Easter Sunday and Flower Communion

by Rev. Terry Davis

Delivered at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation on April 16, 2017

We’ve had perfect Easter weather the past few days, haven’t we? Growing up, I can remember shivering in my Easter outfit on Sunday morning, which was usually a very pretty, but very thin spring dress and a light coat. Northeastern Pennsylvania was usually still thawing out from winter ice and snow this time of year, which is where I spent the holiday with my family.

Easter Sunday and the ancient gospel story of the miraculous empty tomb holds many messages that I believe we can identify with as Unitarian Universalists. And, yet, while some of us here may question or reject the literalness of Jesus’s resurrection, the reading we just heard is a reminder that there are other tombs and there are other miracles.

Prisons are tombs of a different sort . . . a place we might say where men and women can be buried alive instead of dead. Mark V., our fellow Unitarian Universalist who wrote today’s reading, says that he has been incarcerated for over 16 years. That’s a long time. And so, I think we might all agree that for a prisoner like Mark “to rise up each morning and praise the glory of the day,” as he says he does, is nothing short of a miracle.

To be able to break free, emotionally and spiritually, of the bondage of those prison walls – that tomb – is really saying something about the power of the spirit, human or holy. Mark’s story reminds me that death can be overcome as long as we’re willing not to wait.

Not waiting on external circumstances to change but, instead, to move forward with a change of heart and attitude, is life-affirming and life-giving action. As Mark pointed out, it has made all the difference in how he views his days and views himself.

“I shall stride forward with my head held high and with love in my heart.” he writes. “And, with every breath and step I take, I will live and make the world a better place.”1)Mark V., “What Are You Waiting For?” Quest: A Monthly for Religious Liberals, Vol. LXXI, No. 11, December 2016.

In Mark, it seems that hope and dignity have been reborn.

This idea of not waiting . . . of not being buried alive by fear, isolation, or despair . . . can also be found in the gospel story from the book of Luke that I read during our Call to Worship. The women, who decided to go to Jesus’s tomb instead of waiting in hiding with the other disciples, took a great risk. Jesus had been arrested and put to death for sedition, and his followers potentially risked the same fate.

Yet, this threat did not prevent the women from acting on their understanding of Jewish burial customs nor on their love for their rabbi. They didn’t allow their fears to bury their faith any more than Jesus’s body could be encased in a tomb . . . or that death could destroy his life-saving message of radical love and forgiveness.

Good things, it seems, also happen to those who don’t wait. 

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” – that’s the provocative question the two men in dazzling clothes ask the women. “What are you waiting for?” – that’s the straightforward question Mark asks all of us . . . we who aren’t living behind steel bars or cement walls.

With both of these questions, I believe we’re being invited to confront our fears, as well as examine the ways we allow the killing pace of our lives, our dead-end habits, or the discouraging news in our world to entomb us . . . entomb us in dark caves and away from the light of new opportunities and new life.

To discover the possibility of life instead of death . . . to find hope and dignity instead of despair . . . these are miracles! My hope for all of us this morning is that we will believe . . . perhaps not necessarily in the Easter story, but without a doubt in the Easter message.

My hope is that we’ll believe that our own lives and zest for living may be resurrected from whatever deadens us, especially fear, loneliness, despair and apathy. The gospel according to Luke . . . and the gospel according to Mark V. . . . tell us that life is never over. The good news – which is the meaning of the word gospel – is that we can each participate in our own restoration by not waiting but, rather, by acting on life.

May this Easter and the loving support of this community be part of what gives us the faith and courage to do so.

With every breath and step we take, may we say “yes” to life and to the urging of the spirit. May we grow in character and in spirit into the people we wish to become . . . so that we may help create the loving world we wish for us all.

May it be so. Amen.  

 

References   [ + ]

1. Mark V., “What Are You Waiting For?” Quest: A Monthly for Religious Liberals, Vol. LXXI, No. 11, December 2016.