- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 3, 2005

The following is an excerpt from an Easter sermon preached at the Washington National Cathedral by the Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III.

The central claim at the heart of Christian faith is that God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, and because of that nothing in this world — not evil, not cruelty, not illness, not loss, not even death — can ever be the last word for us.

Easter goes directly against our materialistic mind-set. It challenges head-on our deepest belief that birth and death are the only certainties, that the only things we can know and trust are what physics, chemistry, biology, Madison Avenue and television tell us, that “nothing but” is the real truth of our lives.

From the beginning, Easter has been confrontational. It’s a string of startled discoveries. First Mary Magdalene, coming to visit the tomb of her Lord, is stunned to see that the stone at the entrance has been rolled away. So she runs to tell two of the disciples, and then they run to the tomb, and this time they see that it is empty, that Jesus’ body is no longer there. And then we see Mary again outside, talking to a man she thinks is a gardener, and in a moment of stunning recognition she realizes that she is seeing her risen Lord, back from the dead.

Now, what do you make of that? There are no efforts to win you over, no gentle bridges to understanding. Those followers of Jesus came to the tomb with their minds sealed tight in grief. The world had done its same old brutal business — killing off their Lord, reminding them, as if they needed it, that death and defeat are where everything is headed.

There is no way to my mind to conceive that these frightened, defeated disciples would make up a story of seeing their Master again and galvanize themselves into a force capable of spreading their faith across the Mediterranean world. No, they saw something, encountered Someone, and that simply broke open the closed worldview in which they were living.

I don’t know anyone who started out being a Christian by accepting the notion of Resurrection first. It’s too outrageous, too much an assault on our shrunken worldviews. For most of us, trusting Easter comes slowly as we spend time learning about Christ, following Him, slowly getting a sense of a dimension of love and holiness embracing all of life, including death.

Recently I had a chance to watch a movie from the Broadway play called “Wit.” It tells the story of Vivian Bearing, a brilliant woman who is a crusty, demanding English professor. Vivian is dying of cancer, and she seems to be going through it alone. … Near the end, Vivian’s mentor, now an old woman, comes to visit her, as Vivian seems near death. This sophisticated scholar brings with her a children’s book, a book about a love that will not let us go. She lies down on her bed beside her, and reads this: “Once there was a little bunny, who wanted to run away.

“So he said to his mother, ‘I am running away.’ ‘If you run away,’ said his mother, ‘I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.’ ‘If you run after me,’ said the little bunny, ‘I will become a fish in a trout stream and I will swim away from you.’ ‘If you become a fish in a trout stream,’ said his mother, ‘I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you.’ ‘I will become a bird and fly away from you,’ said the bunny.

“‘If you become a bird and fly away from me,’ said his mother, ‘I will be a tree that you come home to.’”

No matter where life takes us, God will find us because Christ the Lord is risen.

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