Hallelujah for the Journey! Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Easter 2014 Easter is a hopeful time for celebrating the possibilities for renewal and resilience. It was subversive in the first century to insist that one killed by empire did not stay dead. Oppressive forces did their worst, and yet the message and movement continued. In the […]
Hallelujah for the Journey!
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Easter is a hopeful time for celebrating the possibilities for renewal and resilience.
It was subversive in the first century to insist that one killed by empire did not stay dead. Oppressive forces did their worst, and yet the message and movement continued. In the empire, Caesar is Lord; but in the kin-dom of God, all people have sacred value and every person has dignity and worth.
You can try to kill the message by silencing the messenger, but Hope will always rise again, resilience will always emerge from the ashes of remorse, integrity will not stay buried.
At the Last Supper, Jesus sensing that he had pushed the authorities too far and would likely be imprisoned, enslaved, or killed as a result, asked his friends to remember him. If he were to be remembered, if his liberating, healing work were to continue, then such work in his name (or memory) would be one of the ways he might live on in the hearts of those whose lives he touched. By remembering him and continuing his work in the world, THEY would be his body, they would continue to express his life.
So for me, the Last Supper is a resurrection story, and our Holy Communion reenactment of it keeps that story alive!
In Luke’s gospel, there are two people traveling to Emmaus who meet a stranger. And once they share bread with the stranger, they realize that the stranger is Christ. That’s why our Communion feast is open to anyone who wishes to share it, regardless of what they believe. Whenever we touch the untouchable, lift up the marginalized, welcome the stranger, haven’t we then seen and touched the power of Christ? Therapist Dick Rauscher says, “We celebrate and resurrect the memory and presence of Jesus…every time we manifest love and compassion in the world.”
Resurrection stories point to resilience and hope and new beginnings. And that is what makes resurrection a powerful concept that continues to thrill us and fill us with indomitable hope.
But I’m preaching to the converted, as it were. We’re all here today because the symbolism of the day means something to us. It may not mean the exact same thing to each of us, but it does means something to almost all of us; that’s why we are here to celebrate the possibilities!
Yes, we say with conviction, “Alleluia, Christ is risen!” but the reason that resonates with us so deeply is that we intuitively know that if the Christ Light in Jesus could not be snuffed out, then no matter what we face in our lives, there must be hope beyond horror and peace beyond pain. To say Christ is risen is to also know that we will rise above the despair, the disappointment, the difficulty at hand.
Baptist minister Chuck Queen says, “The resurrection of Jesus means that the anti-human, death-dealing, life-diminishing powers cannot extinguish the light, for it eludes all attempts to capture and destroy and it bursts forth from all the tombs where it is buried and encased.”
The idea of resurrection is found throughout our scriptures. In fact, by the time people experience Jesus beyond his death, the very concept is already old news:
Elijah raises a widow’s dead son (1 Kings 17).
His disciple Elisha raises a widow’s dead son (2 Kings 4).
Later a dead man is tossed into Elisha’s grave and when the corpse touches Elisha’s bones the fresh corpse is brought back to life (2 Kings 13).
Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter back to life (Matthew 9)
A whole bunch of people are raised back to life on the day Jesus is executed in Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 27)
Lazarus is raised from the dead (John 11)
Like Elijah and Elisha, Jesus raises a widow’s son (Luke 7)
Paul raises Tabitha back to life (Acts 9)
Paul himself is stoned and left for dead but then, somehow, recovers (Acts 14)
And Paul raises Eutychus back to life (Acts 20)
And in Acts 28 a venomous viper strikes Paul, but Paul just shakes off the death dealing serpent and suffers no harm at all!
The promise and power of resurrection isn’t limited to Jesus. The indomitable power of life, love, hope, and grace is found throughout the sacred texts and it is that very power in which we all live and move and have our being!
Resurrection is a reality of faith; a living and life-giving faith must remind us that yes, there will be times when we get knocked down, but there is a something within us that will always help us get back up again.
Resurrection is a metaphor, a symbol of new beginnings, of the hope of survival beyond seeming endings, of the human spirit that is forever part of the eternal energy of life.
In today’s gospel reading Matthews gives us this helpful hint for the Resurrection living:
He says the guards at the tomb became like corpses while the corpse came to life.
In other words, the guards were frozen with terror while the courageous one found new life.
Isn’t that usually true? Fear is a premature death while hope and courage are sources of life and vitality.
Maybe that’s why the writer says twice in the passage, “Do not be afraid.” To give in to fear is to lose joy and energy in life. Fears must be faced for life to be experienced in all its potential power. To do what must be done, especially when it isn’t easy and may even be dangerous, we must learn to face our fears and move through them. There may be a stone that is blocking your experience of the light, but roll it away and move into the warmth and brightness of infinite possibilities.
It’s a journey with ups and downs, but the ups ultimately win. It’s a journey; Hallelujah for the Journey!
Let Easter be a parable for courageous, optimistic, resilient living, a surge of hope that empowers us to continue on our healing, uplifting, life-giving journey.
Wayne B. Arnason, a Unitarian Universalist, shares these Resurrection thoughts:
“…The spirit of life is everywhere, evident in each new bud and shoot…The last place we expect to find that spirit is in the tomb within ourselves where hopes and possibilities have lain buried, killed by time and circumstance and potential unfulfilled.
Maybe that tomb is empty today.
Maybe those hopes and possibilities walk beside you.
Maybe something unexpected and unheard of awaits you in this season.”
And so I say,
Whatever has made you feel entombed, imprisoned, closeted,
Whatever has made you feel alone or unloved or unworthy,
Whatever has robbed of you of hope,
My prayer for you today is that your joy will be resurrected and your resilience will spring back to life.
Alleluia Christ is risen, that means the divine Life within you is raising you to new heights and amazing potential. Are you ready for your resurrection miracle? I affirm that it’s ready for you. And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2014
Hope raises me up.
I give thanks for the journey of hope.
My journey is leading me to Resurrection joy.
Hallelujah for the journey!