Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter Sermon 2012

Resurrection Is All Around You, Whether You Choose to Acknowledge It or Not

Some of you have heard me talk about my neighbor’s lawn, which is in some ways the bane of my family’s existence since we are trying to sell our house, and the lawn looks like the grasses of the savanna. Beginning last summer, the neighbor stopped caring for his lawn, and then this past fall he moved out, apparently because the house was about to be foreclosed upon. Now it sits vacant and untended, the grass rising again now with the rains and the warm weather, clumps of weeds peeking up in places, tall fronds leaning over our carefully-articulated property line.

For the most part, the yard is an annoyance, a detraction, an eyesore. But the other morning, as I was getting ready at the bathroom sink in the back of the house, I saw out the corner of the window, bright red tulips along the garage in the back, growing and stretching up like they didn’t know any better.

From deep beneath the earth, the flowers in the bulb felt the call of springtime pulling them forth, and they responded. They pushed up through the earth and made a way for themselves through the tall grass, through last fall’s crunchy, or maybe soggy, leaves. They reached up and up and unfolded themselves and announced, “Here we are!” even though no one was there to see them, no children to run back and acknowledge spring’s first flowers, no master or mistress of the house to carefully prune around them.

The flowers stood tall, declaring their beauty and the hope of springtime, whether anyone was going to choose to acknowledge them or not.

I don’t know if they knew or not that I did finally notice them the other day, from behind the screened-in window of my bathroom, from many yards away. I didn’t walk over and say hello, I didn’t stop to breathe in their scent, I didn’t really honor them in any way except to take note, and now to feature them in this sermon.

But after I had noticed them, those flowers stayed with me. As I thought about the remarkable way that bulbs will push forth from the earth in spring with their blooms, I couldn’t help but make the leap to the resurrection. Of course bulbs are an Easter image precisely because of this obvious connection: the way they are brown and dry and dead-looking in the fall, when they’re meant to be planted, and then they germinate in the earth over the winter and surprise us one spring day with their colorful petals. The way they sometimes bloom even when we think we’ve dug them up, even when we think we’ve transplanted all of them and their kin to another part of the yard, and then a particularly tenacious daffodil will call out from the wilderness, “Here I am, don’t forget about me!” The way that some springs will come and go with nary a peep from these mysterious bulbs, and then five years after we’d forgotten where they were even planted, here comes a springtime of bloom. The way that, whether or not we remember them, they will bloom and come to life, whether or not we know they’re there, whether or not we acknowledge their existence or the miracle of what is happening with them. In some ways, it’s our loss, isn’t it, when we fail to notice them? We are the ones who miss out on their beauty, on their quirkiness, on the mischievous way they enter into environments that seem not to want them there?

Isn’t that the way it is with the resurrection? Jesus rises on Easter morning whether or not we acknowledge him. Jesus vacates the tomb and stamps down death, turning the tables on what we think we know about suffering and sin, and he does this whether or not we expect him to, whether or not we want him to, whether or not we’re looking for him. He turns up in places where he may or may not be welcome, he may or may not look the part, he may or may not be recognizable.

Into a world that is quite like my neighbor’s yard, a world that is full of weeds and bramble and clumps of the unwanted, unwelcome, undesirable stuff of life, Jesus appears. Jesus reaches out his hand. Jesus invites us to see him, and to recognize him, and to wonder. Jesus calls out to us, in his own humble way, to stop what we are doing and take notice. To walk into that scary, gnarly world and see his beauty in it. To respond to him instead of just nonchalantly passing by. To make a big deal about him instead of shrugging him off because we’re too cool to need him or to remark about him.

Because what do we usually do when we see something unusual, unexpected, remarkable? We tell someone, don’t we? So let’s tell someone about Jesus! Let’s not walk right past this resurrection without taking notice. Let’s not just shrug it off as something we knew was going to happen anyway, so who cares? It is a big deal! It is something to talk about! It is something amazing!

Jesus was buried in the tomb and after three days he rose! HE ROSE! He got out of the tomb and in doing that he had the last word in the situation. Pilate, the crowds who beat and taunted him, the authorities who sentenced him, the soldiers who arrested him, Judas who betrayed him, none of those had the last word. Darkness and sin and death did not have the last word; Jesus has the last word. And Jesus’ word is Resurrection. Jesus’ word is beauty. Jesus’ word is love, is hope, is miracle.

We need these words from Jesus in a world today that is sometimes overgrown with negativity, with the weeds of despair, with the grasses of complacency, with the brambles of grief and loss and worry. We need beauty, love, hope, miracles, light, life, resurrection.

The resurrection happens whether or not we acknowledge it. Let us not walk by it without pause; let us see it, let us be transformed by it, let us share in the joy of it. Jesus is Risen! Death is no more! Sin and suffering and dying cannot have the last word, ever again! Alleluia, amen!

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