Sunday, March 31, 2013 Easter and yes, cliches abound

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

These gathered, all around you in every direction, in other churches and around the world, these are not the dead, these are those being made alive again, given new life and new birth in the resurrection of their Lord, Your Lord, Jesus Christ.

Not just walking and breathing. If you’ve seen any of the very hip and trendy Zombie entertainments out there lately, my personal favorite of the recent crop is Warm Bodies, great movie, very funny, but if you’ve seen them you’ll realize that walking around and being alive are not really the same thing. And breathing is just about the bare minimum for consideration insofar as being alive is concerned. I think we can do better than that, can’t we? maybe just a little better than just breathing and walking on the day of Resurrection?

After all, this is the day after the long night, the next morning after Good Friday and the long and desperate day in between where there was naught but mourning and wailing and fear. This is the Morning, the day that the Lord has made, let us be . . . well you heard the words in the Psalm this morning, what on earth could stop us from living to the fullest, loving without limits, being truly and fully alive, abundantly alive, the way that the Lord has told us was God’s will for us? What’s our excuse?

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

Don’t tell me you’re too old. What you really mean to say is that your idea of what it means to be alive is stuck in the days when you could run and jump and since you cannot do those things anymore, then you must not be alive.

If running and jumping were the hallmarks of being alive, and I will grant you they are better signs of life than walking and breathing, by a pretty good margin, but then nobody in a wheelchair is truly alive, and nobody over three hundred pounds is truly alive and nobody with a bad ankle is truly alive. And I know people in all of those categories, and they are alive, and they love and live and feel and strive.

Maybe you can no longer march in the streets and wave the palm branches and shout to the stars or howl at the moon. Maybe you’re just a bit too conservative and reserved to do those things. They are not the things that let people know whether to look for you with the living or with the dead, even on this day of resurrection.

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

And don’t tell me that you are too young. What that really means is that there are boundaries fencing you in placed there by a society that wants the very best for you, but not necessarily for you as an individual, after all crowds are easier to deal with if they are all the same and so society will try and treat you like you are all the same, you younger folks. They will try and tell you that you cannot break loose of the boundaries and dare to dream bigger dreams than those they have laid out before you, they will try and tell you that there is a path to what they think of as success and staying on the path is how you get to where they want you to go. You hate this, of course, you are meant to but know that you are not fully formed yet, you cannot make your own decisions, you are too young.

Is that the hallmark of being alive? Self-determination, mastery of the universe, being able to make all of your own decisions without asking for help from anybody? Well, the American ideal would seem to say so. We have raised in this world an idol of the singular man, or woman; the singular independent person who needs no guidance, needs no support, needs nothing but his or her own determination and grit and for people to get out of their way.

We are told by the world that those are the people who are truly alive, the ones who owe nothing to anybody, not even loyalty, not even love.

As if that’s all anybody needed, power. They have words for people like that, and some of them are good, like emperor, and king and some of them are bad like tyrant, or megalomaniac so maybe that’s just not enough to be truly alive, maybe there is more to life than owing nothing to anyone and serving nobody but yourself; so young people, ease up on yourselves, just because there are some walls around you, some fences, doesn’t mean that we ought to number you amongst the dead and not the living, take a peek over the wall and see what the world has in store for you.

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

And don’t tell me that this church is too small to have an effect on the world. Don’t tell me that we’re better off not reaching out too far lest we trip and fall and make an end to ourselves.

As if that was the hallmark of being alive, safety. As if safety could save you, deliver you, fill you with joy.

I find it odd that a people who have listened to this Holy Week of scriptures have so little trust in the actual ministry, the actual life, vivid and in bold print, of Jesus; who reached out really quite far; from heaven to earth in order to reach you; who opened His arms and our eyes by His ministry amongst the people who had been cast aside by a world fixated on what they already knew, what they thought of as safe. Jesus, who reached back from death into new life, piercing the veil that had held us fast for so long so that He could draw us through, save us from the terrible specter of death.

Not a safe turn there, not at all. Each move bolder than the last, each step fraught with more peril, more danger. You can hide behind Jesus being the Son of God but only for so long before you realize that incarnation, life among the creation, and death were all bold moves for God, not tried before in the annals of our loving family relationship. This was a venture into the unknown, a dare, a risk for the sake of the greatest prize of all, the prize Jesus was trying to win, oddly enough. You. Jesus was trying to win you, salvation for you, blessings for you, hope for you, not for some far off heaven someday, but right now, right here in this time and in this place, for you to be alive and for that there was nothing He wouldn’t risk, nothing was “off the table” as they say far too often in political circles. No price was too high and safety was not a consideration, not at all.

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

What are the hallmarks of being alive, living in the light of the resurrection the way that God has intended for us, the way that God has risked everything to give to us, the way that empowers us to live lives that shine like the noonday sun with the reflected glory of His love?

I don’t know, do I look all shiny to you?

But wait. I do know a couple of things, pretty much just the opposite of each of the excuses offered here today. Where you say too old, I will say that maybe its your expectations that are askew. Stop thinking that running and jumping are the key and remember the adults you grew up with, how they shared wisdom, carried traditions, explaining them and showing how we got to where we are, how strong our foundation is. Remember the love and kindness shown by those whose only qualification was that they were older and how that gave you your own power, your own voice.

Do you think that somehow the world needs less wisdom? They lean into the wind a little, ask for a ride when you need one, engage with the world even if it is a little scary or even a little embarrassing at first. We need you to be alive for just as long as you are so that you can show us how to do it, so that we can be fully alive ourselves.

Where you say that you are too young I want you to think pretty hard about what it means to be young, to find fresh excitement in each day and then remind us of that. We forget you see, so filled are our head with all of that autonomy that you so desire. It crowds out the wonders of this world that God has given to us and we need someone to tell us the stories again, their eyes filled with wonder and love because we have forgotten that we are not in charge, we have forgotten that we do not know everything, we need you to be fully alive so that we can see what that looks like, and have it invade our own lives, and save us from the world around us.

You remind us that we need God, just as you often need someone to drive you around, in just the same way. We need to remember that we are dependent, and you are our very best chance to know that and in so doing, be fully alive ourselves.

Where you might say that we are too small I want to remind you that Palestine at this time was a tiny little, barely noticeable place, had it not been at the crossroads of two continents, nobody would have ever even cared that it was there, and Bethlehem even tinier, and a manger even tinier, and an infant so very tiny.

And yet all of our lives have been transformed by His coming. All of our lives have been transformed, we put on pageants set in places far away that few of us have seen. Something small is what will grow if it is nurtured and loved. Something small is how things start before they start to grow. How many agricultural parables to we have to study before that becomes clear?

But small is not weak. Small is sneaky, small is stealthy, small is easily underestimated.

Besides, you are disciples of Christ, who shattered the power of death and opened wide the doors to redemption and grace, allowing God’s love to flow unfettered directly into your hearts. In that light is there something that you think we cannot do? We need to be alive, to be vital and engaged in the world. There is need out there, there is loss and hopelessness and fear and we know how to live lives without those things and if we are not doing it then this morning of resurrection is a waste of time for us all.

“If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” says Paul and that is the truth and the key to it all.

We have a story to tell, from different perspectives and from many different voices and we can do that if we are alive, if we are not looking for those who are alive among the dead; if we are not mourning our losses but are instead embracing our singular victory, won for us on the cross and given new lustre and majesty by the emptiness of the tomb on this morning. Christ is arisen and we shall arise, given renewed sight, given renewed purpose, given renewed hope, given new life.

It is time to live that life so that the kingdom of heaven can be built here, never to be completed but always under construction in the hearts of Christ’s disciples, the ones who are made alive by Him. No excuses, just life.

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