Monday, March 28, 2016

I See Jesus

Easter 2016
March 27, 2016
Chatfield UMC
Rev. Debra Jene Collum

In some churches this morning there will be trumpets and choirs and cherubs and flying banners.
In some churches this morning there will be pomp and glory and incense and processions.
In some churches this morning you will hardly be able to see the front of the sanctuary for all the flowers and ribbons and candles.
In some churches Easter Sunday is a big fat celebration, all the stops out, glorious.

But not here.
Not here.

We come here as we do every Sunday, wondering what we will discover, who we will meet, what new life we might encounter that will give us the life we need for the following week.

We come as Mary came to the tomb. Hesitantly, with preparations for an encounter but not being sure just what we might encounter.

And in our hesitancy and our wonder and our simple preparations we will find that we have enough.
Maybe even more than enough. For in this simple quiet Easter in early spring when flags are still flying at half-staff in solidarity with Belgium and we wonder if they will ever fly full staff again, we can hear the simple of truth of what Mary said:

I have seen the Lord.

I have seen the Lord.

Not, a He is Risen, Christ is Risen Indeed. Not a Hallelujah just yet. Not a trumpet blast just now.

But a man strolling in the garden; who looks just like a gardener. Who asks her why she is crying. Who gently says her name: “Mary”

I have seen the Lord.

On March 27, 2016, this is what we need.

To see the Lord, in the midst of the destruction and chaos and confusion of this Easter Sunday which has come way too early in our Spring season.

Someone said that to hide Easter eggs this year we should just leave them white. The children would never be able to find them among the snowdrifts.
March 22 is the earliest date that Easter can come in the Western calendar. We are close enough to the 22nd that we can say it is too soon.

We aren’t ready for a “He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed”, or a “Halleluiah”. Seeds haven’t been planted yet; the flowers that were blooming are covered in frost, nipped in the bud.
We who live on the land and by the land know that the promise of a resurrection is still a promise. Still sleeping behind the just warming ground.

But to be able to witness to this: I have seen the Lord. That is beyond the seasons of our lives or the warmth of our soils. To be able to speak these words: I have seen the Lord gives testimony that in the midst of ruin and chaos, broken promises and unrealized dreams, there is resurrection.

“I have seen the Lord” is a personal testimony that the cold tomb is empty. “I have seen the Lord” is a personal testimony that the stone has been rolled away. “I have seen the Lord” is a proclamation that death and decay will not be the end word. “*

“On this Easter Sunday in the year 2016, this is the testimony we need. This is the testimony the world needs. For as much as we need to know that Christ is Risen and that there is hope after death we even more so need to know that Christ is here among us. “*

“I have seen the Lord” are all the words we need because what we are saying is: Jesus is among us.

When Jesus is among us we can know that the ways of love will win over the ways of hate. When Jesus is among us we can be assured that the truth of kindness can be heard over the noise of ruthless, callous, and hurtful speech making. When Jesus is among us we can know that there is hope in this life.

I have seen the Lord! I have seen Jesus!

Like Mary, I want to give testimony to the ways I have seen Jesus among us. The ways I have seen Jesus in this world in 2016.

In my travels to Mexico I saw a great deal of suffering and pain. Much of it caused by corruption, greed and the desire for power. I saw a land stripped of its life by those who had no idea of the sacred value of land and those who lived on it.
I saw deep pain. The land cried out from this pain.

And into this suffering walked Jesus, in the form of people who believed that the land could be healed. In people who believed that planting a small stand of trees to replace the ones cleared generations ago could start the healing. I saw Jesus in the women who tended the small acre gardens that helped to feed a newly formed community high in the desert of Mixteca.

In what others called Non-Governmental Agencies, I saw Jesus. Men and women who worked against the corruption and greed and power hungry to give life back to the people of Mexico. Who desperately wanted to bring clean water, nourishing food and dignity to families who for generations have been discounted by their own government.

I saw Jesus.

I saw Jesus in the 20 other team members who traveled with me from the Midwest. Who were open to the stories and the struggle of people we will probably never meet again. Who cried tears with the immigrants who told their devastating stories of leaving home and sick children to find some kind of living that they could send back to their people.

I saw Jesus.

I see Jesus. Everyday in all of you. I bragged about you so much these last 10 days. People think we have a small slice of paradise right here in the Chosen Valley. I told how you are always thinking of the ways you can serve your neighbor. Of how you gave up space for a food shelf. Of how you open your doors to the community with no strings attached. I told how you care for one another so well that I could travel far away without great concern for my people.

I was telling people about Jesus among us. In you. I was telling people about how I see Jesus everyday.

If all Easter means is trumpets and loud shouts of Halleluiahs and flowers and spring then it is simply another high holy day that is too far removed from our everyday life to mean anything.
But that is not how Easter is among us. We know and we live the truth that Mary spoke: I have seen the Lord. I have seen Jesus. Walking among us. In us and through us and beside us.

So that in our witness to Easter we are able to say: there is another way of being in world; even in this world of the 21st century where we seem determined to destroy each other. We have seen Jesus, we do see Jesus, because we see life, we do life, we believe in life. As we live our life giving testimony to the life-giving Christ may others say and wonder about us: Wait a minute. Did I just see the Lord?”

With thanks to Karoline Lewis who gave the seeds and some of the words that inspired this sermon writing.

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