(Easter Sunday April 8, 2012)

God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Acts 10:34-43 – Peter’s sermon: We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear…
Isaiah 65:17-25 – I am about to create a new heaven and a new earth.
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 – God’s steadfast love endures forever.
I Corinthians 15:19-26 – Paul’s discourse on the resurrection. Death as the final enemy.
Acts 10:34-43 – Peter’s sermon: We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear…
John 20:1-18
– Jesus’ resurrection and appearance to Mary Magdalene
Luke 24:1-12 – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women with them find the stone rolled away, encounter an angel, and run to tell the apostles.

Redefining Hope

Jesus is not just told the story of one person’s redemption. He has a story that is a microcosm of history, and he has promised us a future with hope. The Bible’s whole narrative is a story of exile and return. Exiled from Eden. Exile into Egypt. Exile in Babylon. Exile from a right relationship with the Father.

The prodigal son longed for home. We all long for home do we not? We yearn to return that place of innocence, security, childhood. Even if your childhood home was not a safe place, do you not all the more yearn for that true home, that place where you are safe and loved unconditionally? All of our yearning for home, the innocence of childhood, even that perfect idyllic vacation spot, is the tip of a much bigger iceberg, a much deeper yearning within. It is a longing for God. It is a spiritual hunger. We are hungry for God. We are spiritually famished. The Christmas tree, is an ache deep within for Eden. For Home with a capital H.

I don’t long for the cold gray winters growing up in Flint, Michigan. But I long for those years of carefree childhood, before I knew there was a such a thing as the holocaust, that children get trafficked in prostitution rings, that most of the world goes to bed hungry. The loss of innocence. Oh that we could go back, and erase all of that, returning to: a simpler time, curled up on the couch with my mom, playing in the back yard, singing childhood songs.

Home is a powerful concept. There are certain sounds and smells that evoke our deep yearning for home. Smells of the holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Many people work to re-create the ethos of what they experienced in an earlier, simpler time.

There is a saying, " You can never go home." You can never go back. This is what Peter Pan is all about. Toyland. You know the song.

Toy land, toy land
Little girl and boy land
While you dwell within it
You are ever happy there
Childhood’s joy land
Mystical, merry toy land
Once you pass it’s borders
You can never return again

And yet…

I suspect if we could go back, it would not be as idyllic as we remember it. Dad was stressed and distracted. Mom was worried about money. There were always bullies on the playground. All is not as I remember it, or yearn for it. So what exactly is this yearning for an idyllic home that never was?

Home is a powerful and yet incredibly elusive concept.

All our attempts to re-create Christmas ultimately fail. We are left with a sense of disappointment. The Germans have a word for this, Sehnsucht. There is no accurate translation for this. It often gets translated "homesickness," but the word signifies a much deeper yearning for something more within us.

We want it desperately; we catch a glimpse of it, smell it for a split second, but as hard as we try we just cannot seem to get there. C. S. Lewis said,

"Our life long nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation."

We are like the younger brother, always longing for home, always in exile.

Why is so powerful and elusive? Could it be that we aren’t really home? Could it be that we have another home, a spiritual home? Could it be that we detect a kindness and compassion that does not actually exist in this world, except in glimpses? Could it be that we sense an authentic, unconditional love that transcends the loves we have experienced here? We live in a world that does not fit our deepest longings. We are spiritual exiles, longing for our true Home. This is what the story of Adam and Eve is really about underneath: Adam and Eve are exiled from Eden. We are cut off from Home. How do we get back?

Jesus talked about this Home. He called home the kingdom of God, and invited people to live as if kingdom was here. He knew it wasn’t, but he believed that it broke unto our world with every act of kindness. Every selfless gesture of compassion. We become vehicles for Home to break into our world.

Easter is about coming home. The resurrection is about reclaiming Eden. The new Jerusalem. The city of God. The prodigal son returns home, and so do we. The father throws a homecoming banquet feast. Let the party begin. We never fully get this life, but we can get foretaste of the feast to come.

The good news is resurrection is now. Jesus’ resutrection prefigures our resurrection. It begins now. We can experience glimpses of home now. Home can infect our lives, our relationships, our decisions now. We can live a resurrected, Easter life now. We can cultivate and awareness of God’s presence, our divine home, here and now. Why wait? Why trudge through life like another day at the grind? Eternal life is not measured in years. It is measured in depth. It is measured in love.

Life was meant to be lived in the Spirit. We are spiritual creatures. Live in love, as Christ loved us. Live in joy, even when this world is crashing down around you. Live with a deep peace. Live in generosity. Live in hope that there is more to life than meets the eye. Much more.

Can you hear the music and dancing? Listen for the music. Come home.

Yours in Christ,

Michael Rinehart, Bishop