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Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed! Christ is risen indeed – SO WHAT! Today, we gather to proclaim that the LOVE that we call God is more powerful than death. On Good Friday, we gathered here in this sanctuary surround by images of death. I had posted all sorts of photographic images of the kind of human failures that proclaim the power of death; images collected from the news of the day. On these walls, hung examples of human failure – graphic representations of the reality that the embodiment of LOVE, which is what we call Christ, continues to be crucified. The crucifixion did not happen once and for all when Jesus, the embodiment of the LOVE that we call God, was executed by the powers that be.
Today, over and over again, the embodiment of LOVE dies at the hands of the powers that be. The embodiment of LOVE, which is what we can the Christ, continues to be crucified each time LOVE is impoverish, starved, bombed, executed, imperiled, tortured, neglected, murdered, or forsaken, by the powers of death; powers that put selfishness, greed, indifference, and lust for power above LOVE. And so, on this Good Friday you would have seen examples of modern crucifixions in which the Earth was being ravaged and abused by our greed and indifference, animals driven out and killed by pollution and climate change, children starving in parts of the world we would prefer not to think about, First Nations people suffering without adequate housing or drinking water, homeless people neglected on our streets, war-torn ravaged villages, and a collection of modern martyrs who like Jesus, have been crucified as a result of their passion for justice. These disturbing images formed our Stations of the Cross as we lamented so many crucifixions.
After our Maundy Thursday service when we’d finished remembering Jesus’ new commandment that we love one another, I hung the evidence of the death of embodied LOVE upon these walls. One of the images, reduced me to tears. I suspect that the image that undid me, lies in each of your minds because this image was beamed all over the world.
Every child is the embodiment of LOVE. Every Sunday we talk about the God in whom we live and move and have our being. We trust that we are in God and God is in us. Like Jesus of Nazareth, we proclaim that God is LOVE. Christ is the embodiment of LOVE – in Christ God is en-fleshed. Every child is the embodiment of LOVE. Omran Daqneesh is a child of God, made in the image of God, Omran is the embodiment of the LOVE that is God.
When we proclaim that Christ is risen, I believe that we are declaring that LOVE is more powerful than death! I also believe that it is not enough for us to proclaim that Christ is risen because resurrection demands so very much more from us.
Now those of you who have been here before at Easter know that I don’t care much for the arguments about what happened to Jesus of Nazareth’s corpse. Like the Apostle Paul when he was confronted with questions like, “How are the dead to be raised up? What kind of body will they have? I too shout from the very core of my being, the words of Paul, who shouted, “What a stupid question!” (1 Corinthians 15:10-11) You see, like Paul, I am convinced that LOVE can only rise from the tombs we put LOVE in, when LOVE is embodied here and now. If our shouts of Christ is Risen are to take on flesh and walk among us, then we must empower LOVE to be stronger than death. For we live and move and have our being in the ONE who is, was, and ever more shall be LOVE.
We are in LOVE and LOVE is in us. LOVE is more powerful than death. Death cannot destroy LOVE. LOVE rises from the tomb when LOVE takes on flesh and dwells among us. Why are you looking for LOVE among the dead? LOVE is not dead. LOVE is risen. LOVE is risen indeed.
After our Good Friday service, I went home and played with our little grand-daughters. Their LOVE was balm for my troubled soul. Their LOVE moved me from the gloom of Good Friday and so after they went home yesterday, I went back to the tomb in which LOVE had been laid. Sorting through the posters that portrayed embodied LOVE crucified, I was once again undone by little Omran’s tortured image. I couldn’t get his embodiment of LOVE out of my mind and I was determined to find out what has become of this little LOVE. My search for little Omran lead me to another little embodiment of LOVE. His name is Alex. Alex is six years old. Alex is proof positive that LOVE is more powerful than death.
Some of you will be familiar with Alex. Alex saw Omran’s picture, and was so disturbed by Omran’s bloodied and bruised image that Alex wrote a letter to the most powerful person he could think of. That powerful man, read Alex’s letter to the members of the United Nations.
“Dear President Obama. Remember the boy who was picked up by the ambulance in Syria?” “Can you please go get him and bring him to our home? Park in the driveway or on the streets and we’ll be waiting for you guys with flags, flowers and balloons. We will give him a family and he will be our brother,” Alex says.
The boy also mentions that he has a friend from Syria named Omar and says the three “can all play together. Catherine, my little sister, will be collecting butterflies and fireflies for him, We can invite him to birthday parties and he will teach us another language … And I will share my bike and I will teach him how to ride it. I will teach him additions and subtractions in math.”
Alex and Omran are embodiments of the LOVE that we call God. In God, we live and move and have our being. God is in us and we are in God. LOVE is in us and we are in LOVE. LOVE is risen! LOVE is risen indeed. Every child is an embodiment of the LOVE that we call God. LOVE dies whenever a child of God dies.
Omran lives. Omran was rescued by the White Helmets. The White Helmets are LOVE embodied in young women and men who rush into the devastation that the violence in Syria inflicts on the people of Syria, rescuing victims from the rubble. Omran was reunited with his family. Sadly, a few days after Omran was rescued his ten year-old brother Ali died from his wounds.
Like little Alan Kurdi, whose tiny body washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean and captured the world’s attention – LOVE dies. But, members of little Alan’s family made it to Canada and are now living in Coquitlam BC. I do not know what will become of the surviving members of Omran’s family, or indeed of the people of Syria, or of the countless other embodiments of LOVE that are crucified over and over again. I only know that: LOVE is more powerful than death. LOVE rises wounded from the tomb. The wounds are all too visible. These wounds are ours to tend, for Christ has no body now but ours. Our hands are Christ’s hands. LOVE’s wounds are ours to tend.
LOVE is risen. LOVE rises when embodied LOVE takes on flesh and dwells among us. Just as surely as crucifixions happen all the time, resurrections happen each and every day.
As for questions and concerns about the nature of resurrection, these don’t matter much. What matters is that LOVE is more powerful than death. We can be LOVE in the world or we can be death in the world. LOVE rises when embodied LOVE takes on flesh and lives among us. I am reminded of the words of our friend Peter Rollins who in response to questions about the resurrection wrote:
“I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and the oppressed. Every time I do not serve my neighbour, every time I walk away from the poor. I deny the resurrection every time I participate in an unjust system.
However, there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm the resurrection when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, I affirm the resurrection when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, I affirm the resurrection, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed. I affirm the resurrection each and every time I look into your eyes and see the face of Christ.”