Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sermon for Easter Sunday 2011

(oops! Sorry, got the Easter Sunday sermon posted after some later ones.)

Sermon for Year A Easter Sunday
April 24, 2011
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Asheville, NC
The Rev. Jeanne Finan

The Glory of Everything

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother
as they were setting the table for breakfast.

“Out to the hoghouse,” replied Mrs. Arable.
“Some pigs were born last night.”

“I don’t see why he needs an ax,” continued Fern, who was only eight.

“Well,” said her mother, “one of the pigs is a runt.
It’s very small and weak, and it will never amount to anything.
So your father has decided to do away with it.”

“Do away with it,” shrieked Fern. You mean kill it?
Just because it’s smaller than the others?”

So begins
E. B. White’s beloved children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web.

It is a story about a little girl named Fern who saves the life of a very small and very lucky pig named Wilbur.

It is also the story of Charlotte,
the beautiful, resourceful gray spider
who lives with Wilbur in the barn
and becomes his best friend.

Surrounded by his barnyard pals and cheered by Fern’s visits,
optimistic little Wilbur enjoys each new day—until….

…until one of the grumpy and rather arrogant old sheep
tells Wilbur what farmers do to pigs---
AKA where we get ham and bacon and pork chops!

Wilbur is horrified.

But his spider friend Charlotte comes up with a clever way
to save Wilbur from this horrible fate.
It is not the little girl Fern or the farmer but a common, everyday spider
who saves Wilbur.

Sadly, Wilbur cannot protect Charlotte
from her own death.
Charlotte comes to the natural end of her life as a spider—
but not before she has laid her eggs
in a carefully crafted egg sac.

And Wilbur guards that egg sac—
knowing that what looks to most
like a piece of insignificant fluff
holds new life.

does not have the final word.

And that is what this day—this Easter day—is all about.
Death does not have the final word.

This is the day we shout for joy: Alleluia! Christ is risen!

We call it resurrection—the rising again to life.

And isn’t it interesting—
that the person who sees Jesus first--
risen from the tomb—
is a woman,

At best, a very every day sort of woman—
at worst, a woman with a rather sordid history-
yet she is the one--
Mary Magdalene—who is the first to see
the risen Christ.

The first to see is not a high religious or governmental authority.
Not Pilate nor Caiphas.
Not even one of the named disciples.
Not even Peter or John,
though they rushed to the tomb
when Mary Magdalene ran to tell them
the stone had been moved away
from the tomb’s entrance.

The disciples look around, see nothing, and they leave.

Mary Magdalene is the one who stays.
She has no idea what has happened.
Who could have rolled away the stone?
How can the tomb be empty?
She does not understand
But she does not leave.

This village woman who turned to Jesus
To help her get her life together,
Mary Magdalene stays.

And then there appears this man who asks,
Why are you weeping?

She is not sure at first
what or whom she is seeing.
The light of early morning is very dim.
Her heart is still in pieces from what has happened.

But then she hears a voice.
And she knows.
She knows exactly who calls her name.
She knows that as mysterious and rationally unexplainable as it may be,
she knows that voice.
And she knows that life
has the victory over death.

When Mary runs again to the disciples,
She does not say,
I think I may have seen Jesus.
She does not say,
You know, fellas, it may sound crazy but…
She ANNOUNCES to the disciples—
She is sure and she is certain—
I have seen the Lord.

We will never know—at least not in this world—
what Mary Magdalene really saw that morning.
But there is something so real,
almost bone-chilling real,
about the way this encounter is told in the gospels.

I had a professor—a New Testament scholoar-- once say,
“I can not doubt the resurrection in the gospel.
For if it was a story they wanted to make up,
just to prove a point,
just to promote Christianity,
they never,
never in a million years,
they never
would have had a woman
be the first to see the risen Christ.”

“As mysterious and strange as this resurrection account is,” he said,
“I can only believe it is true
and they could tell it no other way but this—
with Mary Magdalene
and being the one to go and tell the others.

“Whatever happened that morning,
it had to be a God thing.”

It is so important that we do not try to contain the resurrection
in a small and tidy box.
There was nothing tidy about any part of the life of Jesus.

Resurrection can never be limited to this one biblical event.
It is not just about Jesus.
Even the disciples knew that.

Resurrection—happens in so many ways in our lives.

Resurrection is about hope being born from the ashes.
Resurrection is about a friend
showing up to be the glue
when our lives are falling apart.

Resurrection is about a little church in Haw Creek
taking a leap of faith and courage
to knock out it’s old windows
and let the light shine in
and let the love shine out.

Resurrection is about looking for doors that open
when we feel confined to a life that is too small.

Resurrection is a God thing.
And we are all invited.
Women, men, children, pigs, spiders—all God’s creatures.

You see at the end of Charlotte’s Web
the egg sac breaks open—
and new life appears.
Charlotte’s children—hundreds of them come floating out of that egg sac—
on little gossamer parachutes.
And the love that Charlotte nurtured lives on in the world.

Resurrection is about all
that lives on after we die.

“Mr. Zuckerman took fine care of Wilbur all the rest of his days,
and the pig was often visited by friends and admirers,
for nobody ever forgot
the year of his triumph and the miracle of the web.

Life in the barn was very good—night and day, winter and summer,
spring and fall, dull days and bright days.
It was the best place to be, thought Wilbur,
this warm delicious cellar,
the garrulous geese,
the changing seasons,
the heat of the sun,
the passage of swallows,
the nearness of rats,
the sameness of sheep,
the love of spiders,
the smell of manure,
and the glory of everything.

Wilbur never forgot Charlotte.”

is about turning our hearts to the glory of everything—
but never forgetting
those who helped us
make that turn.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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