Looking for the Living among the Dead

The Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord ~ Easter Sunday

march 27, 2016

In the name of the One who burst forth from the tomb and who is living still.  Amen.

Sometimes you have to look kind of hard to find any humor per se in the Easter story.  But I did hear of one Easter card seen on store shelves that had Jesus looking all holy and everything, and saying, “Save me some chocolate eggs.  I’ll be back in three days.”

And how about this one—the most astounding announcement in all of human history—that a man tortured and killed on a Roman cross is also God, and has come back again to life.  This most astounding announcement was made—where?  In a cemetery.

Think of how corporations today launch new ideas and new products.  Lots of fanfare.  Lots of hoopla.  Glitzy settings with women dressed up like Vanna White. 

And here, now, is the greatest idea—the greatest product launch in human history.  And it’s coming out of a cemetery.  No fanfare.  Just a couple of guys in white suits telling the women that Jesus is risen.  Gone.  And, by the way, why are they looking for him there?  Why are they looking for the living among the dead?

It’s a great line in the gospel that really underscores much of how we live our lives, doesn’t it?  I know plenty of people who look for the living among the dead—who look for what gives life among what takes it away.  In fact I’ve been known to look for the living among the dead myself—lots of times!!

 

I think that in this election year we’d do well to ask this question of ourselves (why are we looking for the living among the dead?) and use it to guide our choices in our Connecticut primaries on April 26th and in the general election come November.   I don’t care what political party each of us is; that’s really rather irrelevant. 

What IS relevant is how we choose the candidate who gets our vote.  Are we in the realm of the dead—what does not give life—when we decide on this candidate or that one?  And the fact of the matter is, of course, that each person running this year—or any year—is a mixture of living and dead.  We ALL are.

It’s our unenviable task to be so informed that we can try to pick the one who seems to have the best potential to give life— or health—to our country.  Of course we want qualities like leadership and grace under pressure.  Of course.  But let’s go to qualities even more foundational.  Let this be our guide—the lovely verse from the prophet Micah in the OT.  “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  [Micah 6:8]

Seems to me that this is a pretty good yardstick for any candidate of any party at any time.  Think of some of the Presidents we have loved most. How does this fit them:  Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.  May we remember these things when we look for the living among the dead in this election season.

And it’s not just the elections in this country that give us pause and downright fear these days.  This past week we watched in distress as the people of Brussels dealt with the awful terrorist bombings at their airport and in their subway.  How can the hope we receive at Easter help us and help our world through our anxiety and our sorrow?

I know that the Resurrection of Jesus breaks through time and place.  Because Jesus was resurrected to eternal life he lives still.  As one author put it, “The tomb couldn’t hold him.  He’s loose in the world.  He’s still here.  He’s still recruiting for the Kingdom of God.”   [Marcus Borg, http://www.marcusjborg.com, May, 2011]

Jesus lives to draw us to his heart and to comfort us.  Jesus lives to equip us to take hope and healing out to a world in sore need of it.  Jesus lives to encourage us to reach out to others and to reach out to HIM in prayer, imploring his help and his healing for those who are suffering from these bombings—and all kinds of other tragedies and challenges. 

Because Jesus lives and transcends time and space we will live as well.  The resurrection assures us that despite the chaos and disorder of our lives and our world, there is a life and a hope that endures.  That love is stronger than death and that love will win one day.  Love is stronger than death, and terror, and fear.

My friend Elsa was on retreat at the Society of Saint John the Evangelist’s monastery in Cambridge, Massachusetts a week before I was there this month.  She had an experience of finding the living in someone who she really thought was “dead.”  She was walking in Harvard Square and saw this homeless guy sitting out in the cold sun, dressed really poorly, and very dirty. 

She walked past him and then thought, heck, I have $10 in my pocket.  I can get this guy a coffee.  So she went back to him and asked him if he liked coffee, and what he’d like in it.  And he told her “the works.”  Elsa went down the street to Dunkin Donuts and got him one of their giant coffees, and took it to the man.  And he gave her a smile and shook her hand and said to her, “My name is Jim.  I will pray for you.”

Now, not only did Elsa reach out to someone she thought was “dead,” but she also learned something else:  that he was the Christ, incarnate, dirty, disheveled, needy, and grateful.  A person who would pray for her.  Jim.

Each of us could probably tell several different stories about finding the living among the dead, of finding Christ hidden in others.  Think about your own stories and share them at brunch or Easter dinner today. 

The 19th Century poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote about the experience of finding the Living One among and within the dead in his poem called “As Kingfishers Catch Fire.”  Listen to this excerpt from the end of the poem:

 

. . . Christ plays in ten thousand places,

Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

To the Father through the features of men's faces.

 

May we give thanks for the way in which Christ is incarnate in every one of us—loose in the world—resurrected and renewed and reincarnate.  May we not forget that he inspires us to be and to find the living among the dead. 

May we take his charge to be his ambassadors to a very hurting world, and reach out, one by one, making friends,

giving hope,  fetching coffee, offering prayers,

healing / hearts and limbs.

Amen.