Sunday, April 1, 2018 - Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday – April 1st, 2018
Sermon preached by the Rev. Daniel Vélez Rivera

Lessons: Isaiah 25: 6-9, Psalm 118:1-2 14-24, Corinthians 15:1-11, Mark 16: 1-8

Alleluia blessings!! Christ is Risen!! Alleluia and Amen!! Today we celebrate God´s love story through Jesus! Perhaps the thought of God´s love through Jesus might be abstract or too mystical a concept, so lets just say that God’s constant presence and love for us comes through you, through this faith community, through the things that make you smile such as seeing the full moon, watching the flowers and trees blossom, passing a test, finishing that knitted blanket, or just watching a movie with friends and family. Christ´s love is in all
these examples.

The Jesus story is the best love story ever, even when it doesn’t sound or feel that way. In the lessons from Isaiah and Paul we heard the goodness of God manifested in a love that feeds, a love that brings hope even in death, a love that brings salvation to all people. The Jesus love story is about the love given by Christ to each one of us whether we feel that we deserve it or not. It doesn’t matter to Jesus; his love is given freely.

Jesus came to help humanity understand that his unceasing love can be found in normal everyday things and situations. In Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth he repeated that Jesus, “appeared”. “He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, …then he appeared to James, and to all the apostles.” Jesus appearing, his presence, is like a love note. I’m here, see you around.

In today’s gospel story the angel tells Mary Magdalene in so many words, that Jesus was ahead of her and that he would appear to her and to the disciples in Galilee. Go, said the angel, tell the others, he is there. The presence of Jesus appearing reminds me of falling in love for the first time, because, suddenly, it appears. It is there, it is real. That is how the love of Christ shows up and is manifested, usually in the least expected ways and circumstances.

I’ll share some highlights of the presence of Jesus in the events or encounters that I had in the past seven days in our St. Gabriel´s community starting with Palm Sunday. I was aware of God’s loving presence last Sunday through the breaking of that huge loaf of fresh bread that Deacon Holly brought and in the experiment we tried with Eucharist in the round as people fed each other the body and blood of Christ. At the Tenebrae service on Tuesday, I felt the love of Jesus as I watched thirteen singers and musicians from our English and Spanish language choirs lead us in sung prayers interspersed with readings and candle light. At the Eucharist and foot washing on Maundy Thursday the presence of Jesus happened as the people surrounded this altar during the Eucharistic Prayer, it felt like a Thanksgiving dinner gathering. Then on Good Friday, Christ was present in the words of every woman and girl that read a perspective of what it must have felt like as a woman disciple and friend of Jesus on his last day on earth. I also saw Jesus as I watched the two acolytes bring the stations of the cross forward with such reverence and attention, and how the gathered wrote prayers and then posted them on the cross. I felt the love of Jesus this week with the lunches that a parishioner brought to me as I translated the liturgies for Tenebrae and Good Friday, and as people stopped by to have
their confessions heard and receive absolution. 

You may think that a priest´s life is different from yours, but it really isn´t. You share satisfying meals prepared by you or by someone else, you hear great music that makes you hum afterwards, you listen to a friend´s secret and tell them that they will be okay, you are surrounded by love, and you also pray. How we perceive and identify the manifestation of Christ’s love in each of our lives isn’t all that different.

On Good Friday at the Chapel in the Woods, Darren led youth, children and adults in a walk and reflection of the Stations of the Cross. He invited us to introduce ourselves by name followed by, “and I am not afraid.” I heard myself say, I am Daniel, and I am not afraid. At the end of today’s gospel story, we hear that Mary and the other women left the empty tomb in fear. Why was it important to end the stations with this affirmation to not be afraid? Fear is seldom a catalyst for transformation, but love is which i s why Jesus so often reminds us to not fear. When we encounter love, the love of Christ in particular, we encounter resurrection, we encounter a transformation that doesn’t always make sense, but we make the statement with
faith and love in the one who died so that we would have eternal life.

In Jesus’ love note to us he reminds us not to fear because he will be with us until the end of time. Mary and the disciples were broken hearted for their loss, that is part of being in love, but they were also transformed by it. Christ’s life and love has changed hearts and transformed lives for over two thousand years. I asked the people gathered here on Good Friday to write prayers of love, fear, transformation, and thanksgiving on post-its and to put those prayers on the cross before they parted. I will invite you to do the same today after this service. Your prayers will not be read by anyone, I will burn them like incense so that your words and intentions may rise to the heavens in the smoke that wafts upward. Put your fears, your love,
and your thanksgivings on the cross of the resurrected Christ.

The angel of God promised Mary Magdalene that she would see Jesus. I invite you to put yourself in her shoes. What does the love of Jesus look like to you? Where does he appear? Do you see Him? He promised to be where two or three are gathered, so look around. He  promised to be where the little ones are found, see them? He’s here. He promised to be where a cup of water is given to someone who thirsts – he is here. He promised to be in the bread and in the wine that we share at Eucharist, he is here, he is risen, the Lord is risen, and he is in you, with you, around you…right here with all of us! Amen!