Read Pastor Julie's sermon as shared on Facebook Live. Visit https://www.facebook.com/saronstrasburg each Sunday at 8:30 a.m. between now and May 10, 2020, for a brief live service of scripture, prayer, and a sermon by Pastor Julie.
Jeremiah 31:1–6 | Colossians 3:1–4 | Matthew 28:1–10
The day dawns. And here we are to witness another day: Like so many AND at least on this one day every year—between the dark and the light—we allow ourselves, along with Mary and Mary (in Matthew’s gospel), to be roused from sleep in a new way; to be overcome by light. By mystery. For resurrection is a thing not easily grasped. And yet I think we also know it well. It is like dawn, and yet it also rises out of night. Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Morning intermingle and inform one another; they relate the fullness of the story; the pattern that brings us nearer to God—unencumbered to be who we really are.
So here’s the thing, we also didn’t make this day happen. We just waited for it. It was there on the horizon, but we could only let the sun rise when the earth turned: It wasn’t going to come any faster on account of your worrying and pestering and fussing. This is important for us to remember RIGHT NOW—on this unusual Easter Sunday. Sometimes, what you can do is hold on. Wait for the work of something and someone else. Think of Jeremiah and how we hear about the people who were deported and therefore refugees, feeling unsettled, unfinished, far from home; now hearing a word that they will be given back their land with buildings and government; and be able to plant vineyards and crops. But there’s the good stuff, too: They’ll be able to play tambourines and dance and eat grapes and go to worship God once again… Though we are unsettled, the dawn is always coming.
Resurrection can mean to bring a dead person back to life; but it can also mean to bring something back that has been lost; or ended; or forgotten. So that it “once again exists and is useful.” (Merriam-Webster) Resurrection synonyms are: reanimate, recharge, regenerate, rejuvenate, rekindle, resuscitate, revitalize, revive, re-awaken. But we first have to know that we have lost something. That it ended. And was forgotten. And it often takes the dark for us to see what we lost; that we lost; that we are lost; where our attempts to control don’t work. Like Mary and Mary at the tomb this morning: It’s all gone to heck. This person through whom they understood so much of God was killed—unjustly. Dead. But God is a regenerative God; who animates, re-animates. Here is opportunity. The night prepared them and us for letting the good stuff come.
Gerald May in his study of the mystics and psychology, describes our “go-to” operative in life: “The cultural imperative [is] to take charge of our lives and work towards our goals, [and so we think] that passivity, inaction, and surrender hold only negative consequences and are likely to panic if we try to force ourselves to cease making effort and just be.” But when control is taken from us—as in literal or figurative deaths, pandemics, we panic—yes. AND this, too: “The process of the dark night eases the restraints our attachments place on us” because they aren’t working at the moment, “enabling us to live more fully and lovingly. It deepens our trust in God's presence and in the essential goodness of life and of ourselves. It leaves us emptier—knowing less and having less than when we started—and this emptiness makes us freer than we would ever have dared to expect.” (p.103–104 “The Dark Night of the Soul.). The death and resurrection of Jesus shows us and imbues us, then, with freedom. The gaining really is in the losing.
We might say what is re-awakened this resurrection day—as it’s hard to understand—is a love of mystery. (May) “When we were children, most of us were good friends with mystery. The world was full of it and we loved it. Then as we grew older, we slowly accepted the indoctrination that mystery exists only to be sold. For many of us, mystery became an adversary; unknowing became a weakness… It is a slow and sometimes painful process of becoming "as little children" again, in which we first make friends with mystery and finally fall in love again with it.” (As the great Mystery loves us.) “And in that love we find an ever increasing freedom to be who we really are in an identity that is continually emerging and never defined. We are free to join the dance of life in fullness without having a clue about what the steps are.” p. 132–133
If it feels like the darkness hasn’t lifted yet, just know that we live between the two, always: Light and dark; death and life. And God is in all these places. Which means that neither need overtake us. But today, we are simply invited again into that dance. So, bring your tambourines!
Thanks be to God. Amen.
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