Sunday, April 17, 2022

He is risen, so what? 

The Rev. Mark D. Wilkinson, Rector 

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church 

Katy X 77493 

Easter 2022 

Alleluia the Lord is risen 

The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia 


The Lord is risen so what? 


Did I get your attention? Good! “So what” is a perfectly legitimate question. So what does this mean? So what does Jesus the risen Son of God mean? What difference does it make? When the women told the men what had happened they thought it an idle tale! What makes this so much more than an idle tale? 


Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in an Easter sermon warned us against turning the resurrection into a fairy tale. There is nothing wrong with fairy tales he said but: 


The truth is, the way the world very often operates is not working out.  It’s not sustainable.  It’s not the way to life.  Jesus has shown us the way.  He has shown us that unselfish, sacrificial love, love of God, and love of the other, is the way to life.  That, my friends, is the ultimate reality.  And that’s not a fairy tale.1 


If Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t change you, change the world then it is a big so what. It is just an idle tale. Easter becomes just another American holiday where the important activities are Easter egg hunts, new outfits, dinner and maybe a stop in church.  


I remember a story a couple years ago on the news.  It was about some mega church that held a big Easter egg hunt. This church hired a helicopter to drop 10,000 eggs in a field for everybody to collect. By the way the activity was held with two weeks left to go in Lent, but let’s not let a season of penitence and fasting get in the way of our fun. The comment from a mom that got my attention was, “What a great way to celebrate Easter. “ REALLY? Is that all Easter is to this person?  Apparently she is not alone. I read an article this past week where the reporter was interviewing someone who was describing all the things to do at their church on this Easter weekend. There was a lot of talk about all the side activities, the Easter egg hunt, a brunch, even a door prize of a free iPad to some lucky child. What I did not hear was a single mention of Christ, Jesus, or God! That my friends will never happen in this parish.   


What started me thinking about is that Easter really is about how hard it is to be a Christian in today’s world. Being a Christian is as countercultural now as it was in the time of the first Easter. Somehow Christianity has gotten locked up with the prosperity Gospel and becomes some sort of holy insurance policy that guarantees you get to heaven if you check the right boxes. If you believe the right things and do the right things you will be successful in this world and get into heaven in the next. The Risen Christ is about victory but not necessarily success. The Risen Christ is about love, the love that God has for each and every one of us that is a constant theme of Bishop Curry’s preaching and teaching. As he says, “If it is not about Love it isn’t about Jesus.” 


So what? So what are we to do? Next Sunday we will host Bishop Hector when he makes a visit to Baptize and Confirm new members to our parish and the Episcopal Church. In the Confirmation class we spent time looking at the baptismal promises that they will make standing in front of the Bishop. One of the adults looked at the last promise in the baptismal covenant and asked why is this so hard for people to do? The last promise is the one that refers to respecting the dignity of every human being. I think the answer to that is because so much of society seeks to dehumanize anyone who is different, or doesn’t look or sound like us. Maybe they believe differently from us. Reverting to tribalism, a black and white, right or wrong dynamic is easy, but it isn’t the way of Love nor is it what our Baptismal Covenant calls un us to do.  


I will ask you to reaffirm your baptismal vows in just a few moments and I really want you all to take a good long look at what you are saying so open your prayer books up to page 293 and look at the last three promises.  


Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? 


This promise demands that we do more than just pay lip service to the gospel the followers of Jesus are expected to proclaim. This is not just about talking a good game, but do you live the Gospel? What if you walked around all day like I often do in a uniform that says I am a Christian, a priest, a minister? Would it change how you behaved? For you are all ministers by your baptism. Everybody is a minister in our church we just have different ways of living out that ministry. How do you minister to the world in how you proclaim the Gospel by your actions as well as your words? 


Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? 


Ah yes the love your neighbor piece. Remember the man who asked Jesus who is my neighbor and Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. Can anybody tell me an exception that Jesus made to his definition of neighbor? Is this hard, absolutely but Jesus said this is one of the two great commandments. On the commandment to love God and love neighbor every other law in the Bible must be judged. Everything we do is judged by this standard 


Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? 


This is the one that seems so difficult for so many people. However, those who wrote these promises did not allow for any wiggle room. The operative word for me is “all” not some, not just the ones who are easy to respect but all. That is hard work, and it is work that Jesus showed us how to do. It is also the work that we need to do if the church is to survive all the threats that are out there.  


During this period of Lent you have also heard me speak of Mission and Vision work for our parish. The vestry and a group of parishioners that represent a good cross-section of our congregation have been meeting and working and that Mission and Vision statements will go to the vestry this Wednesday evening. The one thing that I can tell you is I know we are on the right track because the Core Values we wrote are all based in some way on these last three promises of our Baptismal Covenant. They hold us accountable for what you all will say in just a minute and that is something for us to celebrate. Oh, it will be a challenge, but this is following the way of Jesus. More on this work in the weeks to come. 


Our Presiding Bishop calls all us to be part of the Jesus movement and so I challenge you to consider the cost of being a member of that movement, a follower of the Risen Christ. I challenge you to speak up when the dignity of another is being rejected or stomped on. To live a life that says yes I am a Christian and I am proud to say it. I challenge more than anything else to ask a very important question. If you were arrested today and charged with being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Or would the judge and jury say, no I don’t see any evidence that warrants conviction, case dismissed. 


The Lord is risen and it is good news, it is news we need to proclaim. And just as I will say in the closing blessing help us to all believe that we can make a difference in this world and do the things that others claim cannot be done.  


I close with the words of our Presiding Bishop:  

GO! Go forth into this world.  Don’t be afraid.  And don’t be ashamed to be people of love.  And go forth into this world and help us to change it from the nightmare it often is into the dream that God intends.