Delivered by the Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Longmeadow, MA
I am blessed to be with you on this holy night as we immerse ourselves in the story of our salvation, the story of God’s love affair with the whole creation. In story after story, we have touched the great truth that we’ve been loved since the beginning of time, that God has led us safely through the Red Sea, guided us through the wilderness, walked with us into the darkness, shared our suffering and pain, and even now is shining a pure light within us and among us.
I need this story, this reality, more than ever. We live in a culture that worships violence and war, a culture in which political and economic forces are tearing us apart. We live in a culture in which the rich grow richer while the poor are swept aside, a culture that values wealth, privilege, and domination, and that treats Mother Earth with the same casual disregard with which it treats the vulnerable poor. Like some of you, I feel visceral anger and grief as I watch our government get to work desecrating every last inch of creation, pillaging every last natural resource, destroying every last habitat, and abandoning every last regulation, rule, and treaty that preserve clean air and water and maintain the stability of our global climate. This week I learned that climate denial is now the official policy of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Into this world of violence, deceit, upheaval and war walks a man of peace, a man so radiant with the all-embracing loving-kindness of God that to be in his presence is to be in the presence of God. He walks a path of non-violent love, teaching, healing, and blessing everyone he meets, challenging us to live out of our deepest identity and to understand that we, too, are children of God, born to express God’s love in everything we say and do, born to create communities of love in which no one is left out. When at last he confronts the imperial powers, he endures in his own body the brutalities of this world, conveying until his last breath a spirit of forgiveness and non-violence. And then, on Easter morning – ah! – something is unleashed into the world, an explosion of light, a release of energy. From out of the empty tomb, from out of our empty souls, the living Spirit of Christ springs forth, breaking open whatever is fearful, clenched, and small, unleashing a love that melts all barriers and encompasses all beings.
If Christ is alive, then we are embraced by a sacred power that can roll away stones, restore the dead to life, and offer meaning and hope in the very places where meaning has fled, and hope has died.
If Christ is alive, then into our world a power has been released that is stronger than death, a source of love and energy and hope that nothing and no one can destroy.
If Christ is alive, then there is no suffering we can endure, no anguish we can bear, no loss or disappointment we can undergo that Christ himself does not suffer with us.
If Christ is alive, then each person is beloved and cherished by God, and we are drawn to create new forms of community that overturn the systems of rank, privilege, and domination that divide us from each other and that destroy God’s creation.
If Christ is alive, then we have no need to settle for a life that is overshadowed by the nagging fear of death, for eternal life does not begin after we die – it begins right here, in this very moment.
If Christ is alive, then we are free to be our largest, truest selves: a people free to be vulnerable, free to be generous, free to fall in love with life.
If Christ is alive, then there is nothing more real than love, nothing more true than love, nothing more enduring than love.
Through the power of resurrection, a great energy has been released into the world, and that power is already at work within us. It springs to new life when we gather to resist the forces of destruction, when we stand up for gun safety or engage in peaceful civil disobedience to stop new fracked gas pipelines. It springs to new life when we gather around the table to break bread in Jesus’ name. It springs to new life when we speak words that are truthful and kind, and when we treat ourselves and one another with compassion and respect. It springs to new life when we refuse to abandon and abuse Mother Earth and when we search for ways to re-weave the web of life.
It’s not enough just to gaze on Christ’s resurrection from afar. This is not only Jesus’ miracle – it is our miracle, too, a miracle that each of us is invited to experience more deeply every day of our lives.
Tonight, in silence, words, and song, in fear and wonder, we welcome into our lives and into our wounded and lovely world the Risen Christ and the power of resurrection.
Jesus Christ has risen to new life, and so have we.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!