1st Scripture Reading: Isaiah 65: 17-25 & Psalm 118 (VU p.837, pts 1-3)
It’s been more than 2000 years since Jesus physically walked this earth – was bodily in this world that God so loves. This Easter season I have been reflecting on what this world might be like if Jesus had never come.
Do you ever think about that? How might this world be different without the messages of Love that Jesus brought to us – where would we earthlings be today, and what sort of state would our world be in?
The prophet Isaiah, many years before Jesus, talks about how God is about to create new heavens and a new earth where the former things will not be remembered. This passage goes on in very hopeful, even joyful tones to talk about how there will be a peaceful world, where there shall be no more weeping, and where infants won’t die without reaching adulthood. “My chosen” God says, will enjoy the work of their hands, and the fruit of their labours. Humans will live in harmony with nature, and we shall no more hurt or destroy on God’s holy ground.
But who are God’s chosen? We know that God spoke to the people of Israel and that our scriptures clearly name them as such. But perhaps it’s not just a name, a label – God’s chosen – perhaps it means the people who choose to love God? Maybe it’s about listening for God’s voice, and about trying to be obedient to God’s will. Maybe it’s about loving God and choosing to put God first in one’s life. Perhaps it’s about the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth – by the creation of God’s people. A king, after all, must have those who are loyal and can be counted on.
Sometimes, I think, we wonder if anything has changed at all. Jesus’ disciples went out as they were instructed to do, to all the nations. Christianity, with some hiccups I will grant you, has been hugely successful in spreading the word about the necessity for Love to become the “prime directive” for this new world – this new world that God wants to happen.
That is not to say we no longer have war and violence and injustice in our world today. But the seeds of Jesus’ teachings planted so many years ago have been like the leaven or yeast in the bread, spreading and growing, and raising the consciousness of humanity for 2000 plus years!
Whether we call God “good” or “social justice” or “Great Spirit” or “Creator of all that is” or “source” or “Allah” or just plain “Love”, people all over the world are choosing good over evil and building that choice into their laws and social policy. God’s ways are not our ways – but it looks to me that God’s will for a new creation is manifesting all around us – and through our human ways and choices.
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and God’s righteousness (or justice), and all the rest shall be added on to you. Hallelujah!”
Hymn # 115 MV “Behold, behold, I make all things new”
2nd Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 15: 19-26 & Luke 24: 1-12
We are here today to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus as the Christ . We have come to celebrate the victory of God over the powers of death and destruction. We have come to witness to the power of the God of Love.
Jesus followers fell to their knees in the face of this great power. They saw in Jesus the power of God at work in their midst. Filled with the realization of that power, and without any doubt about its existence, they were able to do great things – as Jesus had told them they would. And joyfully, without fear, they proceeded to go about God’s great work of bringing justice and compassion and healing to those around them.
But I’m ahead of myself. It’s Easter morning. The tomb is empty! What did this mean to the bewildered followers of Jesus in this moment?
They have just watched their leader be taken, bound, tortured, and then crucified. This man, this man whose divinity they have just begun to recognize has been brutally taken from them – murdered because those in authority will resist any change or threat to the status quo. Stunned and in disbelief they had retreated to a locked room, terrified about what their own future might hold.
And then the women, still in shock, remember their traditional, cultural duty to the dead – they must anoint the body for burial. After the Sabbath they make their way to the tomb, armed with aloes and spices, only to find the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Where is he? Excited they ran back to tell the men. Not believing these women’s tales, Peter ran to the tomb to see for himself. He, as we know, also found the tomb empty.
Can we even imagine the roller coaster of emotions? From fear and despair, shock and awe, to amazement and disbelief and then…maybe a little …hope?
What to make of all this? “What’s it all about, Alfie?” to quote from a well known song from a British movie.
Let’s talk about “women’s tales” first, could we? As a woman, so accustomed am I to this kind of offhand slight, that I didn’t even notice it at first. But it is a feature of a patriarchal culture, and those of us immersed in it become numb to it. But if God is doing a new thing, then what better way to kick it off than to point out to us the injustice of patriarchal culture’s dismissive treatment of women! Women were there at every step of Jesus’ journey. It is plain for all to see that he was not dismissive of them. And yet, our Christian church since very soon after Jesus’ death, has had a very patriarchal bias which I heard justified on television just a few days ago.
The Rev. Gretta Vosper, an ordained, university educated minister of our United Church who leads a congregation in Toronto is under investigation of her fitness to serve as such by a committee of the church. Some of you may have seen the interview on CBC with Wendy Mesley on Saturday.
This courageous woman is not a newcomer, not an alien undercover agent flown in from somewhere else. This woman is a product of our United Church. She went to Sunday school near her home, she was confirmed in that United Church, she taught confirmation classes, then she went to theological college to become a United Church minister. She has studied with some of the finest thinkers in our Christian tradition. But in the end she stands alone. She can no longer say that God is a supernatural, male being who directs our lives. Other than that, as far as I can see, and I have read her book With or Without God, Gretta Vosper embodies the teachings of Jesus the Christ. She is fruit of the vine and has not wandered from the “prime directive”: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Communities of love and caring and who work for justice, these are the values she dedicates her live to.
And here we are at Easter, ready to crucify (figuratively – but $60,000 in and counting) this woman who dares to say what many of us think. Didn’t Jesus say something like this (which used to hugely befuddle me): “The Father is in me and I am in the Father.” And, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods.”
Jesus came to tell us that that creative power (whatever you want to call it) is within us. If we had the faith of a mustard seed we could do all the things he did and more, he told us. But we can’t – because we don’t actually believe. Or do we? Maybe some of us have found ways to be creative in our lives. We are artists who express our deepest truths about being human thru our art. We are politicians who navigate the corridors of power to bring justice to the widow and the homeless, and to protect the sanctity of this earth – our home. We are teachers and healers and preachers who know in our bones that it is important to value good over evil, health over disease, and the potential of every individual to be better than they are. If God is good and God is love, then we humans have imbibed at the breast of Jesus that this is what it’s all about – this is what really matters.
In the beginning, we were created, male and female, in the image of the Creator. We are the seed of that Source, or Idea, or Power. That seed, planted in human consciousness is bursting forth with new life. It can no longer be contained within this institution we call the church, and that is why religious organizations are shrinking. But we, my friends, are still called to remember. Remember when you were a child, you held a dandelion seed head in your hand, and you blew the seeds away with your breath. Holy Spirit has blown away the seeds of Jesus’ teachings, and they are no longer contained within the church as we know it. Jesus Christ is loose in the world. The tomb is empty, and he is free, and we are blessed if we understand this.
Hymn # 159 VU “The Strife is O’er”