Easter Sunday For about eight years in a row, at Easter, I led a group of youth and adults on a mission trip to build hope in
The Rev. Linda Campbell
For about eight years in a row, at Easter, I led a group of youth and adults on a mission trip to build hope in
The first task was to prepare the site, and in this regard it was wise to heed the counsel of Isaiah! “Every valley shall be lifted up and every mountain and hill be made low, the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.” This was all accomplished with picks, shovels, rakes, and a simple carpenter’s level. When the ground was level, the frames were built and carefully leveled, and then the grueling work of making concrete began. No cement truck here! Just thirty people mixing rock, sand, cement and water in wheelbarrows and dumping the mixture into the foundations.
It took all day…but if the foundation was good, then the walls would be straight, the roof would go up easily, the windows would be square, and the work would be done easily in four days.
It always seemed appropriate to me that the foundations for these houses was laid on Easter Monday, the day after we celebrated the creation of the foundation of the church in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because everything that we believe is built on this simple truth: love is more powerful than death.
You might think this strange – but one of the services I find especially hopeful and refreshing is our service for the burial of the dead. For this service, the Easter paschal candle is lit and processed forward, leading the casket. The casket is sprinkled with the waters of baptism, remembering the promise of passing over from death into life – a Passover that began in our first plunge through the baptismal waters, a baptism into the mission of being Christ’s own forever.
I want to talk a bit about heaven and about life and love that is stronger than death – in the hopes of making our foundation as level as possible.
Most of us Christians think in terms of heaven as a separate place where one goes after death. It’s common to think something like: 'This earthly life is but a desert dreary, heaven is my home.' But a first-century Jew, like Jesus and the apostles, would never have had a hope like this that would so radically devalue God’s Creation.* (Paul Nuechterlein and friends)
The faith of Jesus and the early apostles was a faith in God as Creator who lovingly created the heavens and the earth. God would not scrap the earth in favor of a heaven as a holding tank for migrating souls. This might have been Plato's hope, but the Jewish/Christian hope is for resurrection of the body and the fulfillment of Creation.* (same as above)
This is reflected at almost every gathering of Christians when we pray "Thy Kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as in heaven." In other words, we pray heaven comes to us on earth, not that we go to heaven. We pray for God’s will, which is heaven, to merge with earth and bring creation to it’s whole fulfillment. If we devalue the earth in favor of a heavenly home what an excuse to treat the earth as one more sacrifice!
The truth is, however much we have fallen in with Plato rather than Jesus and thought about heaven as our true home and this earth as simply a stop over, it has led to disastrous consequences in terms of how we treat this beautiful fragile island home. The consequences of devaluing creation is in the front page news now by the reality of global warming and desertification and drought. The consequences of devaluing creation is evident in our rush to war, in our rush to develop, in our myopic focus on profit measured quarterly - basically in our scorn of generations to follow.
In spite of the Lord’s Prayer, we have too much thought about Easter as really about “life after death”. And we do believe that there is life after death – life everlasting with God – and what a glorious hope that is! It is one of the central proclamations Christians make and have from the earliest days.
But the truth is that neither Matthew, Mark, Luke or John say anything about “going to heaven when you die” at all in their accounts of the resurrection. In Matthew, the two Mary’s are invited to come and see – and then go and tell. In Luke, the women remember all that Jesus had said to them, and go and tell their brothers. In John, our gospel this morning, Jesus tells Mary, don’t cling to me – in other words, don't stop and make an idol out of me - go and tell my brothers. In Mark, the angel’s message through the women to the disciples implies that they are going to be given things to do as well. In other words, - Jesus is risen - you have work to do!
And the work was and is – Go and tell the good news! Share what God has done and is doing. Don’t be afraid of death or disaster or discomfort or being discounted. Just experience the fullness of God’s life in you – and tell others your story and God’s story. That’s the work of Easter! That’s the risen life!
And while the core of the Good News is changeless: Love is more powerful than death – each generation needs to hear this news shaped and formed to present day realities. Our present day reality is that God’s glorious creation is in dire straits. For a lot of Sundays now, we've been talking about the Millenium Development Goals to eradicate extreme poverty. The lynch pin to all the other goals is the goal of environmental sustainability. The Episcopal church is launching a web site called globalgood to add the church's voice to the global call to care for creation. This coming Saturday, we're gathering here at the church to step it up with an energy audit and to take another look at our use of resources.
The Good News is that God does not abandon creation in favor of some far off place called Heaven.
The Good News is that God loves this world. This world of flesh and bone and trees and sun and air and soil. That God has placed us here to tend and care for creation – this creation that God’s own Self entered into in the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus who was killed by the powers of death and was raised again to fullness of life by the power of Love.
The Good News is that we can have fullness of life without fear of the powers of death – and that we are sent to proclaim far and wide – that Love is more powerful than any other force.