Easter Day April 4, 2010

Acts 10:34-43                                                                     

1 Corinthians 15:19-26                                                     

Luke 24:1-12

 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. – Luke 24:11

One cold February morning a young man, just 18, woke up in his bed. It was a Sunday and in the distance a church bell was ringing. The young man sat there a moment, then he said to himself quite suddenly, unexpectedly, “I do believe in God and I’m going to do something about it.” And he got up and went to church.

This was a decision he made. He had not been at all sure about God, whether he believed, who or what God was, what God – if there were a God – might have to do with his life. He was far from home, you see, at college, on his own really for the first time. He was being challenged by teachers to think for himself, to make up his mind. “You can’t just go through life in neutral,” one young instructor had said to his class. “You must decide, you must own what you decide, and you must be prepared to defend it and live it out in your life.”

 So he went to church, that February morning. And he has never looked back. And it has made all the difference. That young man stands before you this Easter morning.

We are here for a reason, you and I. I don’t just mean here in church – though we’ll get to that. I mean here on earth, part of the billions-years old process of creation, made of the dust of the universe, yet as the Bible says, “but little lower than the angels.” Here for a reason.

During Easter season it is our custom here at Holy Cross to use Form D of the Great Thanksgiving, the prayer of consecration in the Eucharist. Form D is an ecumenical prayer, crafted by Episcopalians, Catholics, various Protestant denominations working together. It is the longest of the Eucharistic prayers. And as you will notice as we pray our way through it, it is the beautiful retelling of the reason why we’re here, the story of God working through creation, through evolution, through history, through you and me.

Canon Charles LaFond likes to say that the Resurrection is God’s great yes to life. And so it is. But this yes of Easter comes at the end of a long chain of God’s yeses, recited in Prayer D. The yes of creation, that life is not just random and accidental, but given to us for a purpose. The yes of God’s covenant with his chosen people Israel, to which we Christians are heirs. The yes of the prophets, who called Israel back to the ways of God when she had become corrupt. The yes of the incarnation of Jesus born of Mary. The yes of Jesus’s ministry among the poor and sorrowful, the lost and last and least.

All of these, yeses to life, to love, to faith in the power of God, to hope in the promises of a better future, God’s kingdom come here on earth. All of these yeses culminating in the yes of Easter, the yes of the Resurrection, of the victory of Christ over death. Yes, yes, yes. God is always saying yes. Yes is God’s very nature, his yes undefeated and undefeatable, even when people nailed him to a cross.

God said yes to Jesus on Easter because Jesus had said yes to God again and again all through his life. Yes at his baptism by John in the River Jordan, to plunging in and making common cause with humanity. Yes in the wilderness when Satan tempted him with corruptions of power. Yes to trusting in the promises of God and proclaiming them in his preaching and teaching. Yes to the hope he brought to those in despair. Yes to forgiveness and generosity, hospitality and love, when the religious system offered only guilt and condemnation, exclusion and hypocrisy.

What does that yes mean to you and me? What does it mean in our lives? We live in a culture of no. Now you may not realize that at first, because it’s well disguised. But think of advertising. Google, that infallible authority, cites various statistics on how many commercial messages we’re exposed to each day, ranging from 247 to 850 to 3,000. Advertising, marketing, drives the world. And advertising is at its core based on instilling in us a belief that life is a matter of no. No, we’re not good enough, no we’re not happy enough, no we’re not young enough, no we’re not beautiful enough, no we’re not rich enough. But if we buy this, buy that, then we can turn all the noes of life into yeses.

But the trouble is that the yeses our culture offers never really produce a fundamental yes to life. The only reason they offer us for being here is to produce and consume. And of course it isn’t just advertising. Much of our politics is based on pessimism, hate and fear. There is a version of scientism that sees life as no more than random chance, that says that the only reason we are here is accident and a blind compulsion to propagate our species. So there are many noes today, competing against God’s great yes.

Which brings us back to making that fundamental decision. We can only say yes to God’s great Easter yes if we, like Jesus, say no to the things that work against God. We Americans love to think we can have it both ways. But we can’t. We must choose. As my instructor said so long ago, not to choose is in fact a choice – just a weak one. Does this Easter story that we celebrate today seem to you but “an idle tale”? Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies, grand old hymns and the scent of lilies, the comforting rituals of a sentimental past, but in the end just an idle tale? Or is it true – the truest truth there is? The greatest story ever told? The story that tells us the reason we are given life?

Belief is a choice that each of us must make. We cannot go through life in neutral – for that too is a choice, a choice not to believe. Belief is a choice not just in the head – for really that is secondary; the Easter story came to make sense to the disciples as they went along – but a choice of the direction of our lives, of our basic orientation and values, of how we spend our money and raise our children and what we do with our talents and our time. Will we say yes to the Good News of God in Jesus Christ – yes with our lives?

It will make all the difference if we do.

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