We here have something in common with Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome who come to the tomb: we believe in the resurrection! Jesus’ prediction that he would die and rise is true, amazingly. And on this day of resurrection, we share something else with these three faithful women, and with the disciples, and with Jesus: and that is woundedness. Jesus is wounded by the scourgings that preceded his crucifixion, and the horrific piercing wounds from hanging on the cross. None of these wounds is yet healed. And Jesus’ heart is also surely wounded by the betrayal and abandonment of his closest friends, the disciples who literally left Jesus hanging. The women, who were there when they crucified their Lord, witnessed it all, a horrific experience. And this surely leaves the women both traumatized and bereft of their friend and Savior, Jesus. They are wounded. Meanwhile we know that the disciples are hiding – hiding in their own fear, guilt and shame – and this, too, is wounding.i No one can hurt us like we can ourselves, when we become our own worst enemy. On this day of resurrection, everyone in the Gospel story is wounded, and this is likely true for many of us here. We can simultaneously acknowledge Jesus’ resurrection and, at the same time, acknowledge that everything is not all right in our world or in our lives. Many of us here today may bearing wounds of our own, of one sort or another.
This is why Saint Paul speaks of “the hope of the resurrection.”ii He says, we have hope in the resurrection because we do not yet completely see it.iii We have some early signs of the resurrection, we surely have a desire and expectation for resurrection, yet meanwhile we must wait patiently for what Jesus’ resurrection will fully mean. We hope for the resurrection of the dead, especially those whom we have loved who have already died. We have hope that those who have died in old age, with disease or diminishment, or in tragedy will be given new bodies. We have hope that they will know the healing in death that they did not know in this life. And we have hope that, in our own death, we will be reunited with those whom we love, and with all of God’s children. In the Book of Revelation, the last word in the Bible, we are assured that in the resurrection, our wounds will be healed: God will wipe every tear from our eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.iv This is the hope of the resurrection.
We also speak about the hope of the resurrection in the here and now, in the meantime, when life can be quite wounding. We claim our hope in the resurrection, not from what we see but from what we remember. This morning we are invited to remember and renew our baptismal promises.v This is for us a living reminder of our own personal participation in Jesus’ death and resurrection. In our baptism, we believe that Jesus has come to live within us, that we are being formed by Jesus through his death and resurrection. We are being conformed to Jesus. The church calls this “the paschal mystery.” The word “paschal” comes from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words for Passover, when death passed over the ancient children of Israel.vi And the word “mystery,” is a hidden truth that is revealed. Paschal mystery: a hidden truth, that life comes out of death.vii Archbishop Rowan Williams says the paschal mystery is our own awareness that life repeats a cycle of loss, then recovery, then transformation.viii The paschal mystery. This is sometimes very difficult to believe, especially if you are living in the midst of loss, if you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. At this time in your life, if you are keenly aware of life’s wounds, there is only one way to understand the resurrection life, and that is by hope, the hope of the resurrection.
When I say “hope,” I am not talking about optimism. Optimism is based on what we can see. Hope is based on what we can remember.xi We draw our hope for the present from our past experience of loss, then recovery, then transformation. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was asked whether he is optimistic that the Israelis and Palestinians will be able to live together in justice and peace. And he said, “No,” he is not optimistic. But he is hopeful. He said, “I am a Christian. I am constrained by my faith to hope against hope, placing my trust in things as yet unseen. Hope persists in the face even of evidence to the contrary, undeterred by setbacks and disappointment.”x Probably in the face of many odds, your life has extended into this new day. It’s not just Jesus who is a walking miracle; you also are a walking miracle. You can draw on the hope of the resurrection out of your miracle memory. Christ has been with you, and Christ is with you yet: Christ before you, Christ behind you, Christ within you, Christ beneath you, Christ above you, Christ at your right, Christ at your left, Christ when you lie down, Christ when you sit down, Christ when you arise.xi
This morning we arose in darkness, with every hope that we would see a sunrise. When you are in the middle of the dark night, there is absolutely no clue to show that a dawning will happen, no reason to even imagine a dawning… except if you remember that, amazingly enough, it has happened before. This gives us hope that the dawn shall happen again, miraculously.xii In the early third century a revered Christian theologian in Alexandria named Clement said, “Christ has turned all our sunsets into dawns.”xiii The resurrection will dawn on you, as it has before, and that is a promise Christ leaves with us this Easter day. This is the hope of the resurrection.
ii Saint Paul is quoted in The Acts of the Apostles 23:6.
iii Saint Paul in Romans 8:22-25 “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
iv Revelation 21:4.
v The Book of Common Prayer, pp. 292-294.
vii “Mystery,” c.1315, a religious truth via divine revelation, mystical presence of God, from Anglo-Fr. misterie, from L. mysterium, from Gk. mysterion.
viii Quoted from Rowan’s Rule by Rupert Shortt (Edinburgh: Hodder & Stoughton), 2008; p. 152.
ix See Romans 8:19-25.
x Archbishop Desmond Tutu, quoted from “Realizing God’s Dream for the Holy Land” in Palestine Monitor, October 29, 2007. Online:http://www.palestinemonitor.org/spip/spip.php?article159
xi Paraphrased from the breastplate of Saint Patrick (c. 390-460), a Roman Britain-born Christian missionary, the patron saint of Ireland.
xii The ancient prayer, “The Exsultet,” is sung at the outset of the Easter Vigil at the lighting of the Paschal Candle: “…How holy is this night, when wickedness is put to flight, and sin is washed away. It restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn. It casts out ride and hatred, and brings peace and concord. How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined and man is reconciled to God. Holy Father, accept our evening sacrifice, the offering of this candle in your honor. May it shine continually to drive away all darkness. May Christ, the Morning Star who knows no setting, find it every burning – he who gives his light to all creation, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.” The full text for the Exsultet is found in The Book of Common Prayer, pp. 286-287.
xiii Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215), a Christian theologian, was head of the noted Catechetical School of Alexandria, Egypt.
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