Christ is risen – ALLELUIA!
A good man he was, Charlie Smith. Always seeing the bright side of life, he was devoted to his family, his church and his town. Numerous organizations claimed his contributions as outstanding. Couldn’t ask for a better family man, a Christian and community-minded person.
Charlie died and guess what? The devil snatched him into hell! Nobody expected that. Shockwaves rolled through the family, the church and the town. A meeting was called to brainstorm a plan to convince the devil to release Charlie. I mean com’on – this guy did nothing wrong!
They decided that the the mayor of the town should go and talk to the devil, so he did. The mayor brought a long impressive list of Charlie’s community involvements. But the devil said no chancy — Charlie’s staying right here with me.
Next the parish priest decided to go and get Charlie out of hell. She pointed out all the wonderful things Charlie did in his life, adding that he never missed church! She argues with the devil until she was blue in the face. But no luck — the devil, a wicked smile on his face, remained unconvinced.
Then, out of the blue, Charlie’s wife Helen spoke up: let me go and talk to the devil, she said. The townspeople and the priest hesitated; they really wanted to spare her more grief. But Helen insisted.
So Helen went and knocked on hell’s door, yelling: “Let me in!” Let me in?! The devil had never heard anybody ASKING to be let into hell! He laughed his head off – let you in??? “I don’t care that he’s in hell,” said Helen. “I just want to be there with him.” Of course, madam! the devil said. He swung open the door with a large gesture, come on in …!
John was a volunteer teacher at a Summer Bible camp in a remote northern community. A rowdy group of children fell quiet as he told the story of the passion and death of Jesus. John explained how, after Jesus had died, his body had been taken down from the cross, wrapped in a linen cloth and laid in the tomb. Then John showed a beautiful picture of Easter Sunday morning, depicting the empty tomb with the stone rolled back and the women standing in shock in front of it (see above image).
John asked the students, “What do you think this means?” Ronny, sitting in the front row was quick to answer in Cree, “He is loose!” “But where is He?” I asked. “He’s free now,” Ronny replied. “He can go wherever he wants!”
Yes, today we party because Jesus is loose. He is unbound, released, set free. Jesus died a horrific death, yes, But he showed us how to die while loving God, loving humanity, even loving enemies.
Do you know what happened once Helen stepped into hell to join her husband? As soon as Helen walked into hell, the place filled with …. LOVE … LOVE for her dear husband Charlie! The devil had not anticipated this at all. He panicked – he made a big mistake letting Helen in the door! Why? Because hell turned to heaven as soon as LOVE filled the place! And when LOVE rules, the devil loses power and control. When LOVE fills hell, the devil runs for cover!
In the creed we pray: he descended to the dead, or to hell. What did Jesus go to the dead/hell for? To fill the place with LOVE. That, my friends, is what Jesus did. Jesus filled hell with LOVE and MERCY. Jesus filled death with LOVE and MERCY. Jesus filled suffering with LOVE and MERCY. That is why his moment of death became his moment of glory.
Jesus is loose, free to show up in our lives anywhere and anytime, in the most unexpected ways and places. as he did to those early disciples. He can come into our lives looking like a gardener, as he did for Mary Magdalene, or a stranger who joins us on the road of loss, as he did for the two disciples of Emmaus.
Jesus can come as our life partner willing to join us in hell for the sake of love. Jesus can show up as a cashier in the grocery store who happens to have a bad/good day, the young man who changes the oil in our car, keeping us safe on the road, a co-worker at the office who needs a listening ear, a kid in our class who is being excluded, or a neighbour befriending the new immigrants next door.
Jesus is loose, showing up in friend and stranger. Jesus is loose, showing up in our parish family, as we grow and laugh and cry and work together, as we pray for and encourage and comfort each other. Jesus is loose! Be on the lookout for him — every day. You may even find him looking back at you in your bathroom mirror… that’s no April Fool’s joke!
At the end of every Easter service in the Orthodox tradition, the following words from St. John Chrysostom (4th c’try) are proclaimed with much joy and gusto:
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
for the Death of our Saviour has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He spoiled Hades when he descended thereto.
He vexed it even as it tasted of His flesh. …
It is vexed; for it is annihilated.
It is vexed; for it is now made captive.
Satan took a body, and it discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw and was overcome by what it did not see.
… Christ is risen, death died, and the tomb is empty!
Christ is risen — ALLELUIA!
Homily preached this Easter Sunday April 1, 2018
(Note: True. I could’ve/should’ve preached on the women who freaked out at the empty tomb (Mark 16:1-8). That will be for another year, as the combination of this year’s date and the Easter news tickled my funny bone. April Fool’s inspired the light-hearted tone; Easter inspired the immense joy. Both celebrate that, in the suffering and death of Christ, the devil/death got fooled the most!)
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