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EASTER, APRIL 20, 2014 Well its Easter. Happy Easter! I hope not only this day but your whole life forward is filled with all the power and joy of faith, hope and love. Easters the defining signpost of our faith, so its worth looking back on what brought us here. For me, the highlight of that recent journey was the remarkable education and discussion series that Mary Ann Foy organized for our Lenten noondays. In case you missed it, it was all about several ways of experiencing God apart from our usual religious practice - ways that include self-denial, memory, tradition, culture, action and introspection. Experience. If the common understanding of the authority of our Episcopal faith rests on a 3-legged stool, as one of our distinguished presenters pointed out, experience may merit equal stature as a 4th leg. Our experience, Canon Michael Wright contends, is every bit as relevant to the life of faith as those 3 familiar streams of authority - scripture, tradition and reason. That was Lent, at least for some of us, and today Lent is emphatically behind us. The God we seek to experience today is all about resurrection. And that begs the question, how do we experience resurrection? While being true to ourselves, how do we embrace not just new life but eternally hopeful new life? Perhaps we first experience it as Matthew and the other Gospel writers do - at the tomb. The tomb is prominent in Easter accounts, and yet I wonder if it doesnt get short shrift. We might well pause for a moment and ask ourselves, what is that tomb? Is there meaning for us in it? What was it like in there? The first word that comes to my mind is dark. It was dark in there . . . as dark as death. To discover resurrection in our experience, perhaps we, like Christ, need to begin that search in darkness. In fact, isnt that the point of Ash Wednesday and Lent and Holy Week and Good Friday preceding Easter? The light shines not only brightest but most meaningfully when juxtaposed against the darkness. And so, even on this most glorious day in the Christian calendar, you might find your own meaning of it by asking yourself, what are the dark crevices in your life? What are the memories that weigh as heavily as a big stone in your experience? I can think of several in my own life, but one especially comes to mind: Imagine the phone ringing at your bedside at 3 in the morning. Its the emergency room at a major hospital. While youre still trying to bring your mind into full consciousness, you hear the person on the other end of the line telling you that your 16 year old daughter, having swallowed an indeterminate number of pills and being found unconscious, is right now having her stomach pumped. Do you know what over the counter or prescription drugs she has access to? Do you know if shes addicted to alcohol or another substance . . . if shes been depressed? Hard questions to answer at any hour, especially when she lives with your estranged spouse in another city.

Hows that for dark? Hows that for a foreboding pain that pierces you and feels as if it will stay with you forever? For some people who get that call, it does stay. For some people, it seems as if the story ends right there . . . Good Friday without any Easter . . . an agonizing descent into the abyss . . . a place of despair . . . a tomb so deep and dark that the light of the risen Lord seems impossibly distant and dim. But its there. Christ is risen. That may be easy for me to say, now, since the experience of resurrection I feel these days every time I even think of my perfect daughter only took an arduous investment of 4 painful years of disappointment and anger and sadness and guilt and prayer and contention and intense confrontation and setbacks and God knows what else to achieve. But she got there . . . we got there, and those of you whove had even the briefest chance to meet my precious Liz have probably seen something of the reflected light of resurrection in her beautiful face. You might have recognized that whatever tomb she emerged out of, shes found a way to radiate purpose and caring and hope. But as I said, experiencing that resurrection was easy. For many other people, its ever so much harder. The harsh truth of suicidal gestures or attempts is that not everyone survives them. Ultimately, of course, we all die, and before that we all suffer. We know that, and yet somehow here we are celebrating not only life but the very real hope that the end of life is, in truth, the beginning of something wonderful . . . something transcendent. But for some people, that celebration rings as empty as the tomb. Whats the path to resurrection for anyone whos lost a child? I wish I had a ready, incontrovertible answer to that question, but all I can offer are some guideposts. The first of those guideposts seems to be far and away the most significant. Thanks to today and everything that preceded it, we are all of us loved by a God who also lost a child in the most gruesome and tragic way. Were children of a God who knows our every pain. Its through the medium of Gods own pain that our pain is turned around . . . our brokenness is made whole . . . or so we strive to believe. This is where faith takes hold most powerfully for me . . . when, in the harshness life so often presents, I turn to see that were not alone . . . that Jesus Christ emerged out of his own tomb, not for himself, but for us. God has made resurrection the meaning of life. Thats a truth thats there for us to see all the time, if only we open our eyes . . . and hearts. Perhaps youre like me in this way: Time and again Ive seen and felt how uplifting, how renewing it is to reach through the

darkness of loneliness and abandonment to grab an understanding hand stretched out to me. Just a couple of weeks ago, to my great surprise, I found myself pouring out to trusted friends I thought I was there to help the profound sense of powerlessness I felt about a struggling son I just couldnt reach. Telling my story, I cried, but then being heard, being upheld, that sadness was transformed. I was truly comforted. And beyond that, somehow the connectedness and love of that moment made a profound, hopeful change with new energy and purpose in a relationship I feared was foundering. The God who hears us, who knows us, lives on in each of us. Another guidepost on the path out of loss to resurrection: I think we Christians are getting smarter about a lot of things . . . at least some of us are. Were evolving. Remember when suicides were stigmatized as terrible moral failures? No eucharist. No celebration of a life. No burial with the righteous. Whispers. Shame. Well, thank God, even given the epidemic of untreated military and teen suicides out there, we seem to have grown beyond that. The iconic General Patton take on shell shock has given way to recognition that the rage and despair that fuel suicide are illnesses, compulsions we can not only empathize with but take responsibility for, even if too many of our so called leaders cant seem to muster the courage and vision to do so. I have no doubt that those of us for whom superstition and condemnation have given way to understanding and connectedness . . . that those of us who believe that the loved ones weve lost by whatever has taken them are in heaven with Christ . . . that we represent a social maturation that our faith is now proclaiming to the world. The purpose of God is compassion and mercy - an Easter message whose meaning shines brightest in the deepest darkness. Still another guidepost is the way the world is opening up . . . however fitfully and hesitantly. Ive already referred to both my children, so let me briefly tell you a little more about how resurrection plays in their life . . . and in mine too . . . in ours. Liz and Tommy are both adopted and biracial. One is gay and the other autistic. Just think about how in the span of my life (and most of yours) any one of those descriptions would have condemned them to vastly greater societal and psychological burdens than they evoke now. The fact is theyre doing just fine. While we still have a long way to go,I thank God for every societal change that brings us closer to the vision of a shining city on the hill. Let me conclude with the greatest of all the gifts of Easter - eternal life. Death is no more . . . not an end but an entrance into the realm of heaven and the angels and the fulness of God. I have to confess that this is the toughest one for me. When I peek above my cynicism and doubt, my faith that resurrection is as much a part of the rhythm of life as is death is both strong and uplifting. But when I think of continuing somehow beyond this mortal life, I just dont know. Is it really real, or is it just a hope - a mythical response to our ability to envision our own death and to all the dread and fears that vision engenders? Perhaps it is that, but maybe it doesnt matter.

I think Easter is all about how much greater than anything we can see or imagine the realm of God is. And the realm of God is faith, and God is love. I hear those familiar words from 1st Corinthians - faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Death is a mystery. All life is a mystery. And the answer to the mystery is unequivocal its love. Believe that, and the light will shine in your darkness and the darkness of every tomb. Amen.