Easter Day: April 16, 2017
Church of the Messiah, Myrtle Beach
Perhaps some of you will recognize the words of the prophet Marvin Gaye, Motown musician from 1971, when he asked, “What’s Goin’ On”:
There’s too many of you crying Brother, brother, brother
There’s too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today”
What’s goin’ on is this: Our world is starving. For what you might ask? It is starving for a more transcendent vision of itself that is able to see beyond politics, policies, the latest gadget to entertain us, ideologies, violence, better business practices, or even stock market fluctuations. The transcendent vision for which our world longs is about a new heart, a transformed consciousness. Our world is longing, right in the midst of the horrors and absurdities in Syria, Egypt, North Korea, or right down the street for that matter, to see human beings being fully alive, fully awakened to our humanity in the highest and best sense of what it means to be truly human. It was Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon who said way back in the 2nd century: “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” It’s about finding “a way to bring some lovin’ here today.”
This is what our Easter celebration announces and calls us to do. It is our main work in Christian community, that is, to become a people who embody ever more fully and radiate ever more clearly in our lives that pure, unbounded love that is God. It is that love that could not be contained in the death of the tomb and has erupted into the universe.
The first century Church received this invitation recorded in the Book of Acts and now we of the 21st century Church are invited to the same: “We are chosen by God as witnesses, we who eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.” And so we gather at this Table—to become what we eat. It is the invitation to allow the mind of Jesus, his divine consciousness, his way of thinking and feeling and perceiving, his way of responding to life out of pure love to be fully integrated into our being and consciousness. Then we are to live it in our own Judea’s and Jerusalem’s, to be the living Body of Christ in the midst of the world’s death.
I wonder if you remember the story of “The Rabbi’s Gift?” In it a mystical rabbi tells a struggling and dying community of elderly monks, wondering if they had a future at all, that one of them is the Messiah. Nothing seemed to be more impossible. But this vision captivated them as their curiosity heightened and the brothers wondered who it could be. “The Messiah? Really? Here? One of us? Nah.” It can’t be they think. But fascinated they still wonder, “Could it be Cuthbert? He has great compassion. Could it be the Abbott? He is wise. Maybe Cyril. He is devout and prayerful, although he can be a bit crotchety at times. But who? Could it be? Could it…?”
Slowly, over time, a new spirit began to arise among the community. A gentleness and deep strength, a sweetness, began to be recognized as a profound charism recognized by strangers who came upon them as they became eager to experience this life-giving spirit. Over time they found themselves mysteriously touched and reassured, inspired and freed, empowered and strengthened – mysteriously transformed – so much so that new life sprang up all around their mountain valley and everyone heard a new song coming from their midst.
This is the story of resurrection. The Messiah, the Christ, is risen among us. The Christ is risen within us. The Christ is one of us. The Christ is all of us. Too often, we, and the world around us, suffers from a profound lack of imagination about ourselves. We are confined, trapped, perhaps even imprisoned by assumptions of what reality is and get carried away all too easily by the inertia of the familiar, of what we think we already know, by fear and anxiety, and we get stuck. We are held captive by seeing too narrowly, thinking too small-mindedly, loving with limitations, even as we long for something more transcendent, more grand that occasions wild and self-abandoned dancing and celebration.
When will we ever understand that our life in Christian community is not about the maintenance of an institution, nor about the management of an organization, nor about the packaging and marketing of a commodity called “god.” It is about the profound and challenging transformation of our very selves by God’s grace into the mystery of divine love. If that is not our life’s work, if we do not immerse ourselves in the spiritual disciplines of prayer and worship, study and reflection, fellowship and sacrament and silence; if we do not reach out our hands and feet and hearts into the neighborhood and touch the suffering of the world with love AND allow it to teach us; if we are not willing to give ourselves over to the gift of being divinely transformed by Love into Love, then we have nothing to offer to this world.
This day is the great invitation to invest once again in God’s great vision for the creation as found in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is no idle tale. Wherever we can bring mercy, justice, release and reconciliation, there Christ is risen. It is then that we live out the pattern of Jesus’ own giving of himself. For what was his purpose? It was love, nothing else but love. Go now into the world. Look for the living among the living. The risen Jesus awaits you, present in God’s people. It is there you will see him and discover, “What’s Goin’ On.”
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Bishop Skip Adams
The Right Reverend Gladstone B. Adams III was elected and invested as our Bishop on September 10, 2016. Read more about him here.