God is Life

South Coast Convocation Beach Eucharist
August 17th, 2019

The readings for this service are:
Job 12:7-12
Psalm 98
Philippians 4:4-7
Matthew 19:13-15

       We heard a lot about God’s hands this morning, didn’t we? In the Old Testament, we heard how all life, every living thing, is in God’s hands. In the Psalms, we heard how God’s right hand has worked salvation. And in a little bit, we’ll pray together the Prayers of the People, where we will give thanks that God fashioned us and this beautiful place with his life-giving hand. This all reminds me of a song we used to sing as kids: “He’s got the whole world, in his hands.” Do you know that one? As a kid, I imagined this big set of hands, cupped around, and a bunch of people, or even the Earth itself, just sitting there in God’s open palms.

       Now, hands signify something really important in the Bible and for us Christians; they signify the life-giving presence of God. Think about the Bible, where people are always reaching out and touching Jesus with their hands; and when they do, they’re healed. Or that Jesus, and the disciples with him, lay their hands – physically touch – the sick and the injured, the lonely and the destitute, folks no one wanted to be near, much less touch. Some of these people are suddenly healed, miraculously, though others are shown, rather simply, that they are not alone in their pain, that someone cares for them and loves them. For some, that’s healing enough.

And our practices at church continue this focus on hands. At the passing of the peace, we shake hands or hug one another, all in the name of Christ, welcoming them into our hearts and our lives. Or in the sacraments: In Baptism the pouring of water and the anointing on the forehead with oils, or Reconciliation, where at that most beautiful moment, when we are reminded that we are loved by the God of all things, the priest puts his or her hand on the head. Or in the Eucharist, the simple and vast depths of the Eucharist, where a small wedge of wafer or bread, the very Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, is placed in an outstretched hand. And all this, all these moments, signify something: a presence, a life, a depth within the world that is far beyond ourselves.

       And God, and our church, and our Christian lives extend out beyond the four walls of our worship space, don’t they? I think also of the hands that I have seen in my own life, as well. I think of the hands of my father, who was a woodworker. His hands are like anyone’s hands who works with wood all day: they’re nicked and scratched, they have deep callouses and are scarred, but they’re also deft, able, skillful, and sure. Or I think of my daughter’s hands and my own when we go out to play in the sand. After just a few minutes of building castles and burying each other in the sand, our hands are grubby and dirty, and they most certainly have to be washed before we can eat lunch – but even so, they are full of the life and joy of digging about in the earth. And I think of the hands of Jesus, which I have seen in paintings and statues and in my own heart (and surely you have, too): the hands of Jesus, our God and our Savior, human hands but holy hands as well, as they were lifted to heal and as they were laid on the cross and nailed to its hard wood.

       And all these images – hands in healing, hands full of dirt and grime, hands giving bread, hands bleeding at the palms – these images all point to one thing: not just of some vague presence but the presence of Life and it’s advent into this world. Now, our own hands, our fallen, human hands, can bring other things, too. Sure, we can bring life into the world, we can be God’s hands, but we can also work death, destruction, and pain as well. But God’s hands are different. God’s hands are life. In God’s hands is life, not sitting on the top but deep down inside them, like a bit of salt baked into a cake to enhance all that flavor; or, if you’ve spent some time in the South, you’ll know sweet tea, where the sugar isn’t just added in later but brewed into the tea itself to make it, oh so delicious. And all these are just more small, partial images, because that goodness and hope and life of God’s hands are deep down at God’s core, who he is; because God is Life. God is Love.

       And all this love, all this life, it’s not away on some mountain top. It’s not locked away in secret somewhere so that only smart and adventurous people can find it. It’s not something that only our great spiritual ancestors can find because they were just more special than we are. It’s right here. As St. Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord, always; again I will say, Rejoice!” And why? Because the Lord is near to you, or, as in the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord is very near to you. This Life, this Hope, this Goodness, and this Love, they are here for us, because God is here among us. Whether we’re under the church roof or out here on the side of the beach, whether you’re in a hospital room or on the other side of the door, waiting in anxiety, God is with you.

       But sometimes, truth be told, it’s hard to remember all this. We live in a troubled world. Each day, it seems, we are met with new tragedies, news that awakens our anxiety or anger or even our hatred. And it seems that we have just two choices: to push it all away and hide from it or else enter into it and risk becoming that pain and anger ourselves. But whether we go out or stick home, whatever we do, we Christians don’t begin there. We don’t begin in pain or anger or despair, but in Life. We begin in Hope, even if (or especially if) there doesn’t seem to be any. We begin in community, in listening to one another, in the seeking out of all people, regardless of who they are and how different their cultures or thoughts or politics are from our own. We begin in Love because God began in Love. God created the world, we believe, not because he was bored and needed something to do, or that God was incomplete and so needs a world; no, we believe that God created the universe, this world, and all the creatures in it, for Love. And that Love is the foundation of all things, from the grains of sand out there on the beach to the planets and stars out there in their courses.

       And we, too. We have been created anew by that Love. It is a Love that we have long yearned for, long hoped for, and that Love found us and is bringing us home. And our work now, we pilgrims on a journey to our true Home, is to shower the world with that Love. To open our hearts when it’s easy and when it’s tough, to listen to those we agree with and those we think are fools, to seek God in all people, no matter who they are. For Love was at the beginning, Love is now, and Love forever shall be the beating heart of Creation and the center of all our lives.

 

God’s Abundant Love

The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
Proper 12
July 28th, 2019

The readings for this week are:
Genesis 18:20-32
Psalm 138
Colossians 2:6-19
Luke 11:1-13

Click here to access these readings.

I’ve never really been a fan of the novels of Charles Dickens, but there’s one scene from Oliver Twist that I know decently well. You might call the scene, “I want some more.” In this scene, we find Oliver, a young boy who was orphaned as a younger boy, in a workhouse. He and his fellows are treated poorly and barely fed – just three bowls of oatmeal a day. The boys know they have to do something, and so they draw straws, and thus elect Oliver, to ask the master for more food. The film versions of this scene are what I know, and in them, this small, innocent-looking boy, dressed in rags, walks up to the master, who’s usually large, well-fed, and wearing fine clothes. And Oliver asks, very simply, “Please sir, I want some more” and offers his empty bowl. And the master’s response is, “WHAT!? MORE!?” and Oliver is punished. That idea that these workhouse boys should get more food, and the very audacity of even asking for more, is simply beyond belief for these people. The word “more” just doesn’t seem to be in their vocabulary; that is, at least for anyone but themselves.

Sometimes I wonder if this scene is a bit similar to how we approach God with our own intercessions. Sometimes, I think we have an image of God – an unconscious image, but still an image – that God’s this old man with too much to do and who’s certainly too busy to answer any of our small requests. God is the ruler of Heaven and Earth, after all, and he’s got too much work to bother about us small and insignificant people down in the dust. I know that, when I really need something, my prayers fall almost into begging. “You know God, I’m sorry, I know this is selfish, I know it’s a lot, and I’m sorry that I’m not thinking too much of other people right now, but, look, I’m sorry, but would you be so kind as to just maybe, for a little bit, maybe even just a few minutes so I can catch a breath, be with me, you know, just for a little?” Have you ever prayed one of those prayers before?

Well, Abraham, in our Old Testament reading this morning, he prays differently. Here’s Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities in the Old Testament (and in our day as well) that are bywords for corruption and evil. And God is going to check up on them, to see whether or not they’re really guilty of what is said of them. And when Abraham hears this, that God’s going to look into all these rumors of sin, he’s worried. He’s worried that this will set God off, that God will see all that sin and evil and will destroy the cities right out. And so what does he do? He prays. He prays, “Please God, are you going to destroy the good along with the bad? Surely there are at least fifty people in the whole city who are good folks. So if you find even fifty people in all the bad, don’t destroy them all, okay?” And God says, “Okay, sure.”

Now, this is a good prayer, but Abraham goes further: “What about forty-five? What if you find forty-five good folks down there? Will you destroy the whole city?” And God says, “No, I won’t.” And Abraham goes further: “What about forty? Or thirty? Or twenty? And – oh, don’t be angry with me God, please don’t be angry with me, who is dust and ashes – but what about ten?” And God says, “Sure, for the sake of ten, if I can find ten people who are good, I won’t destroy it.”

Now, in the end, God’s not able to find many more but a single family that is good, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are in fact destroyed; but look at Abraham’s prayer. His prayer is this: more God, please, more. He brings his empty bowl before a master that is stronger and mightier than he is, who he knows through experience to be stronger and mightier than he is, and who maybe is angrier and more resentful and quicker to use that might and that strength, and yet even so, he lifts that empty bowl towards that God and he asks, “Please God, I want some more.” And God doesn’t say, as the master says to Oliver Twist, “WHAT!? MORE?!” God says, “Yes!” And to Abraham’s eyes, this must have seemed a miracle.

And, in a way, it is a miracle. God is a God of abundance, and such abundance is not often found in this world. God’s love isn’t like a zero-sum game, so that he’s only got just so much love to dole out to his children. God’s love isn’t like a pizza pie, so that if Sally over there takes two slices, then the rest of us won’t have enough to go around. God’s love is endless. God’s love is powerful and deep and fathomless and, well, endless. God’s love doesn’t stop. So when we pray, God, please love me more, give me more love, send out your Holy Spirit, God will meet us there. God will be with us. We might need to be led through some trouble before we can see that love, or experience it, or be healed by it, but that love is present, that love is full, and God is at the ready to give it to us.

And all this is true, but we have to pause and step back for a moment. Sometimes prayers aren’t answered. Sometimes we pray, as Jesus prayed in the garden, that a certain cup may be taken away from us. Sometimes our beloved dies. Sometimes our illness isn’t miraculously healed. Sometimes people don’t make it home. We live in a world where death will come, eventually, for all of us, but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love us. God is still present with us in the grief. God is still here, right now, in all of our troubles and in all of our sins and in all of our worry and anxiety – God’s here, with love in his hands, hands stretched out for us to take into ourselves. And that’s because that what God brings to us, that love that God brings, is more powerful than death, deeper than sin, and the miracles of miracles because it is pure and joyful Life.

So, yes, we have to pray knowing that our prayers may not be answered. And yes, we must pray knowing that all our desires are not good desires. But, even so, we are called on to pray, and to pray fervently, for all life and love and goodness, and for that life and love and goodness to be poured out onto the world in its fullness. Don’t be scared to go to your Father in Heaven and pray with a full and open heart that he opens his beating heart of love to you and to the world more fully. Because our God isn’t like the master in Oliver’s workhouse. Our God is like the grandparent who buys the grandchild another ice cream cone even though the parent said, “No, you’ve had enough.” Our God is like the ground, which, when you put a seed in it and give it some water, grows whole gardens and forests of life. Our God is like the apple tree behind our house here in Coquille, that has so many apples on it that they weigh the branches down to the ground. Our God is like a feast for Hobbits that can eat all day and even then still be hungry. Our God is like our dogs and cats and other pets, who keep on loving us and loving us and loving us no matter how tired or exhausted or worried we are. Our God is like all this and more, because God is a God of abundance, and that abundance is of Love and Life and things like Love and Life never, ever end.

So pray. Pray with a full and open heart. Sing out your praise, weep your worries, let your hopes and dreams be carried out into the world by the Holy Spirit. But whatever you do, pray it and pray it without fear. For in God is all life and all love. And in God all of our prayers may find their true home.

The Trinity

Trinity Sunday
16 June 2019

The readings for this day are:

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalm 8
Romans 5:1-5
John 16:12-15

Click here to access these readings.

       Let’s start this morning with a field trip in the BCP.  Could you grab your red Book of Common Prayer and turn to page 307, please.  It’s right at the bottom of the page, marked with a nice big heading “The Baptism.”  Now, this section is right smack dab in the middle of the liturgy for Baptism.  This is where the actual baptism happens.  The part in italics (called the rubrics) tell us that each candidate is presented by name, then each person is immersed or has water poured over them.  And while they are in the water, these words are spoken: [person’s name], I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 

       Now, why do we do this?  Why do we, when we bring people into the Church through the Sacrament of Baptism, do so in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?  Why not just “in the name of God”?  Why use God’s name at all?  Well, the easy answer is that Jesus told us to do this.  In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to go out and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  But as we do this, and do it faithfully and joyfully, we may also ask: why?  Why do we baptize in the name of the Trinity and not in some other way?

       We Christians believe that the true nature of God is found in the idea of the Trinity.  God is One, but God is also Three.  And God’s how we might be when we’re in different groups, so, even though there’s just one of us, we act differently with our families, our friends, and out in public.  And it’s not as if God is a set of three identical triplets, each that looks very much alike but, at the end of the day, are really just different people.  No, God is One and God is Three.

And if this makes your brain hurt trying to imagine how God can be both One and Three at the same time, don’t worry.  The Trinity is a very complicated, often confusing part of our faith, and many good, intelligent people have spent their whole careers trying to find different ways to explain something so beautiful.  That said, the Trinity isn’t something big and complicated like, say, the motions of the planets or the tectonic plates, that if we think about them for a long time, we’ll be able to fully understand them.  But when we look at our lives, and when we look at what is revealed to us in Scripture, when we listen with our hearts and minds and souls, we begin not just to understand that Trinity but to live it, breathe it, and walk in it.

Our readings this morning are part of this revelation.  Now, historically, the concept of the Trinity – the idea of it – was not thought up until the fourth century.  Christians in the fourth century were very much concerned with the exact nature of the relationship between Jesus and God the Father.  And one of the things produced from fourth century discussions is the Nicene Creed, which can be very technical at times with its language about “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one Being with the Father.”  But all of these discussions weren’t just vague philosophizing and people making up theories off the top of their heads.  No, these early Christians were drawing the understanding of the Trinity from how God had revealed himself in Scriptures – in what we call the Old and New Testaments – and in the life of Jesus Christ.

We see some of this revelation in our readings today.  We see it in our reading from Proverbs, where the Wisdom of God stands like a master worker at the founding of the world.  And this Wisdom isn’t just being wise but seems to be a person, a being, for God delights in him, and Wisdom rejoices in God and the world that was created, and humanity with it.  And in Romans, St. Paul describes God’s life as being love poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, bringing to us a peace – even in suffering – through Jesus Christ.  St. Paul doesn’t tease it all out for us, or separate all the components of God like a little kid at school lunch who takes apart each piece of his sandwich; but instead he says that the life of the Father and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are intricately intertwined.  For the language lovers of you, God is not just about nouns but about prepositions for St. Paul.  God’s about ‘through’ and ‘in’ and ‘with’ and ‘inside’, about poured into and living with and given through, so that God is revealed to be not just some bearded guy on a throne with people at his feet but a being of living, breathed life and who pulls us into that life so that we may be healed and sanctified into that relationship.

And there is, of course, Jesus himself: his words and his deeds and his very being.  Time and time again Jesus speaks, acts, or directly identifies himself with God the Father, and the Spirit together with them.  Jesus, and God, and the Holy Spirit are, in some way, revealed to be in an intricate relationship with one another.  And it was this relationship that the fourth century councils, through reading and contemplation and prayer, came together to write the creeds.

But we don’t believe only because the Bible and the Creeds tell us to do so.  The Bible and the Creeds are an authority in our lives as Christians, surely, but they themselves live and breathe in the context of our faith here in the present.  For we see, even in our own individual lives, that the God of the Bible and the God of the Creeds is still alive today, grounding us, healing us, and breathing new life into us.  We experience God the Son, God in Jesus Christ, in those times when we find healing and goodness in the most turbulent of times.  When we turn from our own darkness, when we turn from hatred or disdain or sorrow, when we are caught in that darkness and hatred and disdain and feel a steady hand turning our hearts towards light and life and goodness; that it is the life of Jesus Christ born within us doing this work. 

And in this healing, in this turning from despair and darkness, we are not only led back to a sort of status quo but are lifted higher into light.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit, who won’t let us remain in complacency, but will show us a deeper life, a fuller life, a more hopeful and giving life that is ever the promise of God.  And this life is founded on something strong, something sure, something that will never move, something that is not a “thing” but is the Creator and Guider of all Creation, a being of truth that will never stop loving us; and this being we call God the Father.  And all this work of God, the work of Jesus and of the Spirit and of the Father, all of this is to bring Creation into a fullness where there is no grief or despair, no hatred or resentment, but goodness and love for all eternity.  

We as Christians have dedicated our lives to this Trinity.  In Baptism, whether we were baptized as a child or led into the faith by others, in Baptism, we were all brought into the Church; in the Eucharist we meet Jesus and are healed with his hands of love; in the Sacraments we are nurtured into the Life that was born and is growing within us; and in our mission, our good work as the Church, we bring that Life out into the world that is so deep in hurt and sorrow.  For that Life that we have seen in Scripture, and that the Church has proclaimed for the past two thousand years, is here now in this present day, in this very room, in your very hearts, speaking to the Life that is in the hearts of those sitting around you as well.  For the life of the Church is a Trinitarian life that seeks to heal, to love, and to ground things in the source of all goodness and love, which is God, our creator, our savior, and our light in this world.

Sheep and Freedom

The Fourth Sunday of Easter
Good Shepherd Sunday

Our Readings for this week are:
Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

Click here to access these readings

        Sheep get a pretty bad rap in our culture.  Sheep are seen as obedient, simple, and sometimes rather stupid animals in God’s great Creation.  Sheep follow without thinking, do what they are directed to do without much foresight or reflection, and often get themselves into trouble.  There’s a word in pop-culture, “sheeple”, that is a merger of the words “sheep” and “people”, and it means that people who are, simply, sheep: they are dull, uninteresting and uninterested people who just follow the status quo.  Sheeple are not individualists, striking out into unfamiliar territory and striving against expectations.  Sheeple, sheep-people, just do what they are told.

        And so it is, perhaps, a little strange that we Christians are so often described as, and describe ourselves as, sheep.  In our Baptismal Covenant, we are asked to continue in the apostles’ teaching, persevere in resisting evil, proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, seek and serve Christ in all persons, and strive for justice and peace among all people – not exactly dull and unimaginative work.  Christians are called to be a people apart from the world.  We are called to be not citizens of our present world but of the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus proclaimed.  We are to be in the world but not of the world.

        If we are, then, sheep, we are a very strange sort of sheep.  You see, when we Christians talk about “following”, we are saying something very special.  It’s not “following” like a duckling follows a mother duck, all nice and tight in a row, or how a train car “follows” the locomotive, just being pulled along a track without much will of its own.  It’s more like how we talk about how we’re asked to read and “follow” the Bible.  The Bible isn’t just a rulebook, like you use when you open up a new board game but don’t know how to play it yet; or when you are preparing your taxes, and you don’t understand the forms and so you look at one of those instruction sheets for which figure to put where.  Parts of the Bible are about instructions, certainly, and there are a few books that are, quite literally, a set of laws: when this happens, do this; when that happens, don’t do this.  But on a whole, the Bible isn’t a set of do’s and don’t’s, but is instead a story, and we follow stories much differently than laws books or instruction manuals.

        Think back to some of the stories that you’ve told me since I arrived last summer.  I’ve heard stories about how you celebrate: and not just Christmas and Easter, but birthdays and anniversaries, Thanksgiving and even that light, calm, joyous celebration of coffee hour.  I’ve heard stories about Ann Drake, Barbara and OJ Endicott, about who brought you into this church and why you stayed.  I’ve even heard stories about the different plants and trees around the church building, so that when the bushes outside the office erupted with blossoms, I had already been waiting all year in joyful anticipation for them.  You’ve told me stories while laughing, while in tears, while in hope, and while in grief.  You’ve told me stories of your life.  And while I’m sure some of those stories were meant to teach me something specific, or to make sure I do something (or don’t do something) very specifically, you told me these stories because you love your church, you love one another, and because you love your life in God.  And you want me to be a part of that, not just because you hired me to be your priest, but because you want me to love St. James, too, and to love you all and the way you all live your lives to God.  And I do, which helps me (I think) lead you into a deeper love of all those things as well.

        This is how we follow the Bible.  We hear its stories and we allow its love and hope to work within us.  And yeah, sure, there are times when Jesus says do this and don’t do this, and St. Paul, it seems, even moreso.  But are these the parts that really speak to us?  Truly?  Those parts that move us, that dig deep into us and challenge us to live more fully and opening and with more love, are those parts like the Annunciation, where the angel comes to Mary and says, “Rejoice!  For you shall bear the Son of the Most High!”; or Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, where he prays, “May this cup pass from me; but not my will, but your will.”  We read about Adam and Eve, about Cain and Abel, about David lamenting the death of his son, his son who betrayed him and revolted against him but was still his son and so beloved.  We read these stories and don’t learn something that we could answer on a test but, instead, learn about life and what it means to love God through thick and thin.  And even in that great passage in St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, where he writes that love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boatful or arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Even here, where Paul seems to be teaching specific lessons to be followed and obeyed, we give ourselves to this sort of love not because Paul said so but because we know, in our hearts and minds, in our guts and in our spirits, that love is the ground of all Creation.  And we want to live a life to God in love not because it has the greatest results in controlled experiments, but because the call to love answers something at the center of our being. 

And so we answer that call, given forth by Jesus on the cross and on the morning of the Resurrection, and follow the way of love.

        We are sheep, we Christians.  We are sheep, and we are called on to follow God in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit.  But in doing so, in following and modeling our lives on our great shepherd, we are led to freedom.  And this freedom is a freedom from sin and despair, from hatred and malice, from our own slavery to evil.  In this freedom we find true health, true hope, true goodness that is so great that it cannot be contained in this world but smashes even death, which seemed to have the last and final word for we humans.  We follow, not just to obey, but to live, and to live without end, forever and ever with our God.

Life and Resurrection

The Second Sunday of Easter

Readings for this week are:
Acts 5:27-32
Psalm 118:14-29
Revelation 1:4-8
John 20:19-31

Click here to access these readings.

After Christmas, there’s always this discussion of when to put away our decorations.  And this is an important question during Christmas because decorations often involve a huge tree in your living room, a tree that is beginning to dry out and get a bit withered-looking.  But even still, we don’t want to let Christmas go.  We prepared all through Advent, we celebrated on Christmas Eve, we continued celebrating on Christmas morning and during our Christmas nap (I hope you take one of these, too) and at Christmas dinner.  But by the New Year, we kinda start to feel that maybe we should put it all away, or maybe at least tone it down.  We might let Christmas linger, but by the first week of January, most of us, and our culture included, are looking forward to the next holiday.

        Easter is no different, though here in the springtime we don’t have a big evergreen tree to hold us back.  We prepare and prepare and prepare all through Lent, then celebrate Holy Week and Easter Vigil and Easter morning and, on Monday, begin to put away the plastic eggs and baskets and little bunny figures.  And even if we don’t, even if we keep Easter deep into the Easter season, our culture puts it away pretty quickly.  And that’s because, our culture is a culture of anticipation.  We look forward to holidays, celebrate for a single day, then move on and, often, forget.  What happened last week is not always as important as what will happen next month.  If you need any evidence of this, look at all the Easter candy in the discount bins.

        The Church, however, does things differently.  Holidays start seasons.  Christmas isn’t the end of the Christmas season: it’s the beginning, the start of the twelve days of Christmas.  Nor is Easter the end of the Easter season.  Easter is only the beginning.  And we don’t do this just to be different, but because Christians are called on to live not in anticipation but in the presence of God.  Christianity is less about looking forward and more about living.

        Here’s an example of what I mean.  Gwendolyn was born in 2015 and Fiona was born just last year in 2018.  And let me tell you, in case you forgot, that there’s a lot of planning that goes into welcoming a new baby into the world.  You’ve got to get a crib, and then you’ve got to put it together.  You’ve got to have baby clothes and bottles and blankets and stuffed animals that don’t have little sequins or buttons that the baby can bite off.  You’ve got to tell your parents and your siblings and your aunts and uncles and your cousin that you haven’t seen in ten years and your best friend from collage, but also the government and the insurance companies so everything is squared away when the big day comes.  And when Fiona was on the way, we lived an hour from the hospital, and there was often traffic, so I went out in the car and drove all through the back roads to make sure, in case there was a traffic jam, I could know the perfect way to get Helene to the hospital in time.  We prepared and prepared for that one, single day.

        And when that one day came, and first Gwendolyn and then Fiona came into the world, I felt a relief and a joy.  I was a father, and here were my two little daughters.  And now, we thought, with the birth over, we could finally rest and sleep.

        But the thing about being a parent is that you don’t really get to rest, not in the way you do beforehand, that is.  Being a parent isn’t just having children; being a parent is about waking up in the middle of the night to feed the kids, to read books to them, to think about their diet and their exercise, who the children are and how you can best encourage and support them.  Being a parent is about talking to them about bullies, about how to respect and love others, how to live a life to God, and then to love them even still, and perhaps even moreso, when they fail.  Being a parent, like being a Christian, is much less about preparing for the day when the child is born and much more about living a life dedicated to the life of our children; or, as a Christian, living a life dedicated to God.

        We do this same thing in the Church for Easter, and the same thing during Christmas and for Epiphany, and for Pentecost as well.  And we do this because, just like when we have a child, or when we get married, or when we make our confirmation, in Easter we remember and enter into the new reality that was given to us the morning of the Resurrection.  And all that preparation for Easter morning was important, so desperately important, and that’s why we still model our lives on the Jesus’ teaching.  But what is important – what is essential to us as Christians, is that the tomb is empty – that Jesus is alive.  Because Jesus’ Resurrection was not just about some guy two thousand years ago coming back from the dead, but that in being raised, Jesus poured out Life into this world.  And not just once but for all time.  The disciples, as we read today, and as we will continue to read, met with the Risen Christ and experienced this outpouring of Life.  And in this Life they were moved to speak forth the Gospel and to dedicate their lives to God with a tenacity and a joy that they had never before known. 

Nor was it only the disciples who Jesus knew who felt that Life, but it continued to be felt beyond their time and place.  In medieval times, people experienced this same Life and were moved to found orphanages, hospitals, and universities, and they were moved to live lives of deeply dedicated prayer.  In each age we see again and again, be it medieval or Renaissance or our own time, that Life present and thriving – or, better, causing we humans, who grow weary and tired, causing us to thrive and live to a fullness that we had never before thought possible.  And all this because that one man, who was more than a man, but was God, died and rose again.

And it is this Life that we are living in right now.  That Life is what we meet in the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of that Life, each and every Sunday.  And that Life is what was planted firmly in our hearts in Baptism, and what speaks from us when we love our enemies, tend to the sick, give hope to those in despair, and spread the Good News that the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the very foundation of our world, is Love and Truth and Beauty and Goodness. 

        Easter season, then, is not just about remembering but living the abundance of life that was given to us and all the universe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Easter season is the cup that runneth over from the 23rd Psalm.  Easter season is the flowers that are blooming all around us, and just when we thought everything was done, another bush erupts in pink or white.  Easter season is having a need for something sweet and looking in the refrigerator and discovering that there’s more cake.  Easter season is that scene at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, where people keep on flooding in to tell George Bailey just how much they love him.  Easter season is the Eucharist, where the fullness of all Life is poured forth from a little bit of bread and a sip of wine. 

Easter season is all these things, and more, because Easter is the true reality.  Beyond all doubt and despair, all death and sorrow, Easter is our true home.