Experience the Resurrection! – Br. Curtis Almquist
Jesus greets Mary Magdalene in the garden near his tomb. He has come back from the dead, alive, resurrected, and yet he is very wounded. Jesus’ body is still wounded by the scourgings that preceded his crucifixion, and the horrific piercing wounds to his side and to his hands, hanging from the cross. None of these wounds is healed. And Jesus’ heart is also wounded by the betrayal and abandonment of his closest friends, the disciples who literally left Jesus hanging. The women, who were there when their Lord was crucified, witnessed it all, a horrific experience. And this surely leaves the women wounded by the trauma. Meanwhile the disciples are hiding – hiding in their own fear, sorrow, and shame – and this, too, shows a wounding.[i] No one can hurt us like we can hurt ourselves, when we become our own worst enemy. On this day of resurrection, everyone in the Gospel story is not okay. Everyone 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 own lives. Many of us here today may bear the wounds of life, of one sort or another. Bishop Barbara Harris says, “We are a resurrection people living in a Good Friday world.”
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 or experience 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. Here is what can we claim for eternity, about the power of Jesus’ resurrection.
We have hope for the resurrection of the dead, especially for those whom we have loved who have already died: for children and youth, and for those in the prime of life. We have hope that those who have died in old age with disease, or diminishment, or in tragedy, or in terror. We have hope that they will know the healing in death that they did not know in this life. So many people in this world die in unexpected, sometimes tragic ways, or by the slow stealing of their lives by disease and diminishment. So many people – those whom we hold in our hearts and love for all our lives, and those who are unknown to us, whom we only read about in the media– so many people die with a measure of tragedy. You may find enormous comfort in looking to Jesus for those who have died, praying that Jesus complete in death his healing work as their Messiah, their Christ. We are given a picture of this in the Book of Revelation, where we hear that those who have passed through the ordeal of this life will be given an eternal sheltering by God. “…They will hunger no more, and thirst no more… and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”[iv] This hope of heaven may be an enormous source of comfort to you in this life.
The hope for the resurrection of the dead, the hope of heaven, is also about reunion with those who belong to one another, who love one another, those who have already passed from this life to the next. The Scriptures give us a kind of impressionistic picture of heaven, which includes streets of gold and pearly gates and other things of great ornamental value. You can keep all that, so far as I’m concerned. Another picture of heaven I find much more compelling: about the reunion with our loved ones. I want to sit on my Grandmother Anna’s lap again. Maybe you wish something similar from your own lineage. I’m not sure how all that works, because we talk about the resurrection of the body, of our being given new bodies, whole bodies, healed bodies. My Grandmother Anna always seemed old to me; I cannot imagine her with a young body, a whole body, a new body. And yet, in God’s economy, we are all children of God. Somehow – no matter our generation – we will know one another and be fully known to one another, and yet be made new and whole.
Meanwhile, claim the hope in Jesus’ resurrection for you in the here-and-now. At this time in your life, you may be keenly aware of your own woundedness. For the present, we can claim our hope in the resurrection, not from what we see, but from what we remember.[v]Perhaps in the face of many odds, you are a survivor; your life has extended into this new day. Past events in your life may have just killed you, but look at you. You’ve come back to life. 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 arise.[vi]This morning many of us arose in darkness. When you are in the middle of the dark night, there is absolutely no clue that a dawning will ever happen, no reason to even imagine light again filling your world… except if you remember that, amazingly enough, it has happened before, even after the darkest of nights. This gives us hope that the dawn shall happen again, miraculously.[vii]In the early third century Clement of Alexandriasaid, “Christ has turned all our sunsets into dawns.”[viii] The resurrection will dawn on you, as it has before, and that is a promise Christ gives us: the hope of the resurrection.
Live in the power of the resurrection today:
- You will never be alone. Jesus gives us the promise that his presence and power are with us always. It’s true. If you’re not completely convinced, try this. Try living your life as if Jesus’ promise were true. Take Jesus at his word – the promise of his presence and power with us always, with you always. If you’re not completely convinced of this, try living your life as if Jesus promise were true… and you will discover that it is. Give it a try.Emily Dickinson said, “Instead of getting to heaven at last, I’m going all along.”
- If life is just hell for you right now,take great comfort in Jesus’ promise that he’s come “to seek and to save the lost.”[ix] We say, in the Apostles’ Creed (in the traditional language) that Jesus “was crucified, dead, and buried [and] he descended into hell…”[x] Into hell. Why to hell? To rescue lost souls. To save those who are lost in hell. You can visit hell many times before you die. If you’ve been there, or if you are there, know that Jesus has come to rescue, retrieve, redeem, restore you back to life with his healing light and life and love. You are not lost. You are found. And what Jesus finds in you, Jesus loves.
- If you are afraid just now, if fear holds sway in your life, just remember that fear is getting in the wayof Jesus who is the way, and the truth, and the life.[xi] Jesus shows us the way to live our life from the inside out. There’s nothing to be afraid of “out there.” Jesus speaks of this endlessly: to not be afraid. He’s not scolding us that we shouldn’t be afraid. (There’s plenty of things you could be afraid of.) Jesus says you don’t need to be afraid, because he is with us always, even to the end. The end of life on this earth is death. In the beginning, God created life and life includes death. Don’t be afraid of either life or death. In death, Jesus goes before us to ferry us, then to welcome us home. Don’t be afraid. You don’t need to be afraid. You are not alone.
The early Middle Ages was a time of terror, warfare, injustice, insurrection, and greed. From this very time comes a Celtic Prayer of resurrection:
Lord from this world’s stormy seas
Give your hand for lifting me.
Lord, lift me from the darkest night.
Lord, lift me into the realm of light.
Lord, lift me from the body’s pain,
Lord, lift me up and keep me sane.
Lord, lift me from the things I dread.
Lord, lift me from the living dead.
Lord, lift me from the place I lie.
Lord, lift me that I never die. Amen.
[i] See Mark 12:12; John 20:19.
[ii]Saint Paulis quoted in TheActs 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; 23and 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. 24For in* hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes* for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
[iv] See Revelation 7:9-17.
[v] See Romans 8:19-25.
[vi]Paraphrased from the breastplate of Saint Patrick (c.390-460), a Roman Britain-born Christian missionary, the patron saint of Ireland.
[vii] 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.
[viii]Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215), a Christian theologian, was head of the noted Catechetical School of Alexandria, Egypt.
[ix] Matthew 18:11; Luke 19:10; John 3:17.
[x] “The Apostles’ Creed” in Morning Prayer – Rite I, The Book of Common Prayer, pp. 21-22.
[xi] John 14:6.
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Thank you, Brother Curtis, for this wonderful sermon of hope and the reminder that Christ is with us, now, and always. Your words are so needed in our day, especially for the people of Ukraine and all those assisting them in this time of their Hell.
Perhaps because I have been caregiving someone I love, I needed to read your words today from a sermon three years ago.
Your words are true and comforting and I felt you could see right into my heart- you have such kindness and love and insight into us all and such a gift to remind us of what we know about Jesus and how we need to bring him near.
This spoke to me today…thanks for your expression of the sacred words of both protection and salvation. Sometimes, I lose sight of God and Jesus’ love for me. Thanks for the reminder today.
Having just had my fourth heart surgery Tuesday, i am experiencing new life; my heart is now pumping oxygenated blood to all my body, bringing relief from weakness. I went into these procedures with no fear; if the Lord calls me to Him, I accept His plan for me and rejoice in His Presence. If His plan is healing, so be it. Either way, I live with Him, and I live in Him. This brings peace, the peace that passes all understanding. My mind cannot know what lies ahead, nor does it need to. In whatever kingdom I am in, I am content.
My gratitude is without bounds.
Blessings and love, Annette Foisie OSL
Thanks so much: I sent this out today:
and buried [and] he descended into hell…”[x] Into hell. Why to hell? To rescue lost souls. To save those who are lost in hell. You can visit hell many times before you die. If you’ve been there, or if you are there, know that Jesus has come to rescue, retrieve, redeem, restore you back to life with his healing light and life and love. You are not lost. You are found. And what Jesus finds in you, Jesus loves.
April have been a month full of physical pain that have required hospitalization and rest in bed.
Today I was able to return to Church walking with difficulties and a lot of pain. I am indeed a walking resurrected.
Thank you and blessings!
Many acts of Jesus are called miracles and yet I do not believe they are miracles at all, I believe it is simply God doing what God does, and probably does quite easily (I don’t know, I am not God). But I do believe miracles are central to Christianity. I believe that we are explicitly called on, by Jesus, to do miracles. And I believe that this is the fundamental thing Jesus calls us to do. Not worship, not proclaim the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth, but to do miracles, every single day of our lives. But we all live very overwhelming lives. Not just busy but overwhelmed with commitments, needs, obligations, problems, hopes, dreams, sorrows, losses. And so I believe, with all my heart, that every time a person somehow manages to find enough space, time, energy to say a kind word, do a kind action, and actual chooses to do that, that is a miracle. I pray for us all to know and to choose to live a life of miracles, both given and received. And to remember that we are all dependent on the kindness of strangers. Thank you.
After the several days of Holy Week, Easter Vigil is so comforting! Easter Day gives us so much comfort in the remembrance of the knowledge of the Resurrection. Christ is Risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia !
Brother Curtis, thank you for this sermon that is so full of love, a plentiful love for all to share. It is love that unites and reunites us even now, in interaction, in re-membrance, and in prayer, a foretaste to feed our hope of even greater gifts to come.
Today I am here quiet and present to both mourn and rejoice the Passover lamb sacrificed for Israel and then for me – the broken body, the blood, the cross. I read the temple curtain ripped from top to bottom as Jesus cried his last words… a glimpse of physical bereavement by Gods’ own hands and at the same moment the gift of eternal access to the Holiest of places – God’s own heart. Jesus gives us his Holy Spirit as comfort and power as he walks us through our own valleys of shadow.. “I go to prepare a place for you that where I am you also will be.”…words of promise and hope from the truest man who ever walked this earth. He lives to show us our own good Friday world will have an Easter morning.
I am struggling with depression and trying not to resort to medication. I wake up every morning filled with dread and fear – and yet have to minister to a congregation and preach words of hope. Your sermon reminded me I am constantly sliding into hell – yet I manage to struggle back out – so thanks be to God who gives me the victory in Jesus Christ I know I will not be overwhelmed. Sometimes it is just being in my community of other struggling believers that gives me the strength to continue.
My mother has spent a lifetime afraid of “going” to heaven because she doesn’t want to meet her adoptive parents there. I told her once (and I’m not a firm believer in a physical heaven), “But think of it this way: If your parents are in heaven then they are there as the true, pure selves they were as young children not as the bigots they became through conditioning. This would be healing for you, would it not?”
Thank you for this sermon; it was just what I needed to hear! Blessings, Br. Curtis!
Thank you for this very comforting message.
Br. Curtis, this sermon was very comforting to me on this day, because I just returned from the funeral of my dear sister-in-law. I have read the scriptures to which you refer many times, but they become so much more meaningful in my life today. Thanks. Praise God for the hope of resurrection!
Thank you Br. Curtis for your Easter vision.
You are an apostle of absolutely contagious Hope.
I am going to read this sermon to my congregation this Sunday. Nameste Margo.
Thank you again for this inspiring sermon. When we get to heaven will we not have finally come to that place of agape love for all and our little tribal loyalties will have faded so we can love all homo sapiens and no longer maintain excluding boundaries. Isn’t this what Jesus commands us on Maunday Thursday? For those of us whose families are borrowed, and sketchy this may also be a hope. Margo
Thank you so much Br Curtis. Your sermon really spoke to me; especially the part about Jesus going down to hell in order to rescue lost souls. Also for the quote from Emily Dickinson. They are both so true. If we acknowledge Jesus as being with us then we are truly in heaven,and will always be there even after death, when we “shall see face to face.” That will be the only, but also the incredible,fact of physical death. Right now we can only see partially, then we will see the reality. The other terrible reality happens If we refuse to acknowledge Christ and let him rescue us from the hell in which we are living, time after time, when we die we will still be in hell, and he won’t be able to redeem us then. We stay where we have been during our physical lifetime. I pray that we all live the life of heaven here and now, and know the glory of Jesus’ presence in our lives both now, and for eternity!