The Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis
Happy Easter. Or as they say at the Gap, “Welcome in!”
Have you noticed that every sales establishment says that now.? “Welcome in!” as though we are being welcomed in to our family reunion. Granted shopping in person is much more intimate than shopping online. But still ‘welcome in’ as a standard greeting for apparel shops feels like an assumption of an intimacy that is just not there.
Nonetheless, I think here today we can legitimately say, “Welcome. Welcome in.”
Sixteen hundred years ago St. John Chrysostom in his Easter homily said just that. “Welcome all.”
“Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, …you rich and you poor…you sober and you weaklings… celebrate the day!!!”
I love that, because there should be no bouncer at the door of the church on Easter whether you were here last Sunday or this is the first time you have attended worship. On Easter, everybody is in. This is the feast of your and my inclusion.
If I have seen the movie, “Sing” once, I have seen it one million times. In one scene from the animated film, a little male mouse is in line to enter a fancy night club driven by his attraction to a beautiful female mouse dressed to the nines. The female mouse waltz straight past the bouncers and through the club entrance, but no so for her pursuer. He gets bounced by gigantic bears into what one thinks might be neverland.
But not here. Not today. There is no bouncer at the red doors of the church. So, welcome in.
Today I also want to say to you, “Welcome out!” Welcome out of the cave of whatever has enclosed you as of late. Maybe it is solitude or sorrow. Maybe it is depression or grief. Maybe it is some trouble you are having with someone else at work or home or school. I want to say, “Welcome out into freedom and peace.” I pray that whatever stone has been the barrier to your life, your love or your future has been rolled away at least for this one hour in time.
Now that we are all here together, I wanted to ask you to consider something with me. Have you ever noticed that the disciples before they go to for the body of Jesus first take their rest? Have you ever noticed that? They do not rush to find his body do be sure it is safe from further desecration. They do not rush out for the body for sake of their own need to grieve or for the reassurance we all seek when we long to see or touch a loved one after their soul has taken its leave.
The disciples do not do this. Rather, they observe the sabbath – a day of rest – which is completely bizarre to us in this culture and time when no one is entitled to rest. And it would seem even more bizarre to us if the state had executed the love of our spiritual life. The last thing we would do would be to sit back for a day. It would be unheard of to us. But to do otherwise would have been unheard of to Jesus’ friends and followers. Yes, because it was the Jewish law. But I wonder if it was not also a sign of the fear and alarm that pervaded their community at that time. Might it have been safer to stay away for a day until they could observe how things were shaking out with the Romans, the temple priests and police, the scribes, the elder? Were they needing to case the situation and only then go looking for Jesus. Maybe observing the sabbath for Jesus’ followers was a tactical choice of an occupied people not just a religious choice among the pious. Perhaps taking the pause was both a practical and spiritual approach to one of the most vexing problems Jesus’ community had had to face.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote about the sabbath that Jews observe it to ensure that they do not embezzle their our own lives. He wrote, “The solution of mankind’s most vexing problem will not be found in renouncing … civilization, but in attaining some degree of independence from it.” In other words, the sacred pause will always be the best source of solutions to our most complex problems.
So, what is vexing or unsafe for you? What keeps you from coming out of your house or your family? What makes in unsafe for you to go in search of Jesus or Jesus’ body – the truth has been massacred but in the end is still the truth. What truth is so scary? What in the culture is so frightening that it would keep you home or keep you from your best self? Whatever that thing is for you is precisely what we are to pass over as we come to the Easter banquet. Today we do not have to break through our barriers. We do not have to break down any walls. We do not have to roll away a stone. We simply have to pass over our challenges to get to the feast that awaits us. No bouncers. No stone. Just the food of our freedom and the drink of our inclusion.
One of my favorite songs is about church and food. It is a Lyle Lovett song entitled, “Church.” As the song begins, everything is going fine. Church starts on time. The people are praying. The preacher is preaching. The preacher keeps preaching. The preacher won’t stop preaching. And everybody is getting hungry (just as I can remember being at church as a child. I could not wait for the wafer, because my Cheerios always wore off too soon.) Soon enough the choir remedies the situation in Lyle Lovett’s song, and the chorus goes:
To the Lord let praises be
It’s time for dinner now, let’s go eat.
Easter is the most important feast that the church puts on. And when we eat, we eat like it is a family reunion no matter how long it has been since some of us have seen the others or if we are meeting one another for the first time. This feast is for everyone. This feast is forever. Let’s eat.