Sermon for Year B, Easter Day
By The Rev. Torey Lightcap
April 5, 2015
St. Thomas Episcopal Church
My friends, I greet you all warmly this day in the name of God,
And of God’s Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
Whose resurrection warms and gladdens our hearts
And is the pledge of eternal life in him. Amen.
About a week ago, as is my custom twice annually,
I went on the air for an hour to participate in KWIT-KOJI’s fundraising challenge,
Asking folks to call in to support public radio,
And helping answer the phones as they called in.
I cannot tell you how much I enjoy KWIT.
I probably listen to NPR programming an average of at least three, four hours a day;
And that sounds like a large amount,
But remember, I’m an Episcopalian, and listening to NPR, at least once a day for one hour,
Is part of the requirements for membership in our church,
Along with owning at least one tote bag,
Possessing basic crossword skills,
And drinking boiling hot coffee even when it’s 110 degrees outside.
(Also – I’m proud to say – when watching Star Wars,
If anyone says, “May the Force be with you,”
A confirmed Episcopalian should naturally respond by saying, “And also with you.”)
The station host for the hour, Stumpy Steve Smith, was trying to get something going
So we could ring the cowbell and have some good success.
So, casting a glance in my direction, he threw out a challenge:
If we could raise say $300 that hour for KWIT,
Would I, in return, be willing to chew gum during my next sermon?
Sure, I said, not realizing that the next sermon
When I could actually even begin to get away with something that tacky ...
Would be Easter Sunday.
That probably would have been a good time for me to check Steve’s credentials;
After all, this is a man who plays The Ten O’Clock blues at eight o’clock.
But we were across the table from a couple of really funny guys,
Garie Lewis and John Reiff,
Who quickly goaded me into it, and before we knew it the challenge was on.
When the hour was over, we had raised $700 for KWIT
From three Episcopalians, one Lutheran, one Methodist,
And one self-identified “Presbyterian Notary Public.”
One caller, who is here today, helpfully offered the name of a new flavor of gum
That could possibly replace our toffee fundraiser: Episk-O-Licious.
All of that is to explain to you what it is that I am about to do with this gum,
Although I will not do it for long;
And I should apologize in advance for how untoward this is going to be.
Now, I can assure you that I would not be doing this if it were just a bet I’d lost.
Instead, let me unpack this moment a little. This is actually kind of important.
Sioux City is a place basically engineered out of what you’d call civic pride.
It was an urban center that was being hewn from the banks of the Missouri River
Just as key national public health initiatives were beginning.
In Sioux City, civic boosterism has quite literally saved lives.
Concern for the welfare of people is paramount here, as everywhere,
But here that concern is particularly shown through organized action
Through institutions like fraternal organizations created to serve the common good.
This is a town of Scottish Rite and Eastern Star lodges, magnificent churches,
Hospitals, local news on public radio, dialogue in the newspaper,
Men in Shriner fezzes driving tiny cars in parades to lift children’s spirits,
Free city-band concerts and movies in the park.
A lot of work whose reward is usually to be signed up to work the next event.
This was, and is, a civilization that runs on social and civic participation.
If there’s no participation, then there’s a crisis.
So. If you are in any way a public person, you must take your part.
It is also a place, like every other place in America right now,
Where participation in organizations has waned beyond the moment of deep concern.
For those of us who love and care for these organizations so deeply,
There’s much more at stake than meets the eye.
When true boosterism is gone, it’s going to take more than mere fans to keep things going.
In other words:
If you say you’ll chew gum in order to support an institution,
By golly, you better pony up and chew gum.
Oddly enough, at least here in Sioux City, it shows commitment and a little backbone.
If you love something, look after it. Do what needs to be done. Get in the game.
Take the bet and chew the gum.
Don’t let important things go.
It’s not enough these days just to be a fan – just to like something.
If you love something, look after it. Take care of it.
Step in and get involved, or don’t be surprised when it isn’t there.
And for goodness’ sake, don’t think of complaining if out of total necessity
The thing you like happens to morph into some new and exciting thing.
Now, speaking of metamorphosis, we just read this amazing Gospel lesson.
It’s a true cliffhanger.
To bring you up to date:
Jesus, whom we acclaim Son of God, has been executed by the state –
Executed on trumped-up charges of puffed-up talk, vague threats against the establishment,
And just generally being a rabble-rouser.
(My opinion: he was a nuisance who knew more than all of them put together;
He was very well spoken, did miraculous things,
And he threatened the security of the establishment by knowing the law so well
And asking those in power why they didn’t use the law to help others in need;
And when he upset the tables in the Temple, that was it – they’d had enough –
Here was a reason to go after him for good.)
So. He has been executed by the Roman state, laid out in a tomb.
The tomb has been sealed; guards have been set against it;
No one’s going in or out. Done and done.
Somehow Jesus has gotten out. [!!!]
How? How has he gotten out?
More importantly, Why? Why has he gotten out?
We believe that God raised Jesus from the dead
As a sign of the covenant between God and all humanity
That sin would no longer have dominion over creation, period –
That the love of God was forever insistent –
And that life abundant meant for each one of us was possible in this life in following Christ,
And in the life to come in continuing to follow Christ.
That’s the bottom line.
Now. The women show up to anoint the body; it’s not there.
A young man tells them, He’s not here; he’s gone on ahead to Galilee;
Go and tell the others that that’s where he’s going to meet you.
And now it depends upon the faithful action of the women at the tomb.
The story now hinges upon them.
Don’t you ever believe someone who tells you
That the Bible says women are less important than men.
Because at this exact moment, it’s all on them.
Will they act, or won’t they? Will they pony up? Will they chew gum?
Are they true disciples, or are they just fans?
Did they simply gesture at him before;
Did they just Like his Facebook page and go on their way?
Or will they now do something tangible, concrete, measurable just as they always have?
Will they take action?
Or will they stay trapped, down in their fear?
That’s how it ends, right?
With this impossible scenario.
“They went out and fled from the tomb,
For terror and amazement had seized them;
And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
Such a bracing way for Mark to end his Gospel.
Obviously, though, they eventually said something.
They faithfully transmitted the news to the larger group just as they were told.
The story rested with them, and they told the news –
The very same news we are proclaiming today.
They broke through their fear and said what needed saying.
They did what they were instructed to do – true disciples, every one of those women.
They stepped up.
Look at the difference it made.
It unlocked the story and unleashed the whole cohort of disciples,
Who ran on to Galilee just as they were instructed,
To be with their risen Lord.
We have this one decision by these three faithful women before us.
May I ask you today, my friends, what it is that needs a little chewing-over in your life?
What decisions and actions have you delayed
That are beginning to nag at you?
What is it that’s begging for you to make a clear decision
Between being a fan and being a disciple?
May I ask how this Good News of Jesus’ resurrection
Directly impacts upon your day-to-day life?
Is it merely a good idea?
Or do you need it? Have you come to count on it?
Ask anyone who’s made this decision, and they’ll tell you: it’s real stuff.
Resurrection is a lived reality, not just some abstract idea.
What’s it going to take for you to get in the game today,
Change your life, rearrange things, make room for new and better priorities?
Make room to listen to God and learn to live with other disciples?
What’s it going to take? What’s at stake?
What’s at risk for you if you do that?
What’s at risk for you if you don’t do that?
May I suggest there’s an awful lot hanging in the balance.
God grant us each the strength to chew a little gum today. Amen.