My father reminded me this morning that I never posted my Easter sermon here. Actually, I believe his exact words were, “post your Easter sermon so I can read about Cinderella!”
So thank you, Dad, for sending me some dialogue from your Cinderella script so I could sort through my thoughts. Here is my Easter sermon … enjoy!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
March 27, 2016
We Can Make Resurrection Happen
Last week I was in Connecticut helping my dad and his students open their annual All School Musical. This year they put on a production of Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella.
And what a production it was.
Somewhere in the midst of the dress that transformed into a ball gown right on stage, the enchanting special lighting effects, the flying fairy godmother and the light-up wands that filled the theater, I got to thinking: What is magic? Where does it come from? Is it real? Can it happen in our lives?
This morning is Easter Sunday. It is the culmination of the Christian year, the reason that we gather in the first place. Today we celebrate the resurrection; we remember Jesus’ triumphant victory over the grave; we rejoice in the living and tangible proof that light can shine even in the darkest of places and that God’s love will always win in this crazy and imperfect world.
So this week, as were living out Holy Week and preparing for Easter, I got to thinking: What is resurrection? Where does it come from? Is it real? Can it happen in our lives?
Here is a question for all of us to think about today: Is resurrection something that has happened? Or is resurrection still happening in our lives today?
Charles Wesley wrote the hymn, Christ The Lord Is Risen Today, our first hymn of this morning’s worship service, in 1739. It has always struck me that the lyrics of this hymn bounce back and forth between the past and the present tense. The words indicate, not that something happened thousands of years ago, but that something just happened, right here in our midst – Christ the Lord is risen today, love’s redeeming work is done, soar we now our work is done. It is written as if the resurrection is still happening; as if, in each generation, the Easter story is being written again and again.
And do you know what? I believe that it is.
I believe that the real power of the Easter story is not in the fact that it happened, but in the fact that it is still happening. To live on this side of Christ’s resurrection means to not only look back at what God has done in this world, but also to look forward at what God is still doing in our midst.
We are part of a story that is still being written; we are active participants, not just in the Christian faith, but in resurrection as well. We need to practice resurrection; we need to practice resurrection in our lives because when we practice resurrection, God’s work is done in this world, work that so desperately needs to be done. Our world needs resurrection; our world needs love, our world needs light and our world needs grace. Not only do we have the ability to bring that into the world, but we are called to bring that into the world.
This morning we heard the Easter story told from the Gospel of John. This account records that Mary Magdalene, after finding the empty tomb, ran to tell Simon Peter and the other disciple what she had found. After seeing for themselves that the tomb was empty, the disciples returned to their homes and Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. Two angels appeared to Mary and when she turned around, Jesus was in her midst. And then Jesus told her to go and tell his disciples what she had seen.
Jesus said to [Mary], “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”
There is a palpable and bold call in this Easter story; one that penetrates deeply into our lives today. Like Mary Magdalene, we are called to go and tell the world that Jesus is risen; we are called to tell this story and to keep writing it as well. We called to be living proof of that first Easter morning, to practice resurrection in our lives; to show the people around us how love wins, how light shines and how grace is real. We can do this – we can make resurrection happen, we have the power to make this happen.
The musical, Cinderella, was originally released in 1957, but the production that my dad’s students are putting on is a 2013 adaptation with a new book and an updated plotline. The script tackles issues of social justice, human equality and integrity, it pokes fun at some of our more comical societal flaws and gives Cinderella a voice as she meets and courts the prince. It has a bit of a modern twist to it that, when I saw it for the first time, gave me a lot to think about.
The script shines light on the propensity that we, as human beings, all have within ourselves, to change our fate and a make a real difference in the world. And even though I know I know it drives my family crazy when the house lights come up at the end of a musical and I am completely lost in thought contemplating the hidden meaning of the script, I could not help myself this time. Because I kept thinking about the magic; how the magic was real because the characters believed it to be possible and how resurrection can be real if we believe it to be possible as well.
The Fairy Godmother – who, in this story, was transformed from a beggar woman, that we had met earlier, when Cinderella showed her charity and compassion – does not actually create the magic for Cinderella in this story; she tells Cinderella that she can do it herself.
Cinderella: But if you could be a beggar woman not five minutes ago and now are my fairy godmother, then anything is possible, right?
Fairy Godmother: I suppose so.
Cinderella: You could change it all. You could make it all happen.
Fairy Godmother: No, but you could change it. You could make it all happen.
Guess what? You can make it happen! We can make it happen! We can make resurrection happen in our lives. We can make resurrection happen in this world.
We can be the face of the Risen Christ for people who are searching desperately for something to believe in. We can live out the ministry that God is calling us into. We can shine light in the midst of the darkest of places and insist on choosing love when others are choosing hate. We can lead by example, make choices in our lives that help others and insist on justice. We can help others when they are in need, we can admit our mistakes and extend a hand of forgiveness to the people who have wronged us in some way. We can love unconditionally, even when that requires a lot of patience. We can choose our words carefully when we are talking to someone or about someone. We can do the sometimes hard work of extending a hand of radical hospitality to welcome all people into our midst, regardless of where they are on their journey through life.
We can show the people around us, not just through our words, but also through our actions, that hope is alive and that God still has a lot of work to do here on earth.
We, like Mary, can run from the empty tomb to tell others what we have seen, what we have heard and what we have experienced. We can see the angels in our midst pointing us towards resurrection and even more than that, we can be those angels pointing others towards resurrection as well.
The world is not an easy place to live in, but we can make it better. We can practice resurrection and help others to believe that a better world is possible. We can live out the Gospel in radical, humble and life-giving ways.
Resurrection is still happening today and I believe that we are called, by this Easter story, to practice this in our lives.
So let us go forth and make resurrection happen. Let us make it happen in our lives, let us make it happen in the lives of others and let us make it happen in the world
Christ IS risen my friends! He rose then and he rises again! God’s love wins – then, now and forever! He is risen, indeed!
Thanks be to God!