It is so wonderful to be here with you this glorious morning. So many people have worked hard to create the beauty of this service – and the three others that preceded it this week. The altar guild has been busy polishing silver, ironing linens, and preparing our space for worship. The flower guild has worked magic with the beauty of God’s creation.

Cameron and the choir have planned and rehearsed and sung at each of the four major services this week. Claudia and Rhea have churned out many different service leaflets. All of this is offered as a ministry, a way to use God given talents to serve God’s people in worship and praise.

Earlier this week, Maggie and I were at the Cathedral for a different service. Every year,  on the Tuesday of Holy Week, clergy from throughout the diocese are invited to come to renew our ordination vows. It’s a beautiful service, and one that requires nothing of us but our attendance. After worship there is a luncheon, a time to catch up with colleagues and relax a little in what is by far the busiest week of the year.

After lunch was over I had a conversation with Bishop Wright. We talked about the services of the week and preaching on all of them.

I told him I had a confession to make — one that perhaps a priest shouldn’t admit to her bishop — that I find Easter Sunday the most difficult service of the year to preach. He laughed and told me that he felt the same way. 

How do you preach on something that can’t be seen or explained, but is at the core of our faith – that Jesus, who succumbed to the power of death on the cross, has been resurrected to new life by our loving and powerful God.

And that we rejoice that God’s power to overcome death will also bring new life to each and every one of us when our earthly lives are ended. It is a mystery that cannot be solved.

People in our day are uncomfortable with mysteries. We prefer answers and solutions. We want to verify and quantify things. We want tangible proof. We want to know how and why.

I would wager that each of us have tried to figure out the mystery of the resurrection. But this is a mystery that cannot be solved. There were no eye witnesses to the resurrection, no web cam stationed outside the cave where Jesus’ dead body was laid. We can not scientifically quantify or verify what happened.

One of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, writes about mystery in her novel Prodigal Summer. One of her characters was, as a child, entranced by butterflies. She thought of them as ballerinas as they danced around her yard.

One day she caught one, delighted to be able to examine it up close. As she clutched it tightly in her hand, she saw that it was no ballerina. 

“Its body was a fat, furry cone flattened on one end into a ferocious face like a tiny, angry owl’s. It glared at her, seeming disdainful.

“She hadn’t given up her love for butterflies after that,” Kingsolver writes, “but she’d never forgotten, either, how a mystery caught in the hand could lose its grace.”

Ironically, the butterfly is a symbol of resurrection. 

Craig Loya, the bishop of Minnesota, sent an email to his clergy this week encouraging them not to try to catch the mystery of the resurrection in their hands.

“The drama of Holy Week and Easter makes the outrageous claim that the one rendered powerless by the full power of empire is, in fact, the Lord of all creation,” he wrote.

“It makes the outrageous claim that love is the most powerful force in the universe. It makes the outrageous invitation to live together in the face of evil and violence as people of unrelenting love. 

“The painful and ever present reality of death is met by the unstoppable power of God’s loving life. It’s a crazy thing to claim,” he admitted, “but I am a follower of Jesus because that crazy claim is the only thing that rings sane in a world of madness.

“So preach it crazy, dear preachers. Don’t explain it away, make it easy, water it down or convince people it’s interesting. It’s a truly bonkers story, and the scandal of it is the only thing that can make us free.”

The bonkerness of the story we celebrate today hit Garrison Keillor over the head last Easter. “Resurrection is not something we Episcopalians talk about in the same way we talk about our plans for retirement or summer vacation,” he writes, “but it is proclaimed on Easter and the hymns (with added brass) are quite confident, and rector seemed to believe it herself and so an old writer sitting halfway back and surrounded by good singers has to think along those lines.

“And then, on my way back from communion the choir struck up a hymn, ‘I am the bread of life,’ with a rocking chorus, ‘And I will raise them up. And I will raise them up. And I will raise them up on the last day.’

“As the congregation sang, a few people stood and raised their hands in the air, a charismatic touch unusual among Episcopalians, and then more people stood.

“I stood. I raised my right hand. I imagined my long-gone parents and brother and grandson and aunts and uncles rising from the dead and coming into radiant glory, and then I was weeping and my mouth got rubbery and I couldn’t form the consonants.

“That’s what I go to church for,” he said, ‘to be surprised by faith and to fall apart. Without the resurrection, Episcopalians would just be a wonderful club of very nice people with excellent taste in music and literature, but when it hits you what you’ve actually subscribed to, it blows the top of your head off.”

A bonkers story, one that blows the top of your head off. 

That is why we’re here today.

That is why we loudly rejoice and say:

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

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