Living Holy Adventure – Easter Sunday – April 16, 2017

Living Holy Adventure – Easter Sunday – April 16, 2017 April 4, 2017

Easter Celebration – April 16, 2017
Bruce G. Epperly
Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Colossians 3:1-4
John 20:1-18
Matthew 28:1-10

Today we celebrate! Someone amazing and unexpected “once upon a time.” Could it happen again in our time? That is the challenge for preachers and congregants every Easter Sunday.

“This is the day that God has made, and we will rejoice and be glad in it.” These words from Psalm 118 set the tone for our Easter Adventures. Joy and celebration are the mood of Easter. God’s initiative in bringing forth unexpected signs and wonders that transform our lives and liberate us from the powers of death and destruction shape the theology and spirituality of Easter. Resurrection is both improbable and necessary to face the daunting threats of personal, communal, and – in the twenty-first century – planetary death. In the current national crisis, we need to hear God’s message of new life in the midst of the realities of personal and corporate threat.

The call and response of God and the world is not suspended and reduced in divine unilateral activity on Easter; but there is the hope of a superabundance of divine possibility, energy, and power, a deeper power that resurrects the dead and transforms the living. With the Psalmist, we can take heart and move forward, knowing that God has raised up the rejected ones. “It is marvelous in our eyes.”

Can we ponder “miracles” of a deeper nature this Easter from a progressive-emerging perspective? Can we experience God’s presence as be “more than we can ask or imagine?” Does the continuity of causal relationships, including that of God and the world, appropriately maintained by progressives, liberals, and process theologians contain deep within it quantum leaps of energy that make a way where there is no way? Can the surprising new beginnings, articulated by the “big bang” or “big birth” of the universe be replicated in the microcosm of personal and planetary life? We need such a “big birth” today when the forces of planetary death, governmental gridlock, regressive religion, and economic and environmental destruction seem out of control. We need a “miracle,” for only a transformation of divine energy can give us and our planet a verdant and fruitful path through the wilderness. We need an Easter, personally and corporately. We need to set aside our theological and spiritual limitations, and discover a deeper naturalism, grounded in providential bursts of divine energy moving through the causal nexus within which we live and move and have our being. We need to believe that in our lives and in our world God can do a new thing. (For more on process theology, see Bruce Epperly, Process Theology: Embracing Adventure with God and Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed.)

Can we preach about the possibility of a “miraculous” releases of divine energy and creativity while encouraging personal and corporate agency and affirming the multi-factorial nature of causal relationships? We need a host of amazing events, and we need participate in midwifing them, if we are to have our own our own global “great awakening,” and our own interdependent “resurrection” energy. Despite the intractability and deathful practices of governments, including the USA, deep down we know that we need more than incremental changes to survive as a people and people. We need a resurrection.

This resurrection, as the reading from Acts proclaims, must embrace all the peoples of the world, without exception. In his sermon at Cornelius’ home, Peter affirms that God shows no partiality: resurrection must be global or null, there is no middle ground. The offer of transformation must be available to Cornelius (the Roman military leader whose mystical experience and spiritual transformation is the context of the Acts reading) and his household and every other household on the planet. The story of new creation is global, but the presentation and the experience are always personal and local, and emerging in the context of new experiences. What does resurrection mean to a “cradle Christian” who has heard the story for fifty years and knows already that beyond the Cross, there is a happy ending? What does resurrection mean to a Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, pagan, seeker, or none of the above as they encounter a reality that is “more than we ask or imagine?”

John’s Gospel proclaims that resurrection is always personal even though it is universal in scope. In the garden, Jesus calls Mary’s name, and she is transformed. Resurrection happens when we hear God’s voice – the voice of new life – amid the deathful realities of our lives and the world. We may want to hold onto that voice, but as Jesus tells Mary, “let go of the way you used to know me; for, I am also a new creation. I am not bound by the past, but will bring new life in unexpected places, to cultures you cannot imagine, and in ways that will astound you.” If resurrection means anything – then and now – it means that we must be open to transformation and to the birth of unimaginable possibilities in our midst.

Matthew’s resurrection account portrays a seismic shift that transforms persons as well as the earth. Resurrection turns everything upside down, frightening both women and the guards. The angel reassures, “Don’t be afraid,” for new life can be frightening when we have become accustomed to death in our personal and social lives. Women again are at the heart of the resurrection message. God’s voice is not confined to male representatives but embraces every person. Today, Matthew’s gospel message might be given to an undocumented worker, a Syrian refugee, a transgender person, or a youth on the autistic spectrum. Whoever we are, we are called to share God’s unsettling, transforming, resurrection life.

We need on this East Sunday to preach boldly and to open our minds and hearts to a wider vision of possibility. Like the first receivers of the revelation, we are anxious about the future and the deathful decisions of our leaders. We need to embrace the creative energy that resurrects the dead among us and gives us the power to become God’s partners in healing this good Earth.

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