a path in Wesselman woods; green leaves are just unfurling on the tall trees.

Easter Sunday | St. Paul’s, Evansville | Joanna Benskin | 9 April 2023 | Jeremiah 31:1-6 | Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 | Acts 10:34-43 | John 20:1-18

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God of hope. Amen.

Happy Easter, friends! Today we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Today we come to the empty tomb with Peter and John. Today we meet Jesus with Mary Magdalene, and with her we proclaim the good news that Christ is risen. We proclaim the good news that resurrection is not just a singular miracle that happened to one person two thousand years ago; resurrection life is for us too. Today, hope meets us in the risen body of Jesus.

This hope ripples through our scriptures today. The Psalmist trusts in God and says, “I shall not die, but live.” The prophet Jeremiah proclaims God’s “everlasting love” and says, “the people who survived the sword have found grace in the wilderness.” In Acts, Peter preaches that the good news of Jesus’ risen life is for all people, not just a few.

The good news is that God’s love brings life. If you were here Good Friday, you heard the good news that God loves us so much that God is willing to die with us. The good news of Easter is that once that’s happened, God doesn’t stay dead, and God doesn’t want us to stay dead either.

The Good Friday story is that God is with us in the worst humanity can do; God is with us in suffering and injustice and death. The Easter story is that God turns suffering into joy, God delivers the oppressed from injustice, God transforms death into life. Jesus didn’t come only to meet us in this broken world, but to heal it and us, to bring life in the midst of death.

A line from a poem has been in my head for the last few weeks. It’s from “Spring Song” by Lucille Clifton. I came across this as I was gathering poems for the Lenten Quiet Day. Lucille Clifton says, “the world is turning in the body of Jesus, and the future is possible.”

That’s a word of hope I need this Easter. “The world is turning in the body of Jesus, and the future is possible.” Because right now the future doesn’t always seem possible. We don’t know what will happen in our political system. We don’t know if we can find the collective will to stop gun violence. We don’t know if the wars that are raging now will ever come to an end. We don’t know if we’ll be able to avert ecological collapse and pass on a livable planet to the next generation.

And yet: “The world is turning in the body of Jesus, and the future is possible.” The resurrection life that brings Jesus up from the tomb enfolds the whole cosmos. The world is turning; we’re not stuck. The world is turning in the body of Jesus. Maybe somehow, in a holy mystery, in a dazzling miracle, somehow Jesus’ body coming to life encompasses our own bodies, and the bodies of the dispossessed, and our whole broken planet with its waters and its wars and its myriad creatures.

In this holy mystery, we shall not die, but live, and declare the works of our God, whose mercy endures forever. In this miracle of resurrection, we find grace in the wilderness; we find life in the midst of death. In the risen body of Christ, we find hope even amid fears.

And friends, hope is itself a mystery and a miracle. Hope is not always easy in this world. And hope is so much more than just a positive attitude and an expectation that things will work out fine. Hope isn’t about ignoring what’s wrong with this world, but about the courage to imagine and act for a better world. Climate writer Rebecca Solnit says, “hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky… hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency.”

Hope is active. Hope is brave. Hope is revolutionary. Hope is what we need to be whole in the midst of terror; hope is what we need to change this world into a better one for ourselves and those who come after.

And in the resurrection, hope has a body. “The world is turning in the body of Jesus, and the future is possible.” The hope of the resurrection is not a hope for our souls only (though it is that) but also for our bodies, and this hope meets us bodily. In John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene sees Jesus alive in the flesh. In our reading from Acts, when Peter proclaims the good news of resurrection in just a few sentences, he includes the detail that Jesus ate and drank with the disciples after rising from the dead. Peter testifies to Jesus physically eating and drinking as a resurrected body.

God made our bodies, and God came to us in a body, and God raised Jesus in that same body that was broken for us. Salvation meets us in these bodies of ours that have allergies and migraines, these bodies that break bones and lose limbs and get cancer, these bodies that age and die. Resurrection is for these brave, always beautiful, always breaking bodies that carry us as long as they can. God loves us in these bodies; God raises us to new life in these bodies.

When we gathered at the cross on Friday, we talked about how Good Friday means that God is on the side of those who get hurt the most when our world is off kilter, so much that Jesus is willing to die among them, to have his body treated as one of theirs. And today we celebrate the resurrection: Easter Sunday means that God will raise up everyone who suffers. Resurrection life is God’s deliverance for the poor in spirit and for those who mourn and for those whose bodies have been battered by the unfairness of this world.

That deliverance starts with the body of Jesus that can’t be held down by empire or hatred or even death. “The world is turning in the body of Jesus, and the future is possible.” The world is turning toward justice in the wounded body of Jesus. The world is turning toward freedom in the rising body of Jesus. The world is turning toward wholeness in the beloved body of Jesus.

And in the body of Jesus, we are turning too. 

In Jesus’ broken body, we turn toward forgiveness. In Jesus’ wounded body, we turn toward grace in the wilderness and deliverance from death. In Jesus’ rising body, we turn toward God’s everlasting love for us all. In Jesus’ lifegiving body, we turn toward a brave hope.

In the mysteries of the altar and the mysteries of Holy Week, we celebrate that we are somehow part of the crucified and risen body of Jesus. St. Paul says in Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ… the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me.” St. Paul says in Romans that we are baptized into Christ’s death, and so “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

In the church, we are the body of Christ, even as we eat the body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. St. Augustine says to people receiving communion, “Be what you see; receive what you are.” Sisters and brothers and siblings, we are the body of Christ.

“The world is turning in the body of Jesus, and the future is possible.” The world is turning in us, and the future is possible. We carry deliverance in our bodies. We carry grace in our bodies. We carry everlasting love in our bodies. We carry hope in our bodies, and the future is possible.

And friends, if we’re not ready for the tambourines and the dancing and the joy of risen life right now, if we’re too tired, if we’re too sad today—then all the more, this hope is for us. And we have time to come into it. We have fifty days of Easter. We have an eternity of God’s everlasting love. We’ll help each other. Another poet says, “leave comfort root-room.” Hope meets us wherever we are.

So friends, let us expect grace in the wilderness together this Easter season. Let us carry a brave hope in our bodies. Let us revel in God’s everlasting love for us. Let us walk in newness of life, as the resurrecting, lifegiving body of Christ. And as the world turns in the body of Jesus, let us find out together what future is possible. Amen.

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