Monday, April 6, 2015

I have no proof...

Sermon for Year A Easter Vigil
April  4, 2015
The Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Burlington, Vermont
The Very Rev. Jeanne Finan

I have no proof....

Scholar, poet, professor,
a very faithful Christian.

He was baptized and confirmed
as John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.

We know him better today as
J. R. R. Tolkien,
the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Tolkien loved words.
If he couldn’t find just the right word
he would invent one.

One of his invented words is the word EUCATASTROPHE.


It means: the moment when the light of deliverance 
breaks through the darkness of despair.


When evil falls and righteousness suddenly triumphs.
That moment we feel overwhelmed by joy,
“a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart,
near to or accompanied by tears.”


Tolkien formed this word by affixing the Greek prefix EU—
meaning “good”—
onto the word CATASTROPHE
which classically means “unraveling.”

EUCATASTOPHE: An unraveling that brings good.

We heard eucatastrophe throughout the readings this night,
the readings of the Vigil.

Tolkien referred to the life of Jesus
as a eucatastrophe.
Tolkien saw Jesus’ story
as one that began and ended
with joy.

From the joy of his birth to the joy of his resurrection--
but the middle?

Oh, the middle.
We all have a middle.

The middle is all about the unraveling.

We understand unraveling,
some of us know catastrophe only too well.

It is much more difficult to believe that good
and joy can emerge from the unraveling.

We can believe in Jesus’ life,
but believing in resurrection is much more challenging.

No one saw the actual resurrection,
though a number of artists have given us their view
of what it might have been  like.

People saw many events
that happened throughout the life of Jesus.

People saw the betrayal and the torture and the crucifixion.
People saw Jesus laid in a tomb.

But then Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James
and Salome—
women—-find the stone rolled away.

How was this possible?
How did Jesus go from a very real, very violent death,
recorded in history as well as in scripture,
witnessed by his disciples--
and now--
his physical body is gone.

I have no proof of the resurrection.
But I believe it is very real.

I have no proof that we are changed
when we come to the font of baptism.
But I believe we ARE changed,
marked as Christ’s own forever. Forever.

I have no proof that when a bishop lays his hands upon our head
for confirmation or reception or reaffirmation,
that our path in life will be different.

But I believe if we listen to our hearts,
our feet will be guided to a path
that is more than we ever asked or imagined.

I have no proof that when we come forward
and stretch out our hands
to receive the bread and wine
of communion
that we are transformed.

But over and over,
I see people’s lives changed.
I see my own life changed--
just by showing up,
just by taking a piece of broken bread
and a sip of wine
from a cup.
Just by showing up for a blessing.

We put aside our differences
and gather as God’s people,
passing the peace,
remembering one another in our prayers,
we are changed.
We are not the same.

The light breaks through the darkness.

How does it happen?
I do not know--
any more than I can explain how love happens.
But I know love is real.

I know love is real.

When Gandalf fears that Frodo is dead,
Aragon asks him, What does your heart tell you?

Gandalf replies, "That Frodo is alive.
Yes. Yes. He is alive."

…you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. 
He has been raised….

What does your heart tell you?
What does my heart tell me?

Yes. Yes.
He is alive.

+    +    +

Mark 16: 1-8

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed;; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

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