Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sermon, Easter 7C

Today is the 7th Sunday of Easter.  It also happens to be the last Sunday of Easter and the Sunday after the Ascension, which was this past Thursday on the church calendar.  Next week is Pentecost and we will commemorate and celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit.

As I was thinking about this Sunday, it occurred to me that today is Easter’s Advent.  Advent, you will recall, is the time of the already and the not yet.  It’s the already in that the coming of Christ, the Messiah, has already come about.  And it’s the not yet in that the coming of Christ, the Messiah, has not yet arrived.  We seem to be experiencing the same already/not yet today.  The risen Christ has already departed through his Ascension; but we have not yet received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We are like the post-Ascension disciples, standing there, gazing heavenward, but before we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  And because we have the benefit of hind-sight, we can certainly ask, “What are we waiting for?”

Easter is, of course, the season of resurrection and celebration.  We stand for prayers and Communion.  The confession is omitted.  We use Eucharistic Prayer C not only because it encourages greater participation but because I think it has a more creational and celebratory feel to it.  We use white vestments and white wine.  And every Sunday I greet you with, “Happy Easter!”  Generally twice.

So Easter is the season of celebration.  We are a resurrection people, so Easter is, or should be, right up our alley.  But on this Advent Sunday of Easter, we are reminded that Easter is also a season of searching.  Here we are, standing in the already and not yet.  Here we are, post-Ascension, pre-Pentecost Holy Spirit, standing still, gazing up to heaven.  The question, “What are we looking for?” or, “What are we waiting for?” is appropriate.

With today being the last Sunday of the Easter season, I want to go back through the Easter season asking that question:  What are we looking for?

Easter opens with the women, or woman, at the tomb.  The reasons they go are varied and unimportant.  It’s what happens at the tomb that’s important.  In Luke, the women at the tomb are met by two angels who ask them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

In John, it’s Mary Magdalene who goes to the tomb alone and is met not only by angels, but by the Risen Christ, who asks her, “Whom are you looking for?”

In essence, Easter begins with a search.  It begins with women going to the tomb, maybe not knowing what they are searching for, and being confronted with the question, “What are you looking for?”

At the second Easter service, I preached on this very thing.  The people who came to church that day were searching for something, whether they knew it or not.  Mary Magdalene came to the tomb, searching, and finding something unexpected – the risen Christ.  Jesus asked her, “Whom are you looking for?”  We have been looking for a way back to the garden since Adam and Eve, and we find the way back through the risen Christ.

Thomas was also searching for Jesus.  His search, though, didn’t end on the recommendation of others.  His search ended when he made a personal connection with the risen Christ.  Isn’t that just like church?

People might visit a church based on a recommendation from a friend, or a cool website, or a commercial, or by seeing the building, but the search doesn’t end there.  The search doesn’t end because people told us about their experience.  The search ends when we make a personal connection through our participation.

Or, I should say, that PHASE of the search ends.  Because once we make a personal connection and participate in the life of the risen Christ, things tend to get interesting.

We begin working at discipleship and we search for a way to become better disciples.  We search for answers through our doubts.  We search for ways, or we should search for ways, on how we might include all sorts and manner of people in this discipleship thing.

Peter and Saul learned a thing or two about welcoming and including outsiders.  Their original search as to how they might keep their religion pure, holy and undefiled before God was redirected.  It was redirected by God from a mission of protecting God from all uncleanliness to a mission of allowing the unclean to be showered with God’s grace.

And finally, we are searching for peace; not the peace of the world that is short, fleeting and fragile, but the everlasting peace of God.  This peace comes through our resurrection hope; the hope that God will do more in the future than has been done in the past.  It’s a peace that recognizes peace isn’t the absence of conflict, but an understanding of resurrection.

These are all topics that were touched on throughout the Easter season: resurrection, doubt, inclusivity, hope and peace.  Each one has to do with a search of some kind.

Today is Easter’s Advent.  Today we stand between the already and the not yet.  We stand with the already of the Ascension and with the not yet of Pentecost.  Today, it seems, we stand gazing up into the sky.

Easter is the season of joy, with its empty tomb, encounters with the risen Christ, joyful music and all the Alleluias.  But Easter is also the season of searching.  And with that in mind, how will your discipleship be impacted by the knowledge that we are continually searching?

What are you looking at?  Whom are you searching for?

Don’t just stand there – get to work.



First time comments will be moderated.