I’m always pleasantly surprised by the return of so many
into the church on this festival day.
Those of you temporarily exiled,
due to the demands of work or family,
Or attracted by the promise of more sleep,
a leisurely morning of Sabbath time,
and a NYT,
but today you made it to church.
And I’m glad you are here,
and just as the early Jerusalemites missed their brothers and sisters
scattered throughout the Roman Empire,
we here love to see you.
I know that,
Returning, or coming into a church isn’t easy.
The pews aren’t particularly comfortable,
(Although in comparison to others, the ones here are shaped well),
it can be pretty cold in the inside of a church,
both in climate, and spiritually.
Perhaps there is a sense of judgment or dread.
And there is nothing wrong with that.
It would be foolish to say there aren’t times of judgment,
And there aren’t dreadful times.
Sometimes we have burdens
Of which we only become acutely aware
When we enter churches.
And then, of course, there is the institution.
A frail, human institution.
At least one of my members is constantly telling me,
Well we aren’t the first people to be skeptical of an institution.
And there are plenty of good reasons for it.
And if I wanted to examine all the reasons
it would probably be better if I just handed over the microphone, because I know that some of you probably have a list.
But you are here, and it’s wonderful.
In fact, I would say that coming here is an act of bravery.
It’s brave to walk into a church these days.
It’s brave thing to come into a frail institution
That promises to redeem humanity,
in such a prosperous, apathetic and cynical culture.
I know that many of you who come every Sunday probably don’t think
that you are all that brave.
After all, a few of you lived through the blitz in England,
And you can remember the sacrifices you made in the good war
And the depression still echoes in your consciousness.
And a few of you are ill, achy and sore,
and every morning requires a daily capsule of courage.
So for the faithful here, bravery is the normal thing.
It requires bravery to come into a church that often seems empty
Except for the tender care that we try to offer each other.
I wouldn’t want to say that the people on the outside,
are cowards, lack courage, or lack hope.
No, they aren’t cowards.
In fact, I also think that some churches contain cowards.
And God bless them,
They fear the world and its pollution and ambiguity
its insecurity, is uncertainty.
I know of churches that try to insulate themselves
From the complexities and uncertainties of our age,
finding themselves manipulated
by slick confidence men.
We aren’t that sort of church.
We aren’t the kind of church
that pretends that whatever list we have,
is going to save you from yourself
that makes it magically easy.
Even though such a church has its attractions.
What is far more common in our culture,
Are the people who shrug.
who lift their shoulders and release them quickly.
Who count their time with dollar bills,
And have no words for redemption
And have rarely forgiven,
Or seek forgiveness.
So you know bravery and commitment so well,
it’s probably not worth mentioning.
for the early church fathers, was never merely about articulating a past event.
It was the beginning of an answer: how do we live now.
What do we do?
Shrugging wasn’t an answer.
Their question was how would we live free
from the resentment
and shame that is the root of violence?
The apostles were a mixed group. And they had different answers.
A few of them were cowards. And couldn't even go to the tomb.
A few of them wandered back into the community for a short time,
And a few probably shrugged.
“Well, that didn’t work out the way we planned.”
“We thought he was really going to do something.”
And back to playing video games.
Not that there is anything wrong with video games.
But God bless those who shrug.
They know that reality is usually virtual and
And that most people use scripts to get by,
They live with insecure pensions, work, and marriages.
So when they see risk and uncertainty and insecurity
they shrug and wilt and wane.
They know life as a crapshoot
and hide beneath the guffaws of fortune,
within their cultivated cynicism.
“Why bother,” they say. “This is the world.”
And they shrug.
They shrug, for there is no wonder,
television is enough.
They shrug, for there is nothing to revere,
except for the celebrities who fill our televisions.
They shrug, for there is no goodness to praise,
they remind us there are no heros any more.
for who needs goodness when it can’t guarantee a paycheck.
They are wise, these people who shrug.
They ask, where do you put your confidence,
where no institution,
no religion, no ideology,
and no person instills it?
And one answer is to shrug.
God bless those who shrug.
Because you’re here,
and you’ve witnessed a different story.
For these disciples couldn’t just sit back.
They couldn’t just assume the end had happened.
They couldn’t just watch
They couldn’t wait.
They wouldn’t hide.
The people who shrug, they have things neat and tidy.
Opening tombs and upsetting the cart just isn’t their style.
I wonder if those who shrug have been burned.
They wanted a bit more protection and just just support.
They wanted a God that keeps things neat, tidy, simple.
but worship such a God you’ll get burned.
And they did.
So they throw away the lot,
And they shrug.
And let me offer you a warning.
Because the people who shrug,
That if when you do find yourself faced with the transcendent,
The glorious power of love and hope,
You might just flee in terror and amazement.
When Paul talks about the resurrection he says, "But you will be changed."
So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
So I’m glad you are here.
Because we are beginning the process of being a peculiar sort of community. And its hard for us to say much because, well, many of us are afraid of what the future holds.
But we want to restore some reverence in this culture.
We've decided to resist a culture that says everything is disposable.
We've learned that this stuff
does not fill our spiritual emptiness.
And so when we decide to serve the poor,
Help in a soup kitchen,
it is just restoring a sense of reverence.
We want to bring a sense of wonder.
And not cheap wonder,
an easy attraction of shimmery things and false promises.
What of a wonder of the natural world?
Why must it only be when there is no electricity
Can we see the immense universe around us.
Must we limit our imaginations?
And last, we’re trying, hard,
and sometimes it works,
and sometimes it doesn’t,
to rediscover that source of joy.
And this is the difference.
Those who shrug see a grey world,
Mechanistic and monochrome,
Where life is a crapshoot and everything has a price,
And those who bravely enter into those terrifying spaces of joy.
For this is the root of the resurrection: discovering joy.
And I wonder whether there are so many distractions around us,
misdirecting us from the source of true joy.
What joy is there when life is a crapshoot?
I’ve been playing a little Texas hold-em.
Sometimes toward the end of the evening, you there is this
Terrifying feeling of losing. but you still make the bet.
Now I wouldn't argue that the point is winning or losing.
The disciples, they had done that.
They’d placed all their bets and were worried.
And it seemed like they’d just lost their biggest hand.
They probably should have just shrugged and folded.
But they did not shrug
They did not leave the table.
Now I don't think of life as a game,
But Jesus has answered
what it takes to stay at the table.
In a single victorious stroke, they had been replenished.
Sin, guilt, death Gone.
All their debts, repaid.
They could stay at the table they never thought they had any right to sit.
In a world that has separated us into winners and losers,
the apostles discovered the promise,
that they could boldly sit at the table
without worrying if they would lose or win.
So alleluia. He died, and was raised.
And now, we need not shrug,
but we can sit down and praise...
Alleluia, He is Risen.