Celebrating the spread

Easter 2019 at St. David's Episcopal Church, Kinnelon, NJ

Easter Day C

In the name of Christ.  Alleluia!

Have you ever been trapped in a rabbit hole of online videos?  It might be while you’re browsing for something on YouTube, or when something catches your eye on Facebook, or Instagram, or any of the other online video services there are out there – they seem to be limitless.  But sure as the world, you’ve gone down the rabbit hole when each video that you watch somehow seems to spill over into the next.

Perhaps you’ve found some song that you wanted to hear, and then the system helpfully suggests that you listen to this other one, and one after another they capture your attention until, before you know it, you’ve wasted an hour just following from one to the next.

I get caught in these traps from time to time, but recently, I fell into one in a video about how various kinds of artistic creations are made.  There was one that showed a video of a piece of wood being turned and carved into a bowl.  That led to more and more, and before I knew it I was hooked.  But the one that really captured my attention was watching an artist and his creations formed from globs of paint poured onto a rotating surface of wood.

He began by pouring various colors of paint into a plastic cup – each color separated by a layer of white paint.  Once there was enough, he turned on the platform that caused the board to gently spin, and slowly began spilling the paint into the center of the board.  Gradually, he incorporated different techniques: raising and lowering the cup, swirling the cup around to drop the paint in different shapes…  All the while the board continued to spin, and with it, the paint continued to spread, taking on new dimensions and new directions.  It created an entirely new thing of beauty that the globs of paint, layered in the cup, would never have pointed to on their own.  I understood how it all worked, but even so, the end result remained mysterious and surprising.  Even beautiful.

Today, with two millennia of history at our back, we’re looking across the board, already covered, colored, and beautiful, but we’re here to celebrate all that’s spread.  We’re here to celebrate that first moment of Easter – the moment when the women discovered the empty tomb, and the messengers from God who shared with them the Good News of Christ’s resurrection.  The Good News that death could not contain the love that had lived through Jesus, and that would continue to live through Christ and the church.

I’m sure you all saw the news this week, and the heartbreaking images of Notre Dame, the Roman Catholic Cathedral and ancient place of worship horrifically burning.  Even if you’ve never walked through the gardens, or stood, awed under the massive stones, or admired it from the banks of the river, even still you know that place.  Its image is legendary and powerful, all around the world.

But, as heartbreaking as it was to see the images of the Cathedral in flames, or its interior in the aftermath of the disaster, and even as heartbreaking as it is to remember that this holy place of worship would be marred in this way at this holiest time of the Christian Year – even so, I couldn’t help but remember the women at the tomb.  Because, even though the cathedral burned, the church did not.

The church wasn’t born when we first learned to stack one stone on top of another.  The church was born when those women first heard that Christ was alive.  And not just then, but the birth of the church happened when those women left that place, so that they could share that Good News with someone else.

The church doesn’t live in the buildings.  It also doesn’t live – at least not in its entirety – in our knowing about God and Christ.  The church doesn’t even fully live in our faith that grows from that knowing.  Where the church really lives is in the telling.

The church lives in our retelling the story here, today.  The church lives in our retelling the story around this altar every Sunday, and all the other times we gather here.  And the church really lives in those moments when this story propels us into the world to share the Good News with others – in the same tradition of those women sharing the Good News on that first Easter morning.

We share the Good News by telling the story with our words, but even more by telling the story with our lives.  The church lives best when we’re living the ministry of Jesus by teaching people about the nearness of God’s love – even to those who feel most distant.  The church lives best when we’re living the ministry of Jesus by feeding those who are hungry, and giving shelter to those who are vulnerable, and giving comfort and courage to those who are lost and afraid.

That’s where the church lives.  And that’s where Easter happens, not just once each year, but every day, and everywhere that we proclaim through our words and through our actions that Christ is alive.  Easter isn’t the moment of resurrection, but the ongoing moments of spreading the Good News of resurrection, like paint forming unexpected art while mixing and sliding across a board.

We are inheritors of this great tradition.  We have been told this Good News – because those women first answered the call to tell it to others.

May we all answer the call ourselves.  May we all keep spreading the Good News that Christ is alive.  And may we all live our lives in ways that keep spreading that Good News to the others around us who still need to hear it.  Amen.