Easter Sermon: Life wins, quietly

There is a certain poetry today. Today, we get two resurrections, Jesus and baseball both come back to life on April 5th this year. We want Jesus’ resurrection to be big, like a Cardinals’ World Series. We want fireworks like when Yadi hits a home run at Busch Stadium. But what strikes me about the Easter Gospel this morning is the quiet.

We don’t do quiet on Easter Morning in The Episcopal Church. We shout Alleluia. We sing loudly “Jesus Christ is risen today!” The organ roars. The nickname of this parish after all is the Church of the Holy Commotion. We do it up. Easter today is a feast for the senses.

The first Easter was quiet. If we are to follow Mark’s Gospel, the first Easter began in the early morning. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Salome come to the tomb, walking through the slanting dawn light. “Who will roll away the stone?” they wonder aloud. They look up, and the stone is already rolled away. The tomb is empty. No trumpets. No fanfare. No shouts. Just the quiet confusion of bleary morning minds.

The Resurrection is a quiet event with cosmic consequences. Though in heaven the choirs of Angels may have been singing, down on earth all was quiet that morning. The savior who was born on a silent night now silently returns to life. But the Resurrection echoes through time and space.

I think the silence is good for us, necessary even. For me, the quiet of the Resurrection holds a great deal of hope. Quiet is hopeful for those of us looking for Christ in the twenty-first century. We live in a world with a lot of noise. Televisions and radios constantly blare. We hear so much bad news from the 24 hour networks, and we hear that news proclaimed loudly. In the supermarkets, as we check out, tabloids tell us the latest horrors of celebrity culture in bold bright block letters, 140 point font. Did you know George Clooney is getting a divorce? Even the text today is loud.

William Sloane Coffin, the great preacher of Riverside Church in New York, once preached on Easter day about the seemingly “Good Friday World.” We have a world that loudly, loudly proclaims bad news. We have a world that wants to sell us on fear and on division. We know that world well in St. Louis, especially this year. Our region has been the focus of so much media attention and, in case you didn’t notice the media seems to have a slant. Racism, institutional racism, violent racism, race riots they have torn us apart, they say. We live in a world divided. Our loud newsmedia would have us believe we live in a Good Friday world. The Good Friday news is loud.

Easter is quiet. Even in the midst of all of our noise, Christ quietly comes. The mighty weapons of the Roman empire, the political ambitions of Pilate, the articulate sermons from religious authorities, all of the power and violence of human social structures couldn’t keep Christ in the grave. Christ quietly overcame death. God wins quietly. Love wins quietly.

This is the proclamation of the Resurrection, this is the Good News of Easter: Life wins quietly. Yes, two thousand years ago, but also today. The good news, though quiet, is cosmic in importance, all encompassing. Love wins. Life wins. God wins. As Dr. King once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” It may not seem like it each day, but in the end God wins.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa put it another way. I think this prayer of Archbishop Tutu may be the best summary of Easter I know: Goodness is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Light is stronger than darkness. Life is stronger than death. God knows, Desmond Tutu lived and worked in a time of Good Fridays. As a black man struggling against apartheid in South Africa, Tutu knew a lot of bad news. His words are all the stronger.

It is a quiet truth, but a cosmic truth. Goodness IS stronger than evil. Love IS stronger than hate. Life IS stronger than death. Goodness, Love, Life they tend to be quiet. Evil, Hate, Death, they tend to be loud. But in God’s math volume does not correlate with power. The good news is quiet, but the good news wins out. Easter invites us to see, that beneath all the noise, goodness, love, and life are winning, will win, have won.

I have two invitations for you this Easter. The first is to look for some quiet good news. One of my favorite Christian writers is a Roman Catholic Franciscan named Richard Rohr. I heard Richard speak in Oxford, England a few years ago, and he talked about an important realization he’d had. Richard lives in Albuquerque. If you’ve spent any time in Northen New Mexico, you know about the sunsets. Most every night the sky in that whole region turns improbable shades of red, orange, pink and violet. There in rainy Oxford, Richard talked about the evening he caught a glimpse of a particularly vivid sunset out the window as he was watching the evening news. “I realized” said Richard, “that I was missing an important cosmic event. I turned off the TV and walked outside.”

Where do you quietly notice God? In the the night sky? In a loved ones arms? In the smile of a neighbor? More often than not, I think God comes to us quietly.

I do wish God’s presence was louder sometimes. I want a God who breaks through with loud trumpets. I want clear revelations of God’s will. I want big showy miracles. But I get the sense that God is rarely loud, though his followers often behave otherwise.

That brings me to the second invitation. As the women leave the tomb, the young man in white asks them to tell the other disciples what they have seen. As an aside, I said the “other disciples” because I think you have to count the women among Jesus’ closest followers. After all, it is the women who first witness the Resurrection. The church discounts women at its peril. Trust me. The young man asks these three disciples to go, go and tell. God’s action is quiet, but God invites us to proclaim.

Our world needs some good news. Our world needs loud alleluias. Our world needs goodness, love, light and life. Our world doesn’t need any more Christians giving out bad news. We’ve got enough. But we do need some Good News Christians. Our world needs messengers on the lookout for goodness, love, light, and life.

I can tell you, from my limited experience, when I’ve gone to places that I’d heard were “bad news” places, when I’ve visited so-called “third world” countries, and when I’ve volunteered in the neighborhoods in our cities that face similar economic struggles, I’ve never failed to be surprised. We hear so much bad news about specific cities, specific neighborhoods. But I’ve never gone to one of those supposed “bad news” places and not been surprised by some good news. God is already at work in our world, everywhere. God invites us to find the quiet good news, and to amplify that good news.

The women, of course, don’t take up the angelic young man’s invitation. They hurry away quietly afraid. They don’t say anything. I think we all know something of that quiet fear. We want to appear confidant. We work to appear confidant, even bold, but we know that quiet anxiety. I think that’s what Isaiah is talking about when he speaks about the “shroud over the nations,” that quiet anxiety we all experience, I think Easter is directed exactly there, to our subconscious worry. I think the Good News of Christ’s Resurrection is aimed exactly at that quiet anxiety we all face sometimes.

One of my favorite prayers in our Book of Common Prayer is found in the back, in the section of prayers for everyday life, page 832. It’s called the Prayer for Quiet Confidence.

O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and

rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be

our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee,

to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou

art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

That’s why we gather this morning, to return, to be quiet. That’s why, in a few minutes, in the prayer over the bread and the wine, we will be invited to “lift up our hearts.” Christ returns this Easter, in quietness, inviting us to lay down our anxieties. Easter invites us to take a break from the loud proclamations of bad news. Our world may seem like a Good Friday world, but quietly, it is Easter. Look for God in the quiet places. God will meet you there. Go, find the places in our world that need good news. You will meet God there. Let your hope come back to life this Easter, quietly.

Published by Mike Angell

The Rev. Mike Angell is rector of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in St. Louis.

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