“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary
Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed
from the tomb.” John 20 :1
Today, we gather to celebrate the joys of Easter. For the past 40 days of
Lent, we have been seeking to find ways of renewal of our faith in God.
Many fasted or observed some level of abstinence even as we sought to
go deeper into prayer. Some skeptics saw it as unworthy old times
tradition without much meaning or purpose, so it was not appropriated
much attention. Some gave it a tepid or lukewarm response as is the
fashion towards religious or spiritual concepts or exercises. And yet a
few went deep diving seeking to plumb its depths. Easter really is a
celebration of the deep divers.
Here at St Elizabeth’s, we used the Book of Joshua as a biblical guide
and 12 stones as our earthy ingredient upon which we could focus our
spirituality. Joshua 4:6-7: “That this may be a sign among you when
your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to
you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut
off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed over the
Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be
for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” Twelve stones to represent
the reminder from God through Joshua to the people to never forget by
whose grace and glory they escaped slavery and inherited a new space.
Twelve stones to remember who and what is the builder and by whose
strength we gain victory and might and power to conquer. Conquest, we
understood to mean physical, spiritual, material, and financial. Conquest
over our greatest enemy: fear.
Fear which restricts, fear which traps us in cynicism as we cower from our true nature.
Fear which restricts us from going beyond artificial bounds telling us “stay in our place”. Fear
from launching deeper into our faith. Fear which convicts us as
worthless sinners. Fear which tells us that this church cannot grow, or its
glory days are in the past. Twelve stones represent our baptism into a faith
which is greater than us because it dwells in the very universe, older
than us as we inherited it from our ancestors and younger than us
because we pass it on to our children through the waters of baptism.
This year we took those 12 stones and planted them in the hearts and
minds of our children, and we witnessed their growth and spiritual
development. We prepared them for confirmation, grounding them in
scripture and faith. We saw them last Sunday give us their version of
the Gospel of Jesus. We are seeing them today leading us in singing out
our Easter songs.
My friends in Christ, what we are witnessing before our very eyes is the
work of the living God who stood by Joshua and built a wall of
protection in the midst of the river Jordan. The Living God who
empowered the people to conquer Jericho not with swords but musical
instruments. Music, not guns, will conquer hearts and minds. Give them
trumpets instead if AK 47! That is the faith we are seeking to provide to
these children as they prepare to face a dangerous world. Dropping our
children off to school can now be likened in many ways to them entering
a very war zone so we give them the armor of the Lord to stand firm in
Easter, my friends, unlike Christmas, is a believer- only celebration. Easter
is not about a rabbit and eggs but the celebration of the faith of those
who were willing to believe even when there was no longer anything to
believe in. Easter is for those who keep walking when others say let’s go
back. Easter is for those who rise when others choose to roll over and
surrender. Easter is for those who squint while in the darkness as they
grope forward with an intense faith that says light soon come.
I recently saw a short movie made by an African immigrant girl telling
her migrant story. She shared that as her mother fought to get them to
freedom in Europe, she would stand on the seashore in Lebanon for an
agonizing long time wondering what lay beyond the ocean. Eventually
when they took the risky boat ride across the Mediterranean Sea with 55
of them in boat built for 20, they almost drowned but many years later
she would journey back to the safe landing spot and stand on the
seashore to throw rocks. Those rocks were her healing and overcoming
faith. The rocks were to make ripples of hope for those stuck on the
other side, telling them don’t lose hope because God will make a way
where there is no way. For Lent, we gave you 12 rocks! Some gave them
back, others gave them away, but a faithful few saw more than 12 stones
in a bag counted by a little boy- rocks of faith!
Today, we at St Elizabeth’s celebrate Easter. The Lord is Risen. This is
not about a physical body coming back to life. This is about God
revealing to us His might and power to overcome all our deepest and
greatest fears. Easter is not about a tomb of remembrance but a gateway
to Glory. And this is what we are offering to these four children this
morning. We are providing them with another option, another portal
through which they enter a realm which reveals the power and bigness
of God. A God who has no care in the world for earthly human
limitations. A God who shows his power not by might but by love. A
love so deep and wide it conquers all things. It conquers fears, prejudice
and racism and injustice. It conquers divisiveness and tribal barriers. It
makes a way where there is no way it even overpowers death.
But I leave you just where I started. Easter is only for those who believe
enough to get up a go while it is still dark. It is only for the bold and
courageous! It is only for those who are willing to carry their candles
into the darkness. Because the light shines into the darkness and the
darkness cannot be overcome. Blessed Easter to all. Now, go carry your
candle into the world!