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Joy in the Morning - Easter Sermon by Rev. Wm. E. Exner

~~Joy in the Morning
Greetings and blessings and …well… more blessings to you than you could ask for or imagine this Easter Day.  Yes THIS Easter Day God’s limitless power has worked wonders, has raised the faithful compassionate Jesus, has led you here to this house of God, and will touch us with God’s life giving spirit to send us forth in witness to God’s love.  
And that’s the important thing about this most Holy Day. Easter sets up for all people for all time the opportunity to encounter the Holy no matter what your lot in life – no matter what your circumstance – to encounter the holy and be transformed into living, breathing blessings to the world around us. That’s what God is all about at Eastertide. Blessing and Transformation.
Back in the first century, just outside the gates of Jerusalem, the young faithful rabbi Jesus was executed on the hard wood of the cross at the hands the Roman Empire and with the blessing of a stale religious system. They thought they had rid themselves of the monkey on their back – that young do gooder preacher/prophet who put the poor, the broken, the downtrodden and peaceMakers first above the brutal, the powerful and shameless posers who ruled the world of the day.  But, as writer Ann Lamott says it so well, ‘Don’t ever think that just because the monkey’s off your back the circus has left town’, it hasn’t’.

And so just three days after the crucifixion of Jesus, God’s circus was re-opened in Jerusalem and the Galilee.  And those clowns (those followers of Christ crucified)  who put love before hate, and faith before ego, and care for neighbor and welcoming of little children, and forgiveness, and healing the sick and clothing the naked and dedicating life to excellence and  the common good – to social justice –to God’s vision for this world,  those faithful clowns who had experienced the hell of the Jesus’s death three days earlier,  came out of hiding, went to the tomb where the broken remains of Jesus had lain, and there were encountered anew by God’s power and presence - alive to them once more.
Neither Caesar nor the religious zealots of the day had silenced the Good Shepherd.  And on Easter morning His disciples began to spread the good news of resurrection that courses through history to this day. It touches souls, it changes lives.

Now I hope you’re not offended at the clown reference regarding people of renewed faith, people of Christ. Please remember, in the Bible, St. Paul referred to himself as a ‘Fool for Christ’ and urged all people of faith jump into the center ring with him.  Be ye fools for Christ, Paul loved to say.
And you know, here in the 21st century, a good friend of mine, a recent president of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, describes current disciples of the Risen Christ as being – NOT CLOWNS - but like the muppets  - yes the muppets - hopeful, lovable characters entering the spotlight with buckets of confetti full of God’s transforming power and love to throw over the pockets of pain and oppression that inflict suffering on the people of the world. 

IN our day the faithful muppets are aiming confetti buckets at the widening gap between the uber rich and the growing numbers of poor, AT industries that forsake the environment for profit gains, AT politicians who wage war without regard to the proper care of their own troops much less collateral civilian losses. Yes, God’s Muppets are aiming confetti buckets at bullys, racists and the gun lobby too.   Fools for Christ!  And you know people of the Risen Lord also feed the hungry and clothe the naked, and they pray for others,   and they drive friends to radiation and chemo appointments,  and they return good for any evil done to them just a Jesus and the early church taught.  Lovable characters indeed.

 Yes, today is Easter morning friends! The new day!  And faithful Jesus, who declared ‘Blessed are the poor HAS BEEN RAISED UP.  He who offers forgiveness and refreshment for the soul – He who is the light of the world. He who calls you God’s beloved child, the Holy One who bids us to help God move things forward a notch in our time , IS RISEN.
Those first disciples were encountered by Christ even after the crucifixion – And today you too are being encountered, even after all you have been through in your life, recently punctuated by a long tough New England winter.  In the season of Eastertide ahead we will be encountered by the Holy One on many occasions, invited to help the cause. And this is very good news for you and for the world. 

 And finally, one cynic said that religion is for people afraid of going to hell, but I say the Easter faith is the good news for all who have already been there. This is our dancing day.  God has spoken and the word is hope not fear, life not death – is resurrection not crucifixion – it is joy not sorrow.  That’s what God declares this Easter day when joy is bright! And I tell you there are joys and blessings to come.

 In closing I think it was J.S. Bach who said that music should have no other end or aim than the glory of God. I like that. And yet I’m willing to take that one step further and declare the same about life; from now on let your aim be the glory of God too – love what God loves – live what God loves!

So encounter the spirit of those who celebrated that first Easter morning – come  close to God’s infinite reality that is at hand. And may God bless you and all loveable souls in God’s circus this most holy day and every day. In the name of the Risen Savior, Jesus Christ, send us forth in witness to your love.  Amen