Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24; Colossians 3:1-4; Matthew 28:1-10
THE REV. JAMES M. L. GRACE
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.
Two weeks ago, the fifth Sunday in Lent, I preached my Easter Sunday sermon. I couldn’t help it. We had great readings for that Sunday – the story of Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones, the raising of Lazarus from the dead. During that sermon, I said I had no idea what I would preach about on Easter Sunday but I’ve decided to go ahead and preach on Good Friday this morning! I know, it’s confusing, isn’t it!
On Good Friday , St. Andrew’s did something new called the “Good Friday Project,” which was a series of artistic responses to the story of the crucifixion. The reflections embraced a variety of art forms, including dance, music, drama, visual art, silence. All of the reflections were offered by members of the church, and as I watched it, I was moved.
See the story of the crucifixion is familiar to me – dangerously familiar so that when I hear it, I think “I know how the story ends, I studied all that in seminary.” But to see it presented in a new way, by some of you all, was powerful beyond words – it brought new life to the story of Jesus’ death that is so central to our lives as Christians. I would go so far as to say I experienced an Easter moment of resurrection on of all days, Good Friday. It was a moment in death where I experienced resurrection.
I have served at this church for three years now, which is not a very long time, but it is long enough for me to have grown close to people for whom I am inevitably called upon to bury. Presiding at memorial services for Sally Salisbury and Dorothy Yanuzzi was hard – there is no way around it. Yet even in those moments, where all seems dead, there was new life, there was resurrection, there was Easter.
One more story of Good Friday. On Good Friday earlier this week I was humbled to visit a young man named Hunter, nineteen years old, in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Memorial Hermann Hospital. Hunter was in the hospital because of a seizure he had suffered earlier in the week, and it was clear from a number of tests that the doctors performed that the seizure adversely affected his brain activity, and that his body was beginning to shut down at 19 years of age. I met Hunter’s mother in the room with him, and she told me that the family was getting together, the siblings, and they would be with Hunter when he breathed his last.
But that is not the end of Hunter’s story. His mother told me they had contacted Gift of Life, a group which helps foster organ transplant. Their plan was for Hunter’s organs to be donated so that other people on waitlists could receive healthy organs, and live enriched lives. This was the Easter miracle the family was praying for. Their prayers were answered when they found out that Hunter’s body could be used to save the lives of who knows how many people.
In his dying, Hunter is helping others live, giving them an Easter miracle of life. Easter is about celebrating the mystery of life and death, that even death itself creates life. The resurrection of Hunter and of Christ are the same. So, happy Good Friday, or Easter, or whatever. It’s all actually the same – for what God works in death and dying, God also works in life and living. The tomb is empty, friends. Hunter is with God now, and one day, so to shall we be. Because that is God’s promise to us on Easter – all will be given new life, all will live, forever. AMEN.