What makes your heart race?
Not long ago, I thought I saw – my dad! Maybe it was the flannel shirt like he always wore, and that salt and pepper hair… Dad boxed in high school and his nose was crooked –just like the side profile of the man in front of me – it looked so much like him. Dad died almost twenty years ago. But for a fraction of a second, or a fraction of a fraction of a second, my heart raced. Even after all those years, I thought it was him. Until he turned completely toward me, and I realized that, sadly, no, it wasn’t him. And I knew again the sadness of missing my dad, the pain of all of those who have loved and lost. That must have been a tiny taste of the heartache those first disciples felt, gathered in their grief at the death of Jesus. Could you imagine what that must have been like for them?
Let’s do that. Imagine that you and I were part of the group who had been following him for three years now. And that – in him – we felt something we never felt before. When he spoke how he captured our hearts; when he stopped on the road for people nobody else ever would, when he laughed with abandon, or cried, cried right in front of us for the suffering of the world, when he held us, when we watched him pray….. And now, oh, how we miss him… How scared we are to try to do life without him, him, the one who made it worthwhile to get up in the morning….
And how alone it is now… Yes, we have each other, others who found this in him too. But HE’S gone. We watched him die. He’s gone with a finality that only those who have tasted death ever know.
And so we meet here, you and I. But the air is heavy with sadness. When all of a sudden, a commotion in the back of church. The big doors bang open and the sunlight comes exploding into this place right down the center aisle here. It’s one of our group, a woman who loved him so deeply. Every time we saw her since he died, she was crying. But not today. No, she comes rushing down this center aisle absolutely breathless, her eyes shining. And her racing heart is contagious. And she blurts it out: “I saw him! He’s alive! He’s really alive! Alive!”
Could you even imagine?
It would be everything – and more – that I felt recently when for that moment I thought it was my dad! But THIS time, it is no mistaken identity. This time it is not a fraction of a second -but for all eternity…. This time it IS real… (brief pause)
My friends, you and I have grown up with Easter. It has been in our blood. Every year about this time we celebrate it. For too many of us it has become old: the same old readings, same old music, same old homily. Our hearts don’t race anymore at the announcement, at the first singing of the ALLELUIA. The surprise is just old news now. Is there a way I – or any of us – could say it? Is there a turn of a phrase that could catch our attention this morning/tonight, and make us breathless?
Of course, I should be breathless, myself, preaching this morning, shouldn’t I? Like I just ran in here to you as if I had just been to the tomb, and it was empty! His body was gone! And I couldn’t wait to tell you! And in a moment of grace, I realized I should be breathless, not AS IF I had just run in from seeing resurrection, but because I HAVE! Yes, with my hearts’ eyes I’ve seen love trump death – mini resurrections and big ones – in you and in me… and that makes my heart race…
- Like the woman in our parish who mother was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – and is opening her home for mom to come and stay – knowing that everything will change for her and her family.
- I saw it in twelve of our Newman Students who journeyed to the poorest part of Appalachia – giving up their spring break – to serve and to learn from the people they served all about love in action.
- I’ve even known it in myself when I walked into your houses after a loved one has died, or is about to die. Though I’m always scared on some level, I’ve also found a deeper part of me which trusts that love trumps this death… and that I can be the bearer of that good news.
- Hopefully you’ve felt Easter: when you found what you needed to be able to love in the midst of whatever life threw at you.
That’s Easter, and it’s why we’re here! It is absolutely amazing! It is enough to make << point to self >> an old guy’s heart race again, and yours, too, if you let yourself think about it.
We should be breathless… our hearts racing at the surprise of it all… at just how good the news is… Racing as we make our way out into the world from here this morning/night … racing with joy because we’ve experienced first-hand and have seen that — love—trumps—-death —- always and everywhere.
We have seen it … and we will again. Happy Easter, my friends.