Sermon – April 20, 2003 – “That Kind of Day”

April 20, 2003

“That Kind of a Day”

Let me start with a poem from my new favorite poet, Billy Collins, who
is presently the Poet Laureate of this country. It is called “Today”

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm, intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

Today is just that kind of day for the believer. The kind of day when
we shout and sing and proclaim our alleluias, the kind of day when we
remember great and eternal promises. We come together with expectation and
hopefulness and joy. We come to share a common confession that
something unexpected and powerful has happened. We get together to proclaim that
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia! We come to celebrate
and share, to hear again the story and the promise. To revel a bit in
this day, because this is just that kind of day.

We come here to say that a man died, people saw him, and he was put
into a tomb and three days later he rose from death. And because of that we,
too, shall stand under the same hope and promise. We come to share that in
our way.

We need to ask ourselves if that is truly why we are here, because
that’s what Easter is about. Are we here to share the conviction that here
is one who died and was raised.

When we confront that question head on, we run into some doubts, don’t
we. And if you are one who is on the edge of faith, one who is
investigating, one who occasionally visits the church wondering what this Christ is
all about, and think that Easter might be a good to stop by, it is. Or if
you are one who pushes aside a serious reflection and conviction on the
resurrection in favor of easier issues in the faith, it’s good that you
are here. Or, if you are one who is most times convinced that he died and
indeed he was raised. It’s good you are here.

The question stands before us as vital and essential what it means to
be a follower Jesus Christ. This isn’t a side issue. St. Paul says, that
if Christ is not raised, then we of all people are most to be pitied.
But the struggles that we might have with the resurrection, even in the
midst of our celebration, to not affect the fact of Christ’s resurrection.
What’s important is it’s effect on us.

Let me suggest that we have something to learn from science here. I
read this the other day, “Astronomy, as in all sciences, one can detect an
object in one of two ways; either by observing it directly or by
observing the effect that it has on other, more easily observed, objects. In
other words, science can see things and know them by direct observation of an
object or phenomenon. We see it. The light hits it. Or by the effect
of that object or phenomenon on something else which confirms the fact
that it is there. The latter is what the resurrection is for us. We are
the objects that are more readily observable than the Christ event in the
past. The resurrection bears on us like dark matter. Dark matter is the
part of the universe we cannot see. Did you know that we cannot see 88
percent of the mass of the universe. Not with the naked eye, not with telescopes,
not with radiation. Can’t see the vast majority of the universe. But
we know it is there because of the effect that it has on the rest of the
seen universe. For example, we know that galaxies are made up of
tremendously more mass than we can see, because if they weren’t, they’d go flying
apart. That’s all I’m going to say about that. I am getting dangerously close
to in over my head physics-wise, besides, Dr. Bishop, I know that there is
at least one real physicists among us.

But my point remains; the resurrection bears on us like, well let’s
say for theological purposes, like ‘light matter’, rather than dark matter.
And even though we might not observe or understand the resurrection with
the cognitive or scientific tools we have available, we know it matters.
That’s call faith, an observable effect of the resurrection. We are
gathered here because of the effect that the resurrection has on our
lives. We are the observable effect. And if there are times when we cannot
fully see or understand, that’s OK. Mary, when she encountered Jesus in
the garden, did not recognize him. “Sir,” she said, “if you have carried
him away, tell me where you have laid him and I will take him away.” Even
Mary didn’t get it right the first time. But he called her name. So don’t
let these natural growing pains of faith discourage or distract you from
following Jesus, because he has called your name, too.

These growing pains are natural and healthy and take us further down
the road of faith than if we deny or dismiss them. Psychologist and author
M. Scott Peck reminds us that one of the Church’s great failures, great
sins is to ostracize and condemn those who struggle to believe sometimes. As
if the resurrection would have the exact same effect on all of us at all
times. We can’t all be like the White Queen in the Through Looking Glass,
expected to believe six impossible things before breakfast each day. That’s
not the test of the faith. The consequences of God’s work in the world, the
consequences of Christ’s resurrection are the things that happen in our
lives as a result, things like love and hope, compassion, purpose and
faith. And faith. That is the observable effect. You and I are here today
because of the effect that the resurrection has on our lives. We are
the the observable fact as we come here looking for hope and meaning,
forgiveness, peace and joy, and the reassurance that things will be OK
because this one who died and risen has claimed us and promises to
fulfill the same wonder in our lives.

You see, our horizon ends with death, but here’s one who says I will
take you beyond death. That’s my promise and see what that promise does to
your life. We are the observable effect of the resurrection.

Those of you who have lost loved ones know the power of the
resurrection to comfort and to reassure, to temper grief and despair and to renew hope.
That is a resurrection in your life.

Those who have know serious failure or loss can attest to a
resurrection hope that takes them beyond that moment in the hope of a new day.

The promise of Christ, the resurrection, the triumph over death stands
out there in answer to the question, finally, who is in charge.

Many of your have journey together over the past months, studying the
texts and music of Handel’s Messiah. In that bible study, the writer, Dr.
Carol Becthel, invited us imagine ourselves as members of the early Christian
church, who were persecuted for their beliefs. There was a time, as
you know, if you were called by the authorities to recant your faith and
you refused, you would be sent to the lions in the coliseum. We were asked
to imagine ourselves as those condemned Christians awaiting their fate.
We did this exercise just before we listened to the Hallelujah Chorus, which
sings, as you know, Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reighneth . . the
kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his
Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever. It was response to the question
of who is finally in charged of all things. Hallelujah, he shall reign
for ever, is the response of Handel’s oratorio.

You see, the resurrection is not faith bait, a test meant to trip us
up, and impossible hope reserved only for a gifted few. No, it is our word and
hope as we face the lions. It is our word and hope against those multitude
of things that are arrayed against us which would steal our life, our
purpose, our meaning. . . death, disease, war, rejection, . It is the true
power of our universe, which affects all things.

It is the power of hope and love and promise. . . not in some distant
future, but each hour, each day. That is what we celebrate today. It
is a good day, when God shatters the confines of our closed little worlds to
lead us out holding hands and squinting into this larger dome of blue and
white. Today is that kind of day. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.

Hallelujah!

Copyright (c) 2003 by Pastor Robert J. Rasmus