The problem that every preacher has when approaching Easter is that the event it celebrates is simply too big, too meaningful, too life altering, too world-changing for words. Every attempt to condense the meaning of the Resurrection into a 10-15 minute homily always makes us feel so inadequate and futile. To borrow a poet’s phrase, each of our attempts to describe the mystery of Jesus’ rising from the dead is a “raid against the inarticulate.”
But we try anyway. Once more we go, into the breaches of our rationality, our sense making. Once more into the Garden of Joseph of Arimathea, where are face the puzzlement of the Empty Tomb, once more on the road to Emmaeus, once more onto the beach where the risen Jesus has prepared breakfast for us. We try anyway because we need to share the message, the Good News. It’s as though there is a force of hope within the hardness and coldness of hearts that can’t resist sharing hope, even in the face of hopelessness and terror.
We’ve been drowning in terrible news recently. The most recent is the horrific acts of terror in Brussels, the heart of the European Union, in the name of a twisted and hate-filled distortion of Islam. Closer to home, in 2015 over 400 of our neighbors in New Hampshire died to drug overdoses, and its very likely that this year will see even more fall victim to drug deaths. The world where hopelessness, desperation, violence in word and deed seem to be reign, our world, is the same world where God has shown up in Jesus. It’s the same world where Jesus is born and is baptized. Our fractured and frenzied world is the same world where Jesus heals, teaches, is ridiculed by frightened authorities, where he drives out demons and evil spirits from tortured minds, where he talks with outcasts, and makes friends with feared foreigners. It’s this world where Jesus is among us, this world where Jesus is still being crucified, is suffering, longing to hold all human kind, all creation in an embrace of love that can change us by joining us to none other than God.
Jesus is dying along with us, and Jesus is descending into the hell of our world and our histories to rescue us, and grabbing each of us by the wrist so that we won’t get lost. Jesus is taking us out of the tombs of our sins, our fear, even our deaths, to new life.
This is news that I believe, news that I seek to throw my heart into. This is the extravagantly good news that I still believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, will change the world. It starts with you, and it starts with me.
The earliest witnesses to the resurrection were women like Mary Magdalene, who had no standing or legal status in the world of their day. And yet, through their word, the world was turned upside down. As we go into the Episcopal Churches of New Hampshire, this Easter weekend, I hope your vision of the world will also be turned upside down, so that you’ll literally taste and see that God in the Risen Jesus is bringing us “out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.”
May the God of Hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
--The Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld
Bishop, Episcopal Church of New Hampshire
Watch a Video of Bishop Rob's Easter Message 2016 HERE.