A couple of kids were taken to church on Easter Sunday by their grandmother. These kids hadn’t been to church since their grandmother took them to the Christmas pageant. Angie was six years old, and her brother Joel was four. Joel giggled, sang and talked out loud. Finally, his big sister had had enough. “You’re not supposed to talk out loud in church.” “Why? Who’s going to stop me?” Joel asked. Angie pointed to the back of the church and said, “See those two men standing by the door? They’re hushers.”
Little bobby and his family travelled a long way to have Easter Sunday lunch at his grandmother’s house. Everyone was seated around the table as the food was being served. When Bobby received his plate, he started eating right away. His Father tried to stop him: ‘Bobby, wait until we say grace,’ ‘I don’t have to,’ the five-year-old replied. “OH yes you do Bobby!” his Father shouted, ‘We always say a prayer before eating at our house.’ ‘That’s at our house,’ Bobby explained, ‘but this is Grandma’s house, and she knows how to cook.’
A new pastor was visiting in the homes of her parishioners. At one house it seemed obvious that someone was at home, but no answer came to his repeated knocks at the door. Therefore, he took out a business card and wrote ‘Revelation 3:20’ on the back of it and stuck it in the door. When the offering was processed the following Sunday, he found that his card had been returned. Added to it was this cryptic message, ‘Genesis 3:10…’ Reaching for his Bible to check out the citation, he broke up in gales of laughter…Revelation 3:20 begins: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.’ Genesis 3:10 reads, ‘I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid for I was naked.’
A Baptist pastor was in the middle of the children’s sermon. The pastor, asked the children if they knew what the resurrection was. Now, I know that you have to ask questions during children’s sermons, but I also know from bitter experience that asking children questions in front of a congregation is not only tricky, it can be downright dangerous. When this pastor asked the children if they knew what the resurrection was, a little boy raised his hand……..The pastor called on him and the little boy said, “I know that if you have a resurrection that lasts more than four hours you are supposed to call the doctor.”
I have a confession to make: I seriously considered just standing up here on this glorious Easter morning and simply telling you joke after joke and trying my best to make you laugh. There’s this ancient tradition of telling jokes at Easter. Legend has it that joke telling at Easter became a popular way of imitating God’s ability to get the last laugh on the power that tried to destroy Jesus. I mean, it’s April Fools’ Day, after all, and even if my joke-telling makes a fool out of me, at least my playing the fool is in keeping with the day!
But, even though it is tempting to play the fool and just keep telling you jokes, I suspect that there might be one or two of you who expect me to talk more seriously about resurrection. By now, I hope that most of you already know that I don’t believe that resurrection is about the physical resuscitation of a corpse. I’ve preached on and on about how I take the Apostle Paul seriously when he says that talk of a physical resurrection is stupid. That’s 1stCorinthians chapter 15 – which you are all capable of reading for yourselves if you don’t believe me. Resurrection is about something so much more miraculous than the resuscitation of a corpse. So, let’s leave theology and doctrine for another day. Don’t worry, Easter lasts for 50 days. So, there will be plenty of opportunities for us to explore the theological implications of resurrection. Today, on this glorious Easter morning, let’s do what our ancestors were so good at doing when it comes to Easter, let’s not try to explain resurrection, instead let me tell you a story about resurrection.
When I was young, I used to live on the edge of the downtown eastside of Vancouver. I was just starting out and so the edge of downtown was all that I could afford. The place has been gentrified since then. There’s no way I could ever afford to live there these days. Back then it was a pretty rough part of Vancouver. Some people, like my parents for example said it was far too dangerous a place for me to live. But I was young and unafraid and the colorful characters that inhabited the neighbourhood just added to the excitement of living downtown. Besides, my apartment was located on the edge of the eastside, so I liked to pretend that the hookers and the druggies didn’t actually live in my neighbourhood, but rather that they only worked there. And work they did, turning tricks or begging for money so that they could support their habit with a fix.
It was a pretty scary place when I first moved in. But, over time, I learned to live with people who I had once feared. I certainly got to know some pretty colourful characters, but none more colourful that Big Ed. I’ve told some of you a few stories about my encounters with Big Ed. On days like today, Big Ed looms large in my eyes. Sometimes, it is as if it was only yesterday that Big Ed was shepherding me through the old neighbourhood.
I don’t mind telling you that the first time that I ever saw Ed, he frightened the life out of me. Ed was a big guy, and he didn’t smell very good. He surprised me one evening after I’d parked my car. Parking spots were at a premium and so I often had to park several blocks from my apartment. Ed stood looming over me as I struggled to get my briefcase out of the trunk without dropping my groceries. With a big smile plastered on his face Ed asked me if I needed a hand. I told him that I could manage just fine. But Ed insisted that this wasn’t a safe place for a young woman to be on her own so late at night, so he would have to walk me home.
Ed was a big guy, a big dirty smelly guy. These days we’d identify Ed as indigenous. Back then I would have said Ed member of a first nation or that he was a native Canadian, but I quickly learned that Ed hated all those labels. Ed identified himself as an Indian. In fact, Ed always said, that he was, “a big red INJUN” cause that’s what the white-man named him. “I’m an Injun cause the white man says I am but I’m big and red cause that’s what the Good Lord made me.”
Ed insisted, sometimes even shouted: “I ain’t no part of no first nation, that’s just the white-man trying to feel better about stealing what ain’t mine and sure ain’t his and I ain’t no native cause nobody belongs in this mess; I’m from the country, from the mountains where my people lived all the way back to before anybody can even remember.”
Ed told me all about himself as he walked me home almost every evening.Ed took care of me on the streets, like he took care of all his people. No matter how hard we tried none of us could ever get Ed to clean himself up or do anything get himself off the street. We listened to his stories and we’d give him a dollar here and there, and sometimes we’d buy him a meal. Ed was always grateful for whatever anybody gave him, and Ed would always share whatever he received with folks Ed said needed the help more than he did. In the years that I knew Ed, he often asked me to help folks, folks that he, Big Ed was looking out for.
On the Sundays when I couldn’t get away from the city, I used to attend the Anglican church just down the road from my apartment. On most of those Sundays, Ed would escort me to the door of the church, but he would never, never come in. Ed said he loved Jesus, but he couldn’t stomach the priests. The priests had raised Ed in that school where the white-man forced him to live. The priests had beaten him and done all sorts of unspeakable things, things it wasn’t polite to tell a young lady. Ed shouted on more than one occasion that he would never ever set foot in a church, NEVER!
When he walked me to the church Ed always asked me to just go inside and talk to Jesus and tell Jesus that his friend Ed was doing just fine, thank-you and that Lord willin, he would be along soon enough to see him.
Ed was usually waiting at the church-door when the service was over. He’d hit parishioners up for loose change. Ed didn’t take drugs. He hated drugs and would rale against them. He said drugs were dreamed up by the white-man to keep folks like him in his place; but he said he was smarter than that, because he had his dreams. According to Ed, the white-man labeled him mentally ill because they just didn’t understand his dreams, but one day he’d show em.
One evening as Ed was walking me to my door, he told me that he had to go away. He told me not to worry if I didn’t see him for a while because he had to go off and do battle with some demons. Ed told me not to worry because he’d be back just as soon as he sorted out these demons. He told me not to believe it if anyone said he had been killed and not to worry if he ended up dead, because he’d be back, no matter what. I didn’t know what to say, so I gave Ed a few dollars for his journey and told him I’d miss him.
That was the last time I ever saw Ed. A few weeks later the word on the street was that they’d found big Ed in an ally with a needle sticking out of his arm and another needle lying next to him. None of the folks on the street believed that Ed did that to himself, they all knew how much Ed hated drugs. There was a police investigation, and there were a lot of unanswered questions, and a lot of theories about what might have happened. Big Ed had always been a larger than life sort of guy. In death, Ed rose to mythical heights. And I’ve got to tell you that there were more than one or two of us who half believed that we’d see big Ed again. I mean, he’d told more than a few of us that he would return, and Ed always kept his promises.
The young vicar at the church asked me if I’d help to organize a memorial service for Ed. So, we put the word out that the service would take place and at the appointed hour, I arrived at the church to find all sorts of characters outside. The young vicar was trying to convince folks to come inside the church. But they all insisted that big Ed would never set foot inside the church, when he was living, and they weren’t about to drag him in there now. So, we walked over to the park and folks told their stories about big Ed. That big red Injun touched each of our lives. There were so many stories about how Ed’s smile, his words, his muscle or just his presence had helped someone. Someone said big Ed was a friend of Jesus, another one said big Ed was just like Jesus. I couldn’t help thinking that maybe, just maybe big Ed was Jesus. I kept remembering that Ed promised he would return.
Last time I was in the neighbourhood, I thought I might have seen him, kneeling down helping someone who was lost on the street. About two years ago, I was walking near my old apartment, I was overwhelmed by Ed’s presence. I still miss him. I love that man. I hope you noticed that I used the present tense – I love Big Ed. To this day, I can feel Big Ed’s love for his neighbours.
Big Ed lives in me, just as surely as he lives in every one of the characters he ever loved. I know that Ed lives. I also know that there’ll come a day when I’m gonna have to answer to that big red Injun for having the audacity to bring him inside this very church. I trust Ed to forgive me. Because it is Easter and that’s what I do. At Easter I hang out by the empty tomb and tell resurrection stories. Stories about how the divine in us suffers and is broken; stories about how the things that are Christ-like in us are crucified and how all that is Christ-like in us rises up again and again as LOVE.
Resurrection stories are stories in which our raw humanity encounters our sacred divinity and transformation happens, and new life is possible. At the cross-roads of our humanity and our divinity, that’s where resurrection IS. LOVE dies. But dear friends, LOVE is more powerful than death! LOVE is risen! LOVE is risen indeed! Alleluia! LOVE comes again, and again, and again! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen! Alleluia!