Saturday, March 31, 2018

Year B Easter Vigil 2018 Mindset of Resurrection & a Fluid God

Year B Easter Vigil, 31 March 2018  
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA 
“The Mindset of Resurrection and a Fluid God” 

Genesis 1:1-2:4a Creation 
Exodus 14:10-31, 15:20-21 Passing through the Red Sea 
Isaiah 55:1-11 “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…”
Ezekiel 36:24-28 “...I will sprinkle you clean with water…” 
Romans 6:3-11 Do you know that all who have been baptized have been baptized...  
Mark 16:1-8 Mary and two other women go to anoint Jesus’ body  

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Mark 16:8  The woman at the tomb, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome left afraid.    

Fear is so easy to cling to in the unknown.  We have been wired that way. In the culmination of the greatest act of love ever recorded, we see these dear people respond in the only way they know how.  Fear.  

Our programming takes us to fight or flight.  Peter chopping off Malchus’ ear. Fight. The woman running from the empty tomb.  Flight. We go there without thinking. And that is the problem.  

But dear friends, we are given another possibility.  

Albert Einstein penned that “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”  As we move into the Mindset of the Resurrection, we are invited to take on the mind of Christ.  

We are invited to step above and beyond the fear, and view all of our problems from the perspective of Love.  How else could he stay silent when lies were being told of him? How else could he receive the Betrayer’s Kiss mere hours after washing Judas’ feet?  How else could he look down from the Cross on which he was soon to die and pray, PRAY, “Forgive them Father, so they don’t know what they are doing.”?  Father, forgive us for so often we do not know what we’re doing either. 

 When are days are dark, and it is always darkest before the coming dawn, we have been given another way.  This new way of thinking and of living has been echoed by the Saints of God across the ages.  Deep in her prayer life, the woman who has come to be known as St. Julian of Norwich wrote of her revelation of Divine Love.  We often hear the first part, but so rarely continue the passage. She penned, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” But listen to where she goes with that... “For there is a Force of love moving through the universe that holds us fast and will never let us go.”  

You came out on this darkest of days to celebrate this new life we find in Christ.  You came out to worship this God of Resurrection. Even those of us who have been in the Church for decades, might need a rethink of what this God we worship is like.  

The God we worship is flighty.  Not flighty in a ditzy way, but going from moment to moment and event to event pollinating like the bees God’s Grace and goodness.    Our God is often depicted as a great Rock or a mighty castle.  But our God is not a stolid God, impregnable like a fortress, despite the words of the old hymn.  

Our God cannot be captured in permanence. Of all things God is not, God is not static. Dynamic, awe-inspiring, ever-changing, ever-hopeful is our God.  The God we worship is infinitesimal.  Our God is not great and huge, but tiny and precise, slipping between the very atoms that we think hold us together.    The God we worship is sneaky.  The God we worship this night slips in between our defenses hacking into our hearts, and opens our protective gates so that God’s light and truth may take over the darkened chambers of our hearts. 

 We come this night, this night of all nights, in recognition that God is NEVER set and ALWAYS changing.  How often do we try and make it so, though?  People say, and rightly, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8  True, but what is the constant? Change!  Justice! Transformation!  Our God seeps in where God is unwanted, ravaging the cold and stagnant treasures we hide deep, deep within, and bringing the hidden out into the open.  Tonight, on this night of Resurrection, I want us to think on God.  

Our God is a God of Resurrection, but even more so, our God is a God of Insurrection, overthrowing the past and embracing and creating the new.  “I am about to do a new thing;” God declares in Isaiah 43:19, “now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” This Easter Vigil, as we await the dawn I invite you to dream the dream of a God that makes all things new.  Nothing could be more radical, nothing could be more subversive. Nothing could be more terrifying to so many. But, nothing could be more true. 

Tonight I preach of a fluid God.  A fluid God is one you cannot get a handle on.  When we try to grasp, it slips through our fingers.  Do not hold onto me, the Resurrected Christ tells his disciples, follow.  “Follow me,” and “Go, and do likewise” are Christ commands.  

A fluid God is without shape, because God gives shape.  “The earth was formless and void” as we saw in the Genesis reading, “and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the Deep.”  And out of this chaos shape and meaning and purpose was brought forth. A fluid God can flow between what is and what should be and bring out the purpose of God’s creation.  

A fluid God can stop the very rules of Nature.  We know water flows downhill; it does not stand up straight and tall and form walls.  But with a fluid God, the children of Israel can pass through on dry ground between walls of water in the Red Sea.  Rules do not apply when fluid God gets flowing. The very fabric of the Universe can get soaked and become dripping when the fluid God begins.   And as this fluid God soaks into the fabric of the Universe, holding back the waters of the Red Sea is nothing to our fluid God. 

A fluid God can be consumed as well.  In our thirst, a fluid God can be drunk, a drink quenching the unquenchable in us.  “Ho, everyone who thirsts come to the waters…” we read in the prophet Isaiah. That was for a people long ago;  is it any different for God’s people this night? Come to the waters of this fluid God, drink God in and be quenched.  

A fluid God can also cleanse us.  “I sprinkle you clean with water,” Ezekiel reminds.  As the water transfers from the bowl to the cloth to our blemished skin, the fluid God can wash us removing those things that cling so closely, and return us to the state we were meant to hold.  

A fluid God can baptize us.  As we are baptized, immersed into the waters of Baptism, our fluid God is surrounding us and transforming us.  Romans 6 tonight told us:  
3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 

Our baptism is our catalyst into the newness of life in Christ.  We use the word catalyst as something that causes change, but our fluid God is a true catalyst in the chemical sense, “something that initializes and promotes change without being changed itself.”  In our interaction with this fluid God, we are transformed and changed throughout, while our fluid God continues on the same forever and always. It is hard for us to conceive, but the waters that quenched the dinosaurs thirst is the same the quenches ours.  This precious fluid of life continues being utilized and transforming millennia, after after millennia, after millennia, and it is still here doing what it is supposed to do. Our fluid God is the same. And those same waters of the Jordan in which Jesus was baptized are the very same waters we use in our font.  The beauty of that cannot be lost.  

What is more, on this night of Resurrection, this fluid God connects beyond just time, God connects us between this world and the next. Our fluid God connects us in the here and now with the great cloud of witnesses.  Jesus promised the thief who asked to be remembered that today he would be with him in Paradise.  In the eternal Now that is to come, our fluid God connects us as one day we will be connected as well.   
 Once again from tonight’s Romans reading: 
 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 

May we do the same. The life we live, may we live to God.  

Lastly, a fluid God can anoint us.  The women went to the tomb that first Easter morning to anoint the body.  But in the fluidity of Resurrection, Christ was no longer there. An anointing is a setting apart.  David was anointed to become King, even though he was not in the royal lineage. We anoint the newly baptized, marking them as Christ’s own forever.  I would urge you, brothers and sisters in Christ, in the sure hope of the Resurrection, to be anointed in your hearts and minds. Set them apart from the way you are wired.  Think of Martin Luther King, Jr. who was gunned down just shy of 50 years ago (April 4). This man looked beyond the hatred to a world transformed in God, a world transformed by God.  MLK called it “The Beloved Community.” The women that morning almost Two-Thousand years ago, chose the natural, the safe, the normal way. But in Christ’s Resurrection we are promised something new.  

When we are seized with terror and amazement, the words from Mark’s gospel, remember our fluid God.  Take on the Mindset of Resurrection. Rise above the fight or flight, and be an agent of Grace, an agent of Hope, an agent of Resurrection.  The women, Mark tells us, “said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” As a Resurrection people, we must proclaim.  Our fluid God surrounds us and binds us. Our fluid God baptizes and anoints us.  Our fluid God goes before us into the unknown, and whatever situation may terrify or amaze us, our fluid God is already flowing ahead of us to meet us there.    May the words of our sister St. Julian of Norwich be our cry even during our darkest night and our fears surround us,  
“All shall be well,  
and all shall be well,  
and all manner of thing shall be well.”   
Or better yet, “Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen!” 
Response: The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia! 

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Blessings, Rock