My sermon from Easter, 2019.
I have a great niece, Ava, who is ten. Ava is one of those bright, gregarious children who greet every day as if it is the best thing ever and created only for her. She is witty and self-confident, with a child’s refreshing ability to speak the truth as she sees it. There are times she drives her mother absolutely crazy for all the reasons a great aunt thinks she is absolutely delightful. Ava soaks up love in incredible measure and is, in return, also an incredibly loving child.
A few years ago, when Ava was six, her mother, Kelly, posted a Facebook picture of her posing and gazing thoughtfully at herself in the mirror. Kelly said it was the 50th time that morning. As I laughed at Kelly’s comment, I felt my heart smile, in part because I miss those days when my own children were drawn to check themselves out in the mirror or eager to be photographed with some cheesy smile. I miss those days when my own children would come running to me with one of their discoveries: “Mommy, did you know….?” “Mommy, look what I found….” “Mommy look what I did…”
There is something compelling, in a joyful and gentle way, to be given the opportunity to witness such a life. The innocence of childhood. The simplicity of life. The complete, unadulterated acceptance of the love you are given. The sheer joy in seeing what life has to offer, jumping in, not just with both feet, but with the whole body, mind, and soul. Having an apparently endless capacity to tell a story with unadulterated enthusiasm and wonder. And approaching each situation – even if it is the 50th time you’ve looked at yourself in the mirror in a single morning – with the same energy, excitement, and enthusiasm as if it were the first time. And at the same time, somehow, seeming to live each day as if it might be your last. Using that same energy, which can drive a mother crazy, to share the news with the world, your world, in pictures or honest spoken truths. Somehow helping the adults in your life see the world a bit differently than they did the day before.
When I saw that Facebook picture of Ava, I was reminded of how refreshing and life-affirming it is to have the confidence and the courage to speak the truth, in words or in pictures. There is something captivating about the raw energy of a child’s exuberance. There is something positively evangelical about a child’s awe and wonder. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes it is as if one were seeing the world for the very first time. It is as if life were new each and every time.
Today is Easter, the day in which we celebrate the divine Love poured out for us and conquering death. It is the day in which we share the culmination of the Gospel story, which is ours to soak up in incredible measure, just like a child soaks up and then revels in the love in her life. It is the day in which we listen again to the fulfillment of the promises God made to us at the beginning of all creation. Although in history Easter was a distinct event, it is, paradoxically, new for us each and every day. That, too, is God’s promise.
Jesus life, his death, and his resurrection were all about love. Jesus was the incarnation of God’s self-giving, unconditional love for the world. He reached out time and again to those others ignored, to those others excluded. He brought them: poor, homeless, ill, women, into his life, God’s life, loving them fully and well, giving them hope. He died because he preached a radical and counter-cultural message of love that threatened the political and religious authorities. He rose because God’s perfect love can never be overcome by death or anything else of human making.
Jesus was, is, and will always be the expression of God’s perfect love in the world.
He showed us through his words and his actions how to live as God intends, loving our neighbors as ourselves. He taught us how to respond to God’s indwelling love by offering it out to others. A love like this must be shared over and over and over again. It is the source of all that is, a comfort in our sorrows, the joy in our hearts, our peace of mind. It is the promise of our past, present, and future. It is all of that and more. Indescribable. Unimaginable. Undefinable. Unconditional. Unequivocable. It is both supremely constant and deliciously new each and every day.
There is more to today’s story, however, than just a retelling of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It is impossible to separate Jesus’ story from our stories: from your story, from my story, from the stories of all those who have come before and those yet to receive the breath of life.
Jesus lived, died, and lived again so that we might live our lives- that we might live God’s love – with the sheer exuberance of a six-year-old child, who knows who she is and still chooses to greet herself 50 times in a morning as if she will discover something new.
My prayer for all of us is that we experience the Easter story with joyful abandon, a child’s perspective on life and the world. May we always embrace God’s love for us, and have the willingness to tell the story over and over again as if it were the first time it were ever told.
Jesus lives! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!