Series: Wings of Transformation
Sermon: Change the World Ė The World is Changed
Pastor Diane Gordon
April 16, 2017
Scriptures: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 and John 20:1-18
††††††††† We, like Mary Magdalene, come this morning looking to find Jesus. We come, searching for God, searching for the joy of renewal, new life, and new hope. We want to be rid of the anguish of fear and doubt, afraid that God has left us to our own devices. We want to wake up and find that everything has changed, that we have nothing to fear because God is here, now.
††††††††† Just like our caterpillar friend who has accompanied us throughout this Lenten season, we awake this morning to find that new life IS here! Jesus is alive and among us. Our only task is to recognize him as we look upon the face of our neighbor, in the beauty of the flowers on the altar, and see his love in our connection to nature and all living things. This transformation is made possible by our Creator, always at work in and around us, nurturing us and calling us to next steps for growth and renewal.
††††††††† In the past, we thought in a three-tiered universe; God up in heaven, we here on earth, and hell down below. In the last century humankind has ventured into space and not found a pearly gate, and as we plumb the depths of the earth, we find tectonic plates, bedrock, fossil water and oil but no lake of fire or devil with pitchfork in hand.
††††††††† If God is not in heaven and the devil not in hell, then where are we as people of faith? Where is God? What do we hope for and what does God desire for creation?
††††††††† We have evidence of the devil Ė not down below, but right here in our plane of existence. Evil happens every day. We have instantaneous news sources that report every jot and tittle, each with their own spin on the truth. The voices reporting evil speak loudly and frequently, while the good seems to be ignored. And yet, God is here to be found, never missing a beat, quietly working behind the scenes, shedding grace and preparing the way for people to choose life.
We see lives transformed by love and generosity, people giving of themselves to raise children that are orphaned by war, famine and disease. We see Godís hand feeding the hungry through the efforts of the faithful who give their time and energy to grow, collect, and distribute food. Over the last twenty years, in efforts to act locally, numerous churches have established community gardens in communities where fresh fruits and vegetables are scarce. Tending the soil not only helps feed the hungry, it feeds the spirits of those who dig and plant and nurture. God is evidenced in the growth, in peopleís spirits and in the giving.
When we have eyes to see, God is all around. But like Mary Magdalene, our vision is clouded by our own presuppositions and fear. We question where He has gone when we donít see Jesus where we left him. We imagine that we can contain the holy One of God in places we reserve for worship and repose, when in truth we can no more control God than we can control the earthís movement around the sun.
People young and old have begun to figure this out, as they connect spiritually in places like gardens, hiking in the woods, paddling on the river or gazing at the waves. God is not contained by our desire to institutionalize and compartmentalize. God cannot be limited, while our understanding will always be limited. Fortunately for us, God understands what we need and continues to find ways to shower grace and mercy upon humanity. Religions of the world cannot control God nor peopleís access to God. Thanks be to God.
What we, as people of faith, can do is to open the doors and find God ďout there.Ē We may come to worship ďin hereĒ but God does not live upstairs any more than the devil lives downstairs. There is good and evil everywhere. Our choice is to recognize the good and take part in Godís work everywhere so that evil is diminished through acts of justice, love and mercy. Evil loses its power over us when Godís Holy Spirit is welcomed into our hearts and lives.
Death could not contain Jesus. That was the miracle he showed the world that day. Death is not the end. Yes, we will all experience an end to this physical bodyís lifetime, but Jesus shows us that there is more to come. He has redeemed us and claimed us for God. As His Spirit lingers with us, we can be transformed in this lifetime, no longer captive to fear, greed, anger, hatred, or any other evil, but set free to create space for Godís kingdom to grow in and among us.
Where is God? God is here, with us, ahead of us to guide us, beneath us for support, beside us as our companion in Jesus, who came to show us the mind of God and the limitless boundaries of Godís love. Nothing we could ever do would prevent God from loving us. Nothing we could ever do will earn us more or less of Godís love. To turn and live into that love, is our lifeís work. Rejecting evilís temptation and keeping our eyes on Jesus, will help us to navigate the minefield that life can sometimes be.
Embrace Godís love. Accept it and then let it flow through you to your neighbors. This, I believe, is Godís desire for planet earth; that we love one another the way God loves us. All of us. Everywhere I have traveled has shown me that humans are more alike than they are different. We are all created by God to be stewards of the earth and to be in relationship Ė with God and with each other.
Will there be an end to life as we know it? Yes. It happens every day. Things change. Will Jesus come back, as he said he would? Yes, but no one knows when. But thereís also a part of me that says, ďWait! Isnít his Spirit still here with us?Ē Yes, it is, and we need to recognize and claim that Holy Spirit as a gift from God. It gives us strength and courage to overcome evil and live in His light.
May the joy of this Easter fill your heart and give you a sense of all that is possible with God. We may not be able to limit God, but God beckons us to follow and leads us into new life in Christ. Thanks be to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen!