Monday, May 8, 2017

Sermon: Come and See. Go and Tell!



A Sermon preached in 
Christ Church, Grosse Pointe, Michigan
by The Reverend Vicki Hesse, Associate
The Great Vigil of Easter
April 15, 2017

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts
be always acceptable to you O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.

Happy Easter!

Growing up in California, earthquakes were part of my life. We became familiar with earthquakes, but were never really prepared for the unsettling feeling and the aftermath.  During the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, one of my colleagues was swimming laps in his pool. When the earthquake hit, the pool created such a wave that he was literally thrown out of the water onto the deck.  All that water then flooded his patio and adjacent dining room. He was fine, just very shaken up.  Until that day, he wondered what he would do with his life, what was the purpose to which he was called. After he rode that wave (or shall I say, the wave tossed him out), he believed he had a specific purpose.  This event was only the beginning of his determined, purposeful life.

In today’s gospel text we heard of another earthquake, which initiated the beginning of a surprising scene for all involved – and for all of creation.  During that earthquake, the angel who descended from heaven, rolled back the stone and sat on it. That same angel spoke to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.  “Do not be afraid,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus… Come and see!” So the Marys left the tomb with fear and with joy.  Jesus met them. “Do not be afraid,” he said, “Go and tell the others!” That earthquake-angel-accompanied event was not the end of their story, it was the beginning of their purposeful life of Easter.

Do not be afraid.  Come and see.  Go and tell! That is the message of Easter!

But wait a minute!  What about us? There is so much in this world for which to be afraid.  Fear is pervasive – from Syria to Afghanistan, from the Kremlin to the White House, from Flint to Detroit – everywhere, it seems, fear rules the hardened heart of Pharoahs.  Everywhere, it seems, fear unsettles our world.  Fault lines split the family meals.  Tremors rattle when employment is uncertain. Aftershocks quake our resilience when illnesses that drag on.
Loneliness reverberates when a loved one dies.

I don’t know about you, but I seek stable ground. And that is why you and I have come together on this holy night, right? Because we need a firm foundation. We need a new ending – no, that’s not it…we need a new beginning. We need hope for different outcomes. We need encouragement. We need groundedness.
St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, reminds us that, “no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.”[1] And that is a firm, dependable foundation: Jesus’ resurrection accompanies every earthquake in our lives. Resurrection means steadfast, perfect love that casts out that pervasive, quaking fear.  Resurrection does not answer or end problems, nor does it remove us from hardships, limitations and challenges of this life. Resurrection reinforces our lives with rebar of God’s imagination and shock absorbers planted in God’s fertile ground of possibilities. 

From the first day of creation when God said “let there be light” and a new world came into being – shimmering and pulsing with life – to the dawn of that first day of the week when Jesus appeared to the women, God continues to break in.  God continues to break in. When human sin wrecks its worst havoc, our gracious God unceasingly resurrects life and hope in the depths of our lives and in our communities.

How do we know this? Because God has a more lush and abundant imagination than fear-induced human rulers can provoke.  This is the creative, surprising, dependable trademark of God.  And with God’s trademark creativity, we welcomed Hillary Wing Hampstead into our Christian community. Was this simply a societal initiation?  No.  Was this for mere religious statistics? No.  Hillary was baptized today into Christ Jesus: into his death so that she can be united with him in a resurrection like his. Cyril of Jerusalem, theologian of the early church (around 300’s) used to tell the newly baptized that, “by this action you died and you were born, and for you the waving water was at once a grave and the womb of a mother.”[2]

This evening, Hillary was bathed in a wave of holy water so that she, too, can walk on a firm foundation, with purpose and newness of life. That life that is grounded in God’s confident love. That life that invites her to “Come and see” and then “go and tell.  Hillary’s kin, those gospel women, were the first witnesses and the first missionaries of the church.  No pressure, Hillary!

Tonight, those gospel women join our prayers for Hillary that she know her life with Jesus means a life of grace, an inquiring and discerning heart, and a courage to will and persevere with joy and wonder on the bedrock of God’s love. Hillary, now that you have been in the water, we send you out with strong purpose to meet the challenges of life.

May we, this night, know with confidence that the God who raised Jesus from the dead is not done yet… God is not done with the world that God loves so much, not done with us, the children of God, who God loves so much.

May we know with confidence that Easter is not the end but the beginning of a life grounded on the unshakable, firm foundation of Love. 

So… Go and Tell the good news:
Christ is risen, indeed!



[1] 1 Corinthians 3:11
[2] Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday (Nashville, Norton Books, 2015) p. 21

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