2023 Easter Sunday Sermon – The Rev. Jim Stickney

Easter Sunday 2023 St. Alban’s Church
Alleluia!  Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!
I’d like to begin this sermon for Easter morning with a special word of welcome
to those who are visiting with us today. We’re glad you’re here this morning,
and everyone is welcome to join us to receive Communion.
I’ve been wondering if there’s anything new to say, or to preach, about Easter.
I’ve heard some very inspiring sermons on different Easter Sundays,
along with compelling stories that point to the heart of the Easter message:
that good wins out over evil, and that death does not have the final word.
And over the last few decades, it’s been my privilege to preach on Easter Sunday —
to attempt, as best as I am able, to remind many people of this good news,
this great and overwhelming news, that we have a share in the risen life
of Christ Jesus, who overcame death and the grave — and what’s more,
who wants us to share in his risen life — to live eternally.
In different years, I’ve shared some insights of great Christians in our history —
a form of spiritual thievery from the treasuries of past believers.
The other day I found a powerful Easter sermon by a deacon named Ephrem,
who lived in the region of Syria in the 4th century. He wrote:
We give glory to you, Lord, who raised your cross to span the jaws of death
like a bridge, by which souls may pass from the region of the dead
to the land of the living.
We give glory to you who put on the body of a single mortal
and made it the source of life for every other mortal. You are incontestably alive!
Your murderers sowed your living body in the earth as farmers sow grain,
but it sprung up and yielded an abundant harvest of people raised from the dead.
Alleluia!  Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!
I have a less profound but much more personal reflection on new life
from my experience, last fall, of recovering from a slight stroke. After a night
in the hospital, I found a few impairments of my movement and speech.
The physical  problems sorted themselves out in a few days — thanks be to God! —
but I did have some degree of “aphasia” — that’s a disconnect
between what was in my mind to say, and the words I spoke.
It was not a doctor who had the best suggestion, but my spiritual director.
She reminded me that I often read Morning Prayer, and she told me
“Why not read out loud some of the passages that are right in front of you?”
So I often begin my day by reading a familiar psalm out loud,
and then read some unfamiliar prose — such as the life of some saint.
Even without aphasia, it’s proved to be a good way to begin the day!
And St. Alban’s has a group that does this very thing — reading the Bible out loud!
It’s done in common, over the internet, a new way of building community.
Alleluia!  Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!
When we turn to today’s Gospel, we find — not the official 12 apostles —
but the faithful women who stayed by Jesus in his darkest hour.
They witness an angel rolling back the stone in front of the tomb of Jesus —
not to let Jesus out of the tomb, but to demonstrate that he’s not there at all!
The angel then gives them a commission: to be apostles to the designated apostles:
to tell these men that Jesus has indeed been raised from the dead.
They depart, we’re told, “quickly — with fear and great joy.”
I’ve heard poetry defined as “the clear expression of mixed feelings.”
There’s such a human truth expressed here, in the mix of “fear and great joy.”
Many of us here have faced much worse than a mini-stroke. Most of us
have faced up to the deaths of people we have loved, and I for one find it a challenge
to keep a lively faith in Resurrection “at all times and in all places.”
For some of us, the poetry of our lives is found in this mix of “doubt and great joy.”
We don’t have to pretend that our faith in risen life is always easy.
The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certitude.
What does this mean for the faithful yet struggling Christian?
Simply this: faith and doubt are partners in a dialogue, a lifelong conversation.
And deeper still, we have a soul which is able to contemplate this dialogue,
somehow both a witness to the struggle, and yet often above all, still serene —
which we might call the peace of Christ which passes all understanding.
Alleluia!  Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!
Now let us renew our Christian faith by responding to the Baptismal covenant.