21 April—Easter Day
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
“Do you believe in the bodily resurrection?”
Before I was called here to All Saints I interviewed at another parish—in another diocese…a long, long way from here…And during the interview at this other parish, they asked me this question: “do you believe in the bodily resurrection?”
Now, I knew what they wanted me to say. They wanted me to say. “Of course, I absolutely believe in the bodily resurrection.” But I didn’t say that. I said, “That’s a great question, but to me it’s less important that Jesus was physically resurrected and more important that those who saw him experienced it physically. I don’t know what happened. But I know something happened. Something earth-shaking, and life-changing. Mary, and Joanna experienced something, and they told the story. Peter experienced something and told the story. Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus experienced something…Thomas…Paul…Stephen…and hundreds of thousands of others experienced something that changed them. That utterly transformed them. And they told and retold the story, they believed it, and so that’s what’s important.” I thought it was a pretty good answer, but I’ve been preaching here for the last five Easter’s and not there.
What I should have added (but didn’t because I was too nervous—or too cocky or something—was my experienced the resurrection…. I was 16 years old when my dad died. He had emphysema and we knew the end was coming for a long time. On the day the doctors said, “this is it,” the family gathered around. At lunch, I drove out by myself to a spot where I could look out at the front range of the Rocky Mountains. And sitting there looking at the ancient, snow-capped, 14,000 foot peaks, under the clear, azure-blue sky of a cloudless Colorado June, I suddenly became aware of two undeniable truths. These were not things I had been taught…they were something I knew…deep down…at a cellular level. 1. I knew my father was going to die, and there was nothing that any one could do to prevent that. 2. I knew he was going to be OK. I knew I was going to be OK. My mother, and family…OK. It was going to be hard, but it was going to be OK. I knew both of those things…and since that day, I have never once doubted God’s existence or the abundance and depth of God’s love.
Does that seem an “idle tale”? You see… I believe in the resurrection…the bodily resurrection…I know that Easter is real because I have looked into the tomb, and I have experienced the resurrected Christ.
Peter got up and ran to the tomb…and what must he have experienced there?…the depth and the pain of his own denial…the death of his hopes…and simultaneously faithful certainty that it was going to be OK. Christ had risen.
I bet many of you have a similar story. Not necessarily about physical death, but maybe about the death of hope, or of dreams, a story about something good coming out of something tragic. Or a time when nothing was really ok, but you held onto the hope that it it would be eventually. Those are stories that are important to share. But they’re also scary to share.
Today, Peter goes home amazed…but soon (as our reading form Acts shows), he regains his voice…and begins to share his story…and becomes part of THE story.
They’re also scary to share because…The women return from the tomb and tell their story, and no one believes them. That tragically happens all too often.
How many of you have had an experience of having your story really heard by another?
If you are able to share a story—a true story—a real story, an unvarnished authentic story with another person…and have them hear it…really hear it…that’s an amazing experience, isn’t it? And when that happens…a story told and heard…a story shared… something new is born (or re-born) in that sacred interaction.
But not all stories get told, and not all stories are believed…But these words seemed to them an idle tale,”
How many have had the experience of telling your true story and having it fall on deaf ears, or be considered an idle tale. “Oh that couldn’t have happened.” “You must be mistaken.” “I’m sure he meant well…” I bet all of us have had that experience, but I know that for some it happens much more frequently than it does for others. People of color, women, Lesbians, Gays, Transgender, Queer, disabled people, neurodiverse people, immigrants, their stories—their truths—too often go unspoken, or when they are they are labeled as “idle tales” by people who look like me.
We need to be able to hear those stories…and like Peter, we need to have the courage and the curiosity to go into that experience…to go into those places that make us really uncomfortable…confront those places in ourselves and in our world that challenge us to grow…to be more open, and loving, and be able to hear and accept the stories of others.
Sometimes I think our lives are lived either in this gap between hearing a story and going to look in the tomb, or between looking into the tomb and telling our story. Either we get stuck not believing this “idle tale” and we never go explore the darkness of the tomb, or we get so amazed by the experience of the tomb that we are speechless when it comes to sharing our experience of it. That whole journey is important…hearing the stories that we don’t know, and maybe don’t want to know…going deep into that dark place…and being in that discomfort…and telling our stories that emerge out of it.
I hope you will be able to share your stories here. I hope that your stories will be shared, and heard.
It’s said that the shortest distance between two people is a story. Jesus knew this. He built his community of followers with stories. Stories about the lost and the found, about seeds and fields…planting and reaping…stories about healing and feeding…and prayer…stories about life and death. Stories that could be told and re-told…shared with his community, and other communities…Because communities are like legos, you know, they’re built one brick at a time…one living stone at a time…one conversation at a time…and stories are the mortar that holds them together. God’s grace, and love can be seen, and heard, and felt—can be experienced—in the spaces between us when we share our stories.
We are a people of story…we circle around the sacred story of God’s love as demonstrated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus every year…We wait with expectant anticipation for his birth, celebrate his baptism, walk with him into the desert, and to the cross,…and beyond…50 days of Easter and then the wind and flames of Pentecost and we are sent out to live as Christ’s resurrected body in the world…sharing our stories…living our versions of this story…until the harvest time…the winnowing time…when Jesus reigning on high returns…and we wait in anticipation…again.
Our lives are built around this story…and the epicenter—the foundation stone—the gravitational core around which everything else revolves—is this story…The death and resurrection of Jesus is the heart of our story. Listen for it…hear it…let it guide you into into that tomb and back out…and then tell your story…I can’t wait to hear it.