Practicing Resurrection_Sunday April 19 2020

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Practicing Resurrection

I Peter 1: 3 – 9


We’re now in the season after Easter, the joyful season when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.  This Easter was different in many ways.  We couldn’t gather in our sanctuary, surrounded by beautiful lilies.  We couldn’t join our voices in singing Christ the Lord is Risen Today!  Alleluia!  This Easter, I gathered virtually with my brothers and sister, my sister in law and brother in law, thanks to an online tool called Zoom.  We did some singing, with mixed results.  But we weren’t going for quality of singing.  We were going for the fun of singing together, something we had done as children.  Singing together, praising God for resurrection, brought us joy.


I hope you felt joy this Easter, even if it was a different kind of joy.  For all of us who want to follow Jesus, though, in the midst of Easter joy, we face a question.  The question is, how does the resurrection change our lives?  How do we live, now, knowing that Christ is risen?


What does the resurrection call us to do?  One of my seminary professors, Mark Burrows says, “Resurrection is a call to faith in our own lives, a call to living into resurrection day by day, year by year”  (Burrows, Disciplines, 2020, p. 134).  In these days after Easter, we’re called to, as the poet Wendell Berry puts it, “practice resurrection.”  How do we practice resurrection?  There are many ways, but here are two ways we can practice resurrection: in acts of generosity and acts of welcome.


This time of pandemic has brought many changes.  We’ve made tremendous changes in our day to day lives.  Still, in making changes, many are practicing resurrection in acts of generosity.  Take for example a man named John Delgado.  I came across his story in my local newspaper, the Springfield Republican.  John lives in Homestead, Florida.  He has a loving family, but for the past three weeks he’s been living in a tent in his backyard.  In his job, John works to alleviate hunger.  He’s a frontline staffer for Farm Share, a food bank.  He organizes the distribution of free groceries to thousands of people every week, all over South Florida.  He says, “in order to keep the country calm, we have to let people know there are places where people can get food.  Eating is not a privilege, it’s a necessity.”


But John Delgado knows that some of the people he serves might be suffering from the new corona virus.  He doesn’t want to risk exposing his family to the disease.  His wife has a heart condition, and his mother in law is 84 years old.  He has three teenage sons and one of them has asthma.  He says, “I can’t get my family sick.  I have too much to lose.”


When John told his wife he’d be living in the back yard for a while, at first she was furious.  And scared.  But now she helps him.  They’ve developed a routine.  They’ve designated a spot, just inside the back door, where she leaves freshly laundered clothes for him to put on after he showers.  In the morning, he puts his pajamas in a trash bag for her to wash and leave out for him in the evening.  And after a long day at work, he finds a cold beer and a homemade dinner (Springfield Republican, 4/13/2020, p. A8).


John Delgado is practicing resurrection in acts of generosity: feeding the hungry, and keeping his family protected from disease.


How do we practice resurrection?  That was also a question for the Christian community Peter is writing to in our passage for today.  Peter wrote his letter to encourage new followers of Jesus.  They were suffering persecution at the hands of the Roman Emperor Nero.  During Nero’s reign a fire broke out in Rome.  It burned for three days and three nights.  When the fire was finally put out, many in Rome blamed Nero himself, since he loved building projects.  They thought he had set the fire to destroy buildings so he could build new ones.  Nero needed a scapegoat to divert blame from himself, so he made the Christians the scapegoat.  Christians were arrested, tortured, and sometimes put to death.


Peter wrote his letter to these Christians, suffering persecution because of their faith.  In the letter he encouraged them to take heart, to remember that “[God] has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  He urged them to practice resurrection, to live into God’s new life, day by day and year by year.


How do we practice resurrection?  We practice resurrection by acts of welcome.  A church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is welcoming all kinds of people to worship.  The church is called the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community.  At the service, the Word of God is illustrated by a drama instead of a sermon.  The pastor sports a colorful tattoo on his right arm.  He says, “instead of coming to our church and listening to a sermon, you can be part of the sermon.”  The idea is catching on.


One writer describes people who worship at Hot Metal Bridge: “college kids, suburbanites, street people, Catholics and scrawny punk artists with quotes from the New Testament tattooed on their chest.”* Every Sunday the church is packed with people longing to hear the good news.


How do you and I live in these days after Easter?  “[God] has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  How do we practice resurrection?  We can begin with acts of generosity and acts of welcome.  In those acts, we live into the resurrection, day by day and year by year.


*(The church is affiliated with the United Methodist and Presbyterian churches.) 

Rev. Elva Merry Pawle

Easter 2

And beautiful music for this week is here:

All the Way My Savior Leads Me – Tedd Smith:

Lord of the Dance Douglas – Wagner 2: