and Bishop Rockwell processed down the aisle saying the words of the burial anthem, “I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord. Whoever has faith in me shall have life, even though he die.” And I felt this disconnect. I believed the words, but I think there was a piece of all of us that couldn’t believe we were there. Couldn’t believe that Bob was gone, and more than that no matter how much we sang of the resurrection, we couldn’t help have our hearts pulled toward this giant Bob-sized hole in the midst of us. Couldn’t help but wonder what does resurrection look like when we know that Bob is never coming back?

The service continued, and at the peace I looked down again to where Susie had been sitting and saw her seat empty. I figured maybe it had all been too much for her, and she had gone out for a breath of air. But then as the offertory began, I looked down again. The first thing I noticed was Bob and Susie’s son, Robert, coming up the aisle carrying the bread for the Eucharist. And as he approached the altar, I saw that splayed across that table was the quilt with the handprints of hundreds of Emmanuel parishioners that they had made for Bob and laid on his sickbed and that had kept him warm in his dying days. And finally, well, all I can say is that as we all stood, Susie just appeared behind the altar, a brilliant white chasuble covering her mourner’s clothes.

And she looked up, and with the slightest tremor in her voice she called out to us “The Lord be with you.”

“And also with you” we replied, really somewhat tentatively. I think we were all still in shock over her appearing behind the altar.

“Lift up your hearts,” she beckoned us, her voice growing stronger.

“We lift them to the Lord.” We cried back, feeling stronger too. Feeling like with each syllable our hearts really were being lifted.

“Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” She finally proclaimed.

And what did we sing? You know it. Yes! “It is right to give God thanks and praise.”

And in that moment my question was answered. In that moment, I knew what resurrection looked like. Because as surely as Bob’s death had shown us that there was there was truly no corner of life that death could not touch, Susie lovingly, passionately, and even defiantly was showing us that there was truly no depth of death out of which new life could not spring. Resurrection looked … and sounded … like us. Singing. Together.

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

These strange men at the tomb ask this question almost mockingly of these women who had faithfully come early in the morning to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.

There’s almost a cruelty to the question. Almost a sneering “What, are you stupid? Didn’t you know this is what you would find?’ when nobody in their right mind would have expected to see that stone rolled away and the tomb empty.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” they ask, as if they wanted to add a healthy dose of shame to their already almost paralyzing grief.

You know, I have to wonder if those women had one of “those moments” when they were leaving the tomb that morning. You know, one of those moments where you think of the perfect response, the great zinger to say back to someone who has just zinged you … only you think of it when you’re walking away and the moment has long passed.

Why do you look for the living among the dead? I’ll tell you why, I’ll bet they wished they said. “I’ll tell you why. Because that’s what Jesus did. Because that’s what God does.”

Why do you look for the living among the dead? "Because," those women should have said. "That’s where Jesus found us."

And that’s where Jesus finds us still.

Our funeral liturgy sings an eternal truth. In the midst of life we are in death. But nobody needs to tell us that. We know it oh so well. Much too well. We know it because we have all been there. Because we all are there.

We’ve all had death happen where life seemed at its most invincible. We have had the people we love the most hurt us the deepest. And we have suffered the silent agony of knowing we have done the same. We have lost jobs we thought were secure and friendships we thought would never end. We have watched marriages we thought were unassailable crumble and oceans grow between us and someone in the same bed and across the same dinner table.

Why do you look for the living among the dead? Because that’s where God finds us. With parents who seemed like they would always be there for us who now look at us with unrecognizing eyes. With children whom we would give everything for, who tell us cuttingly they want no part of us. At the bedside of the one to whom we pledged till death do us part, as we face what life on the other side of that might be.

Why do you look for the living among the dead? Because that’s where God finds us. Not in our moments of triumph but our darkest hours. When we have run out of ways to pretend to everyone else and even ourselves that it’s all OK. When we honestly can’t figure out how we’re going to make it through one more minute much less one more day or week or year. When as it did when those shots rang out at the Lorraine Motel 42 years ago today it looked as if the dream was as inexplicably and suddenly dead as the dreamer.

Why do you look for the living among the dead? Because that’s where Jesus looks for us. And those women knew it … and that’s why they came to that tomb that Sunday. And I have to believe that there’s a piece of that quest that has drawn each one of us here this Easter morning.

Because while it’s true that in the midst of life we are in death, the only greater truth, the deep song that has been sung since the beginning of time is that in the midst of all our deaths we are also in life. And that’s what God in the risen Christ does. Meets us in that place of death and breathes life into us and calls life out of us. Meets us in the moments of deepest despair and gazes into our eyes and whispers in our ears, “Lift up your hearts.”

And so we gather at the empty tomb this morning to sing as passionately and defiantly as Susie did that day that we will lift up our hearts. That as Christ’s body in the world, we will not cower from death but will continue to look for the living among the dead. We will stand with each other in our deepest pain. We will hold each other up when our hearts are too broken to stand. We will believe for each other in those moments where individually we just can’t manage to believe for ourselves.

We gather at the empty tomb this morning in celebration of what those amazing women were mocked for doing. That we believe that God even today yearns to reach into the places deepest in us where we thought that hope had gone to die and show us that there is no place in heaven, on earth or in the deepest, loneliest corners of our hearts where hope and love cannot live again. That there is no death so devastating or grave so deep that it can silence the song God sings to us and through us.

Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Great Vigil of Easter -- Deborah Nelson Linck

Preached by Deborah Nelson Linck at Christ Church Cathedral at the Great Vigil of Easter, Saturday, April 3, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday -- The Rev. David Fly

Preached by the Rev. David Fly at Christ Church Cathedral at the Evening Service on Good Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday - The Rev. Canon John Kilgore

Preached by the Rev. Canon John Kilgore at Christ Church Cathedral at the Noon service on Good Friday, April 2, 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Maundy Thursday - The Rev. Susan Skinner

Preached by the Rev. Susan C. Skinner at Christ Church Cathedral on Maundy Thursday, April 1, 2010