Sunday, April 24, 2011

Warm, Happy Fruit Are We!

Easter 2011 – The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter’s at Ellicott Mills
I believe it is important to see the events from Palm Sunday to Easter Morning not as a series of separate events, but as one continuous act by God for our salvation. So, beginning with Good Friday, the sequence goes something like this in Matthew's telling of the story. On the cross, with a loud voice, Jesus gives up his Spirit. At once, just up the road at the Temple, the curtain before the Holy of Holies is torn from top to bottom, the earth shakes, tombs spilled open and the bodies of many who had "fallen asleep" came out of the tombs and went through the holy city, appearing to many.

I try to imagine being a Roman centurion on the ramparts of the city watching this scene unfold. I am thinking perhaps it is time to find another job!
Alleluia Christ is Risen. The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Joseph of Arimathea gives Jesus his own tomb, hewn out of rock, rolling a great stone over the opening of the tomb while several of the women look on. The men have taken off long ago, such is the power of crucifixion. The next day, as we heard Saturday morning, some officials ask Pilate to secure the tomb "lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, 'He has risen from the dead...'" Pilate, seemingly unconcerned, tells them to do it themselves, which they do. They seal the tomb and post a guard. Can you lock God out? Can you lock God in?

Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" return the next morning. Another earthquake, this time a "great earthquake", an angel of the Lord arrives, his appearance like "lightening, and his raiment white as snow." Think, South Beach, mid-seventies, Stayin' Alive! The guards tremble and fall like "dead men." The angel, having rolled back the stone is sitting on it instructing the women, "Do not be afraid!" Do not be afraid! That’s how the story began. The miracle, apparently, is that they are not afraid. The angel shows them the empty tomb and instructs them to meet the risen Jesus back in Galilee. They go to tell the disciples. What would you do? What would I do?
Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Matthis Grunewald's depiction of this scene from the sixteenth century Isenheim Altarpiece (1510-1516) is more surreal than Salvador Dali could ever imagine! The guards are scattered like so many bowling pins, sprawled every which way. Grunewald shows us what no one reportedly saw - there is Christ, heading upwards into the Sun, his white linen shroud trailing and changing colors, turning royal red and finally gold! Rays of golden light emitting from his wounds! His likeness transmuted into golden light, like the transfiguration all over again, but even more intense. A large rock appears to be floating in the background. Breathtaking is the only word that approximates Grunewald's imagining of "the" moment.

It is this Jesus the two Mary's encounter on the road, calling to them with an almost casual, “Greetings!” Greetings? It is his voice, his "Greetings", but wow! The Marys had never seen him quite like this before.
Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

They respond by grabbing on to him. Like a two year-old grabbing on to your ankles kind of holding on for dear life. Imagine, holding tight, holding fast – “so hold, hold, me tight, me tight, tonight, tonight” kind of tight!

Says Matthew, “They worshipped him.” Which is what brings us to his table. Which is what brings us here today. To tell the story, to take the bread, to bless the bread, to break the bread, to share the bread and the cup – drawing him into our selves and us closer to him. All of us closer to one another. All of us closer to the whole world in which, for which and to which God shows no partiality. We worship Him!
Alleluia Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

They are holding onto Jesus who tells them to let go. He tells them to get the brothers and meet him back in Galilee. He wants to bring us all together again. And again and again and again.

Whatever else resurrection means, we may say that the relationships Jesus establishes are not severed by what happens to him. Death has not won in this regard. The relationships he establishes here in this font, at this table, ‘neath the light of this Paschal Candle, cannot and will not be undone by crucifixion, by betrayal, by denial, by our failures to understand what he was about. Like the women, like the disciples, his love for us continues so that we may love one another.

What the women see and are holding onto is his steadfast love which endures. Indeed, it endures to this day. Hold on for dear life! Hold on for life that is real life!
Alleluia Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Yesterday morning we read a marvelous text by Rainer Maria Rilke. "I cannot conceive that the cross should remain, which was, after all, only a crossroads. It certainly should not be stamped on us on all occasions like a brand-mark. For is the situation not this: he intended simply to provide the loftier tree, on which we could ripen better. He, on the cross, is this new tree in God, and we were to be warm, happy fruit, at the top of it.

"We should not always talk of what was formerly, but the afterwards should have begun. This tree, it seems to me, should have become so one with us, or we with it, and be it, that we should not need to occupy ourselves continually with it, but simply and quietly with God, for his aim was to lift us up into God more purely."

We are the afterwards! We need not be preoccupied with the cross, but to center ourselves simply and quietly with God. Allow ourselves to be lifted up into God more purely! And that way become, warm, happy fruit!
Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Warm, happy fruit indeed! Whatever resurrection is, it is a relationship, a covenantal relationship that does not happen just to Jesus, but to all who share this covenantal relationship with him at all times and in all places. Here, now, today, this happy morning. Age to age shall sing, “Welcome happy morning!" Welcome all you who eat with him and drink with him! Welcome all you who are tired and heavy laden! Welcome to you who have just a mustard seed’s worth of faith! Welcome to you stranger, resident alien, widows and orphans! Jesus loves you!

Let me give you rest. Let me give you daily bread. Let me give you something to drink that will quench all your thirst. Let me dry your eyes so you can see further. Let me carry you when tired. Let me hold your hand as we cross into the promised land.

He is here. He is risen. He wants you. He needs you. He needs your heart and your love. The world needs your heart and your love. God needs your heart and your love.

Hold onto him and he will set you free. Hold on to him and he will send you to bring the news to others. Hold on to him and he will never let you go.
Alleluia Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!