Sermon for Easter Sunday in Florence, Italy
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia! This is the great feast of the Christian year, for âon this day the Lord has actedâ (Ps 118:24), âThis is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoiceâ (Isa 25:9).
New life has come out of death, for God has raised Jesus from the dead.
When I landed here on Wednesday, I had a phone message. It was from the woman who cuts my hair in NY. Sheâs a Brazilian immigrant, whoâs been in the
Well, I kept thinking about it, and it finally dawned on me that there must be some community offerings. Somebody must offer ESL classes in NY! I finally found the city department of education, and a list of the centers where adult education classes are offered. And, oh yes, ESL is part of those offerings. I printed out one page that gave the contact numbers for the different adult education centers in NYC. The next time I went back to see Val, I took that single piece of paper and told her what it was, and that most of the centers seemed to offer ESL classes. I offered to help, and told her I could probably find some funds if the classes had a fee.
The phone message was hard to understand, but it was from Val. She had gone to her first class the day before, there was no fee, and she said they even offered help with looking for other employment. She was falling all over herself with joy. This was a different person, and that was evident even in a garbled recording.
Sometimes we can recognize something new in a different context, but other times we may see but not recognize what weâre seeing.
Mary of Magdala went to the tomb early on the first day of the week to finish the burial rites. She discovered the tomb empty and figured the body had been stolen. She runs home and tells the guys that Jesusâ body is missing.
Mary stays, and continues her grieving. Two angels confront her and she admits that she canât even grieve properly without the body. She turns around, runs into the gardener, and asks what heâs done with the body. She sees, and doesnât see. She sees him, and recognizes him as the gardener, but not the gardener she thinks sheâs seeing. However, this is the gardener, the new Adam, the one who has restored the promise of the first garden. Jesus, risen, has renewed the life first given to Adam and Eve in the garden. When Jesus calls her by name, she finally figures out who he is. He tells her not to touch him or hang on to him, because he still has to finish rising. This heavenly bread-body is still waiting for its final proofing. The breath of spirit has yet to bless the disciples, though the process has begun. He will remain with them for a little while, for the work of his lasting presence isnât finished just yet. Wait for Ascension and Pentecost, Easter isnât done yet. The spirit is yet to come.
The Easter question for us is always, do we recognize what weâre seeing? Can we see newly risen life in
We all spend at least part of our lives waiting, more or less expectantly, for that newly risen life, for that unexpected joy. The Afghani refugees I met Friday at
While we wait, how is that hope sustained? What finally lets us recognize new life in what weâre seeing? The great assurance of Easter is that nothing can finally separate us from that hope, not even death. In Easter, God has reworked the nature of creation. Death is no longer the end of things. We live in the assurance that the deaths in
Our Easter joy is to recognize the gardener, and to help others to see the risen one in our midst. Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!