Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Unbridaled Joy: An Easter Sermon

Several years ago, I witnessed a scene at Houston Intercontinental Airport that is indelibly burned into my brain. A young couple had gone to pick up some relatives who were flying in. They had brought their little daughter who must have been about 18 or 20 months old. This young couple was wading through the crowds around the baggage claim. Suddenly, the father tapped his daughter on the head and said, "Look, there’s grandma and grandpa."

The little girl turned, and there was this moment where several things happened instantaneously. The toddler’s face lit up with joy and elation, and at the very same moment her facial expression changed, her arms and legs started pumping and propelling her toward her grandma. Heedless of the crowds; heedless of any obstacles that might appear in her path, this little toddler ran. Her excitement; her unbridled joy overcame any fear that she might have otherwise known. At top speed, she crashed into her grandmother and wrapped her little arms around her grandma’s leg. Such joy bubbled forth at the news and at the sight of the appearance of one she loved so much.

Will we see such passion, such excitement, such joy, and such unbridled elation today?

This past Wednesday, I conducted chapel service at St. Mary’s Episcopal Dayschool. Those of you who read my blog know that I have a special place in my heart for leading these preschoolers in worship. As has happened before, I was astounded by their participation in worship. The topic for the day was Easter Sunday, of course, and so we celebrated Easter a little early including breaking the Lenten tradition of keeping Alleluia under wraps. We sang one of the kids’ favorite songs where they sing Hal-la-la-la, la-la-le-lu-ia, and then they get to do a whole lot of actions and interactions with each other. Whenever it was time to just sing, the kids let loose! And I mean it, they let loose! They bounced up and down, and they sang at the top of their voices. They were completely off key. They missed more notes than they hit, but they didn’t care. They weren’t concerned with whether or not they were singing in the right manner or singing the right notes. All they were concerned with was singing! All they were concerned with was lifting their voices in praise and adoration! They had enough freedom in their lives to allow their joy to bubble to the surface and overflow in unbridled, passionate singing.

Will we see such passion, such excitement, such joy, and such unbridled elation today?

Face it, most of us here this morning have been trained. From our childhood’s we have been taught what is prim and proper. We have been taught what is appropriate and inappropriate to do in a public setting. We have been taught how we are supposed to act in regard to life. Whether we accept it or not, most of us have been taught to keep a lid on our emotions. We aren’t supposed to get too happy, too sad, too angry, too frustrated, too depressed, or what have you. There is a narrow, acceptable range of emotions that we are supposed to fit into.

And this is not all bad. I mean, we really don’t want too many people giving in to their anger and frustration and acting out to the point where it hurts others. Road rage isn’t a good thing. Physically assaulting another human being isn’t kosher either. There are indeed places where boundaries are necessary and appropriate.

But what about joy? What about exuberance? What about happiness and excitement? Why is it that we adults smile and giggle at children who become overly excited at Christmas when they open their presents, yet frown upon an adult who might do the same thing? Why is it that we laugh when our children run to gather Easter eggs and yet stifle our own reactions of joy? Has life become so routine, so mundane, so predictable that there is little news that can rouse us? Has life become so ordinary that we shrug our shoulders and feel no amazement at all? Have we become so mature, prim and proper that we have ceased to wonder at anything anymore?

Jesus once said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." But how can we do such a thing? How can we break through these psychological and emotional barriers which hold us in place and keep our joy from overflowing?

Today, we gather to hear news that helps make that change possible.

Today, we gather to hear news that fills us with wonder.

Today, we gather to hear news, that if we believe it is true, fills us with unimaginable joy.

Christ is risen!

Let that statement pierce into your heart and mind and soul. Let it penetrate the very depths of your being.

Christ is risen!

If we believe this statement to be true, then it means a whole lot of mind boggling things not the least of which is that death is not the end. It means that when we gather at a funeral, mourning is optional. We know that the one who believes in Christ will be taken to be with God and that one day we will see that person again when we too cross into eternity. We have life eternal and will never be separated from those we love. How bewildering is it that death becomes the beginning of eternal life? And all because:

Christ is risen!

And if we believe this statement to be true, then it means that God will act in the midst of our suffering and transform it into something for His glory. Need I remind you that just a day or so ago, all who followed Jesus were in despair? Need I remind you that when Jesus hung on the cross dying, His followers thought that suffering was the end? Need I remind you that they believed the forces of evil had won? As Jesus lay in the tomb cold and unmoving, His followers thought it was the end, that one more wanna be Messiah had bit the dust. Once more hope lost. But that was Friday and Saturday. It’s Sunday, and the empty tomb proved to them that God has the last laugh. God has the final answer. God turns suffering into joy. And all because:

Christ is risen!

And if we believe this statement to be true, then it confirms everything that Jesus’ taught. It confirms that He came to forgive us of our sins and make us right with God. It confirms that God loves us so much that He seeks us out in love, sets us apart to be His children, and grants us grace upon grace, mercy upon mercy. But not only this. Not only does God promise us these things, as Christ taught us, but God promises to be with us each and every day of our lives. God promises to be active in our world, revealing Himself to us in ways both great and small. Each day is another day to enter into the mystery of God, to seek His face in the beauty of creation, in the face of our neighbor, in the smile of a child, in the acts of kindness committed by ourselves or another. God is not absent from us; He is living among us. And all because:

Christ is risen!

And what if we believed we could see God each day? What if we believed He appeared to us like He appeared to His disciples? What if we believed God transformed our mourning into dancing? What if we believed that God has insured that we will never be separated from Him or from our family and friends who love Him? What if we believed this hope, this promise, this assurance? Would it fill us with wonder? Would it fill us with joy? Would it fill us with an unbridled hope that gushed forth in song and dance and laughter and exuberance?

What if we truly believed that Christ is risen?

Well, Christ IS risen...


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