The Truth of Resurrection

April 7, 2013

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
Sermon on John 20:19-31 given while serving as Deacon & Seminarian

Second Sunday in Easter – Year C RCL 

Acts 5:27-32, Revelation 1:4-8 & John 20:19-31

Last week, Ceci began her Easter sermon not with the joy of the resurrection, but first, she invited us to imagine the despair and confusion the disciples must have felt that first Easter morning. Although it’s impossible for us to fully imagine their feelings, participation in Holy Week allowed us to try…

Palm Sunday began with the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, with palm branches and hosannas. Yet, moments later, it quickly shifted to the Passion story, where we ourselves took part in the taunting cries of “Crucify Him!” On Maundy Thursday we remembered Jesus as servant, and then, followed his example by washing one another’s feet. In this act we embodied God’s message that we are to love one another. But then the tone shifted as the lights dimmed and the altar was stripped bare, like Jesus himself before his own crucifixion. On Friday we endured the three-hour vigil at the foot of the cross. Then that night, through a dramatic presentation, we were brought face-to-face with the agonizing walk and excruciating death of Jesus, ending with his burial in the tomb. On Saturday, we mourned.

And although through this experience we can get a sense of the heartbreaking loss the disciples must have suffered, we can’t fully grasp it, because we know how the story ends. We know even in the midst of Holy Week, that it’s just a matter of hours before we will reclaim our Alleluias and welcome the resurrected Christ back into the world!

The disciples didn’t have that knowledge. They had abandoned their teacher and Lord, and were now in hiding. Yet, even so, the gospel lessons of Easter week show God’s promise; the recurring truth that when we are in distress, God finds us, and cares for us.

We first see Mary Magdalene outside the empty tomb. She is distressed, not knowing who has taken Jesus’ body. Jesus finds her and calls Mary by name. It is at that moment that she recognizes him and her fear subsides. In Luke’s gospel, we hear of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were confused, having learned that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb. Jesus found them as they walked on the road, and he walked with them. At first they weren’t able to recognize him, but when they sat down to share a meal together, Jesus took the bread, blessed and broke it, and in that act, the disciples’ eyes were opened.

And in John’s gospel today, we hear that the disciples are gathered together in a locked room. They are afraid. Once again, Jesus finds them. He shows them his hands and his side and says, “Peace be with you.” Then, he breathes on them saying “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

This is not the breath of resuscitation, but the breath of new life… the breath of resurrection. When received, the old life is gone; dead. It exists no more.

But how do we know? How in our post-Enlightenment way of seeing the world, where all things must be proven historically or scientifically, how can we grasp the truth of the resurrection?

How do we know it really happened? How do we know it happens, still?

We seem to be able to wrap our brains around the truth of the crucifixion, but the resurrection is a problem. Is reading it in Scripture enough to convince us that it’s true?

When I was in a mentoring session with Ceci a few weeks ago, this same question came up when we were talking about God’s presence in our life. Ceci asked “How do you know that’s true?” Without giving it much thought, I said, “It’s in the Bible.” (That can get me in trouble.) And although that is certainly part of the answer, Ceci pressed me to think again. Upon further reflection, I realized that I know it’s true because I’ve experienced it in my own life and have seen God’s presence in the life of others.

I believe the same is true of the resurrection.

You see, resurrection isn’t only something that happens when we die. It’s available in this life, too. I know it is, because I’ve seen it…

About four years ago, I met a Claire. She was fifteen at the time and full of life.

But when Claire was one year old, her parents noticed that she wasn’t always responding when they called her name. They took her to the doctor, but because Claire had already learned how to respond on instinct, the doctor didn’t think there was a problem, and they returned home.

Sometime later, there was a severe thunderstorm where they lived. At one point, a loud thunder-clap rattled the house and everyone jumped out of their skin… but Claire’s parents noticed that Claire didn’t even flinch. They knew for sure that something was wrong. Returning to the doctor, with further tests, they found out that Claire had profound bilateral hearing loss. Claire had been born deaf.

I can’t imagine what that kind of diagnosis brings on the hearts of parents. They knew that Claire’s journey would be different than that of other kids. Even so, they knew that she is good, and full of life, and they would figure it out.

A few years later, when Claire was four, she underwent surgery and received a cochlear implant. This is a two-part device – the implant itself, and the transmitter, worn outside the ear – it stimulates the auditory nerve, allowing Claire to interpret sounds and speech. While it doesn’t restore hearing as we know it, it provides sounds previously unheard by Claire.

So, now, at the age of four, Claire was being bombarded by noises she had not heard, and she didn’t know how to make sense of them. It was a very frustrating and painful process for both her and her parents, as you could imagine. It would have been easy to give up… to just not wear the transmitter, but, this wasn’t what Claire was made of, or her parents for that matter.

Over time, Claire began to learn how to combine lip-reading with the sounds she was hearing. By the time I met her four years ago, it was hard to detect any sign of a hearing impairment.
As an energetic sophomore in high school, it seemed nothing was too big of a challenge for her. Already playing flute in the marching band, you would think that was accomplishment enough. But Claire didn’t let people put limitations on her. She didn’t like that people, when they learned about her situation, treated her like she was “slow.” Instead, she constantly challenges herself, to show people that she can do the same things that others, without a disability, can do.

Her conviction was so strong, that she was determined to go after the most coveted role in the marching band… she wanted to be a drum-major. Imagine it, a girl born deaf becoming “the metronome of the band.” And wouldn’t you know it, during her senior year in high school, she did just that!

Now that’s what I call a resurrected life!

Yet with all its joy and promise, it still required a cross. The old life had to go away. A new life was embraced and still lives!

And this resurrected life isn’t so uncommon.

We see it in that person who realizes that an addiction has taken control of their life, and instead of letting that addiction define them, they seek help. They walk away from the bottle; the drug; the eating disorder; and walk into a life of recovery. The addiction isn’t gone, but they have broken free of its grasp… with work and perseverance. Having endured the cross, they embark on a new, resurrected life.

What’s more, I know that resurrection is true, not only because I’ve seen it in the lives of those I love, but because it has happened to me.

After twenty years in banking, I began to realize that I was meant for something else in this life. I didn’t know what that was, but sight-unseen I quit my job and began to discern my vocation. On Good Friday five years ago, as I participated in the Stations of the Cross at my church in Houston, I realized that as I meditated on the reflection for each station, I was hearing God calling me to service. I was actually re-hearing a call to ordained ministry that I had tucked neatly away some twenty years earlier. My thought in response to this re-heard message was… no way. Not now. It’s too late.

But as it turns out, although it wasn’t too late, it would mean that I’d have to leave Houston, my family, my home church, leave it all, and go to a new place to follow this path. The Diocese of Atlanta welcomed me as Bishop Alexander encouraged me to enroll at Candler, and so I did.

I moved to Atlanta nine months before classes would begin, to start this new life, in a new place. I was on my own; literally a thousand miles away from all things familiar.

One night, I sat in the dark living room, lonely and afraid – not unlike the disciples on that first Easter night. I wondered what on earth I thought I was doing – could I endure this life-transition. And in that dark, locked room, God found me, and reminded me of God’s presence in my life.

In that moment, I felt the affect of Jesus’ words to the disciples when he said, “Peace be with you” and I was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. A new breath for this new life.

It didn’t make feelings of loneliness or fear disappear entirely, but I knew I was where I was supposed to be, and even more, that God is with me on this journey. And, in this way, I am living into my resurrected life.

As we continue in our 50 days of Easter, let us revel in the truth of the resurrection; discovering and acknowledging the resurrected lives in our midst, and perhaps even in our own life!

Having endured the pain of the cross, we know beyond doubt that we can experience the joy of resurrected life in Christ, now, and in the days to comeclaire-002; life everlasting!

claire-001

2 Responses to “The Truth of Resurrection”

  1. Cody Greenwood said

    Each sermon you send is “spot on” for my life. Thank you for reminding me I am living a resurrected life. I love you dearly, Your Mom 🙂

  2. Kristen said

    You are constantly amazing!

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