1st Scripture Reading: Isaiah 25: 6-9 & Psalm 118
Reflection: “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth…”
On this beautiful Easter Sunday, on this the most joyful day of the Christian year, we have come together to celebrate the goodness of our God. In this reading from Isaiah we are reminded that we are surrounded by the abundance and the infinite generosity of Creation – of all that God has provided for us.
And yet, somehow we have not learned that there is enough. We don’t understand that the scarcity we see all around us is a failure of our willingness to be satisfied with “enough”. And so there is a “shroud” of blindness thrown over us. We can’t see that there is enough. We choose instead the “American Dream” – the idea that if we work hard enough, claw our way over enough other people, are willing to work 18 hour days and neglect our families by being absent to them, then we will get rich – we will achieve more than our share – and we will be “successful”. Our families will suffer, the earth will be despoiled, people will be sacrificed – all on the altar of greed.
And as we are more and more “successful”, we will require more and more of the earth’s finite resources to fuel our insatiable ambition. Corruption and exploitation, murder and intimidation, all to service the demands of shareholders will surely follow. And then there will be reason for war. The horrors of war are well known to those of us who have experienced it.
But greed isn’t always about money, is it? The desire for power over others is also a very dark and shrouded place. The abuse of power often leads to the use of force: physical violence, sexual violence, torture, and murder. Also ethnic cleansing and genocide.
The use of the word “shroud” to describe that which covers our eyes and blinds us to what is right and true, is such a powerful image! The Apostle Paul is described as having had “scales on his eyes” when he was Saul, the persecutor of Christians. His vision on the road to Damascus lead to the removal or falling away of those scales as he became an advocate for Jesus, and for a merciful and generous God. “For now we see as thru a glass darkly…” But God’s intention, as recorded by Isaiah, is to destroy this “sheet” that is spread over all nations, to tear away the shroud of blindness, thus swallowing up the darkness of death that is embodied in our disgrace as humans – our exceedingly bad behavior toward one another and toward the earth.
When we choose to refuse to participate in disgraceful actions, when we are willing to proclaim God’s goodness and the gospel of abundance for all, and to live our lives reflective of Jesus’ teachings: sharing with each other, loving our neighbor as ourselves, then our disgrace will be washed away and forgotten, and sthen we will have come a long way toward the establishment of God’s heavenly kindom, right here on God’s beautiful earth.
Hymn #412 VU “This is the Day”
2nd Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11 & John 20: 1-18
Reflection: Over 2000 years ago, a boy baby was born in a tiny Jewish hamlet in a sparsely populated, arid part of the Middle East. This country was subject to Roman rule and oppression, but was otherwise insignificant in the scheme of things at that time. The baby’s name was Jesus, and he is spoken of scripturally as Emmanuel, or “God with us”.
The Roman rulers kept pretty good written records, but they didn’t really care much about ordinary Jewish citizens – so long as they paid their taxes. The wonder is that we have any record of the life of Jesus at all!
But here we are, 2015 years later, and we are still talking about Jesus. We are still holding services every Easter, like this one, to be certain that we do not forget his life, his teachings, and his sacrifice. And we hold on to the mystery! His resurrection from the dead, his miracles, his countless acts of healing speak to us today, as they did then, of no ordinary human being – though he was clearly a man, of flesh and blood.
And so he holds a light for us, a candle in the darkness of death and illness, of war and oppression, a persistent light leading us to greater and greater illumination and understanding of ourselves and the way we live. As we follow him, we leave behind greed and avarice, selfishness and disregard for others, anger and unforgiveness. As we follow him, we learn to love other people the way we love ourselves, the way he loved us (and continues to love us) – unconditionally – recognizing in each of us a beloved child of God.
When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb of Jesus, both to mourn his passing, and to prepare his body as was the custom, she found him gone. When the other disciples had left, and she sat weeping at the empty tomb, he appeared to her. She felt him talk to her. She related his instructions to the others, and they were found to be true. Jesus appeared to the disciples, and to more than 500 brothers and sisters at one time, according to Paul in the Corinthians letter. And lastly, he appeared to Paul, as he testifies.
Many, many Christians, myself included, can testify to his appearance to us in present times. Jesus brought me back to the church, by showing me his ability to love each of us so boldly, so without judgment, that I knew I was in the presence of God. That certain knowledge of the vastness of God’s love and forgiveness for each of us is what I am called to testify to in my ministry here on Texada Island.
We know that there are many levels of spiritual development found amongst us. We know that Jesus came to us with a mission from God to strip the scales from our eyes, to tear the shroud that blinds us –to tear it in two, and to bring each of us to greater awareness of who we really are as spiritual beings – children of an indescribably loving God. Can we know Jesus as a very high spiritual being, who navigates spiritual realms of which we are only dimly aware, and who is available to each of us as spiritual guide and teacher? And can we love ourselves enough to know that with God all things are possible, and that Jesus loves each of us so much that he wants to bring all of us home – home to the One who created each of us, and who loves each of us as if we were the only child?
Jesus is the Light of the world, people of God, and he has lit that light in each one of us. Let us not disappoint. Let us go forth to shine that light into whatever darkness we find around us, so that in the end, there is nothing but Light, nothing but God’s infinite goodness.
Hymn # 703 VU “In the Bulb There is a Flower”