Sunday, April 5, 2015

"Has This Been Doing This My Whole Life?!?" -- An Easter Sermon

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015

So they went out and fled from the tomb,
for terror and amazement had seized them.

On this Sunday of the resurrection, I always remember our friend Becca Stevens, the founder of Magdalene and Thistle Farms in Nashville, because Becca has seen more resurrection than anyone I know.

Becca has spent the last 20 years walking with women whose lives on the streets began with abuse they suffered as children. Women for whom trust has always been a four letter word and hope was a word they dared not utter at all.

Through the Magdalene community, Becca has seen these women make the transition from victim to survivor. To go from lives of pain to lives of power. To encounter love they never thought even existed, much less could be there for them, and find in it the power to heal and make them new.

One of these women is Dorris. Like the other women in Magdalene, Dorris had, as Becca puts it, experienced the underside of bridges, the short side of justice, the back side of anger and the inside of prison walls.

And so early one morning, when Becca and Dorris found themselves on the Florida coast, it was the first time Dorris had ever seen the ocean. And as the sun peaked over the distant horizon and she dipped her foot in the waves and for the first time ever felt the pull of the tide, she threw up her arms and asked:

“Has this been doing this my whole life?”

Can you imagine that joy? That joy not just of a whole new world opening up to you but realizing that it had been there all along? Realizing that the cool sands and the ocean breeze and the pounding of the surf were a gift of God’s grace and love? That this was the life God dreamed for you?

And that if this was real, what other wonders could be out there.

Dorris’ journey to the ocean was a long one. When Dorris was a child, she witnessed her own father’s murder and was repeatedly abused. She ended up walking a 10-block radius on the streets of Nashville for 26 years selling herself and being sold. Before Magdalene, that was her life, and those 10 blocks were her world. It was all she knew.

The ocean? That was for other people.

Love? Well, that was for other people, too.

I love Mark’s telling of the Easter story because it is raw and real. Three women, who had each been through different kinds of hell, show up at the tomb on Sunday morning. They are in deep pain and grief. They don’t even know how they will roll the stone away from the tomb and yet they stumble toward it anyway, knowing all that is left for them is to anoint Jesus’ body so that he -- and their hope with him -- can be buried in peace.

But when they find the tomb empty and a young man telling them the amazing news that Jesus was risen, their response was not to sing Alleluia as we do today. No … they ran away. Mark tells us “they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Terror and amazement. Silence and fear.

That was their response to this miraculous, powerful love that even death could not destroy.

Terror and amazement. Silence and fear.

How utterly … and completely … human.

Because when we are in grief and pain. When our whole world has been turned upside down and our heart has been torn out. When we have been rejected by the world and everything we ever hoped for has disappeared in a massive public shaming, the reality of love so strong, so deep, so wide is simply too much to bear.

We tell ourselves that our reaction to Easter, we tell ourselves that our reaction to this miraculous, incredible love should be Alleluias and rejoicing. But it’s not. It’s terror and amazement. It’s silence and fear. Because the experience of our life is so different from that love, we just can’t believe it’s real.

It can’t be real, can it? It can’t really be for me, can it?

Love? That’s for other people, right?

You see, we are those women at the tomb on Sunday morning. We are Dorris. For the past 40 days we have walked through the desert face to face. We have tried to take off our masks and learn how to speak clearly and listen deeply and have fierce conversations with one another. We have heard the voices of young people crying out in our streets and stared in the faces of other young people who tragically died there.

As a St. Louis region, as a church and as individuals, we are battered and conflicted. We are struggling and we are tired. And in that pain, we isolate ourselves from one another. We see asking for help as weakness, and we compulsively apologize for our tears. And we suffer in silence believing everyone else but us has it all together.

Whether our pain is us longing for the touch of the person who lies in bed next to us night after night and year after year or remembering the painful dark unwanted touch of years or sometimes even just hours before, the truth of this love seems too much to bear.

Whether our pain is the unreachable chasm of silence between parent and child or the echoes of the empty nest, the empty womb or the empty bed, the truth of this love seems too much to bear.

Whether our pain is being told our lives matter less because of the color of our skin or feeling pushed aside and useless with the passing of our years, the truth of this love seems too much to bear.

Whether our pain is the craving of addiction, the humbling of recovery or the helplessness of watching someone we love struggle with both, the truth of this love of God in Jesus Christ, a love more powerful than death, a love that is right here waiting for each and for all of us is just too much to bear.

It’s much easier to look away, to plaster on a smile and say, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen” with everyone else, and go back and suffer in silence.

But I hope we won’t. I pray we won’t. I pray this Easter we will risk the terror and amazement and look this love full in the face.

Because the love of God in Jesus Christ is real. It is real and it is terrifying and it is amazing. It is the single greatest force in the entire universe, and it is for each and every one of us.

It is the God of our weary years, the God of our silent tears bending down from heaven and kissing us powerfully but every so tenderly right where it hurts. It is a love that can help us all make the transition from victim to survivor. From lives of pain to lives of power. To encounter love we never thought even existed, much less could be there for us, and find in it the power to heal and make us new.

What those brave, heartbroken women found at the empty tomb and what we are offered this morning and every time we come together is an invitation to a love that will hold us and heal us and change our lives. A love that will break down the walls that divide us and bind us together as sisters and brothers for life. A love that will free us from the bonds not just of sin and death but also the paralyzing bonds of self-doubt and self-criticism and shame.

A love that will take our secret pain, all those stories of our lives we are barely able to tell ourselves much less someone else, all those pieces of ourselves we hide believing that if anyone ever knew about them they couldn’t possibly love us, a love that will take them and break their hold on us and set us free to sing and dance and to dip our feet into a thousand oceans and feel the pull of a thousand tides.

Like Dorris, our journey to this place has been a long one. And what the women that Easter and we this morning are greeted with as the sun peaks over the distant horizon is terrifying and amazing and beautiful and awesome. And if together we can trust enough to let ourselves believe it and feel it even a little bit we will lift up our arms and shout

“Has this been doing this my whole life?”

“Have I really been wonderfully made and beautiful my whole life?

“Has God really been loving me like this my whole life?”

And the answer, terrifying and amazing as it is, will be yes.



We are bringing Magdalene to St. Louis -- with our first house opening next month! 
To find out more go to

No comments:

Post a Comment