Call to Worship
Today is Easter, the culmination of Holy Week, for Christians around the world.
The story of this remarkable life goes like this:
He was born to a young Jewish mother in the Middle East when the whole region was ruled by Roman occupiers.
There are virtually no stories in the scriptures told about him during his childhood, youth, and young adulthood, but many historians and scholars believe that he spent all or part of his early twenties traveling between Europe and Southeast Asia, along with traders of spices and silks.
During his sojourns, it’s said, he learned from the wisest practitioners of the worlds religions, and developed his own unique theology.
He was still a Jew. But by the time he was 33, he’d made a reputation for himself of questioning authority. Defending the poor, the hungry, the weak and powerless. Women. The sick and imprisoned.
He talked about god not as some distant, angry creator who had long ago stopped speaking to his people, but rather as a Father. He called god his father. He called him Daddy, and told everyone to do the same.
Jesus was a threat to the people who held the most power, and the crowds that followed him were getting larger. He posed a threat to the status quo, upsetting the Roman rulers of the region, and the leaders of small religious communities, who weren’t exactly powerful, but had found some comfort in the way things were.
On Palm Sunday, which was observed last Sunday, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, where religions and cultures and marketplaces and governments converged. Thousands of people gathered to greet him, fanning him with palm leaves as he passed.
It’s said his entry was a triumph! People cheered and called him King of the Jews!
A lot transpired in the following week, which was during the Jewish holiday of Passover. On Thursday night, he gathered with his students, his disciples, and laid out for them his request of how they should remember his life and work. He knew that his time was short. In three days, he would return to his Father. His Daddy.
On Friday morning, he was taken away. What happened.....well, suffice it to say it was horrible. He was hung on cross, two huge timbers fastened together, with nails through his feet and hands.
Though it was still mid afternoon, the sky, they say, went dark, and the earth shook. The next morning, he was placed into a tomb, a cave with a stone rolled over the opening to protect his body from further harm.
Sean Neil-Barron writes, “Jesus’ body was broken, destroyed in the most horrifying ways possible. In public. Humiliated. The people — the women — who loved him and followed him put themselves in danger by showing up where he was laid to rest.”
But when they got there on Sunday morning, his body.... was gone.
It’s said that today, Easter, that third day after that fateful night when he instructed his followers, is the day that he went into heaven, to be reunited with god his father — everyone’s father — until the end of time.
On Friday night, at Sunset on Good Friday, some of us gathered in the chapel to remember the suffering and death of Jesus. We shared ancient words from the Bible and modern words from our contemporaries. We started before dusk, with fourteen candles lit, and extinguished one after each reading, ending in near total darkness.
This morning, after he ignites the flame of compassion in the chalice of our hope, Rev Denis will relight those same candles from Good Friday, as I share the words of Diego Valeri:
You who have an eye for miracles regard the bud now appearing on the bare branch of the fragile young tree.
It’s a mere dot, a nothing.
But already it’s a flower, already a fruit, already its own death and resurrection.
Some people have said Jesus died for our sins, the sins of all of humanity.
Our Unitarian and Universalist forebears said that we each have a chance of life eternal, if only we follow Jesus’ example of how to live with compassion and how to work for justice.
Unitarian Universalist Wendell Berry, wrote:
“I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.”
The possibility of that wholeness is what we celebrate today.
“From Self to Selfie,” Nadia Bolz-Weber
Because we all need a little Buddhism on Easter and because Jesus the traveler of the Silk Road may have insisted, I share with you wisdom from the Sutta Nipata:
Let your love flow outward through the universe,
To its height, its depth, its broad extent,
A limitless love, without hatred or enmity.
Then as you stand or walk,
Sit or lie down,
As long as you are awake,
Strive for this with a one-pointed mind;
Your life will bring heaven to earth.
Homily Denis, with Halcyon
(Have colored eggs, a whole I colored egg, and a big bowl, just in case, all on the pulpit)
“Halcyon, in youth religious education lat week, you colored some eggs, didn’t you?”
“they’re beautiful...what did you use to color them? Let’s send them around so people can really look at them.” (Keep one)
- The strength of egg tempera
“Eggs are remarkably strong...
- Each component has valuable properties
- The whole is structurally strong
- Not perfect, but at its best whole
“Today is Easter and tomorrow is Earth Day. Eggs are a reminder that everything on Earth is best when it is whole, when nothing is taken away from it....
All species matter ... flora and fauna