Monday, April 21, 2014

Live Hope Out Loud

[Sermon from Easter, April 20, 2014]
This year, our journey with Jesus through Holy Week took a turn we’d have never expected.  Seven days ago, we had just marked Palm Sunday and the deep mystery of God’s self-sacrifice for us, despite our propensity to choose death over life.  And in the beauty of that quiet springtime afternoon, a longtime hatemonger turned his vitriol into violence, traveling hours to Kansas City for the sole purpose of killing Jews.  Ironically failing in his task, he still murdered three people at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom.
This act is something we can neither understand nor undo.  But, as we’ve witnessed throughout this week, people of hope can do something:  We can respond in love.  We gathered here on Wednesday to lift up our Jewish sisters and brothers in prayer as they celebrated Passover – the story of the redemption of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, God’s victory over the forces of sin and death.  Their Exodus is our Exodus; their freedom is our freedom; our stories are one.  And so is our common blessedness as children of the one God.
These murders – particularly with their horrifying motivation – they make us recoil.  But they also challenge us to speak our faith in the conversations that follow.  A reasonable person might well look at this week and wonder how in the world we can claim what we claim.  We say Jesus has defeated sin and death … and yet, look at the world we live in.  Where is Jesus’ victory?  Where is God’s deliverance through the Red Sea?  Evil and death are clearly still there; Pharaoh’s forces still bear down on us. 
The mysterious truth is this:  God paints new life on the canvas of death.  Yes, death is present, but it is never the end of the story.  Yes, evil still raises its head from the swamp of our brokenness; we still have an enemy against which we contend.  But those battles are merely mopping-up actions in a conflict Jesus has already won.  So even in a week like this one, our call is to live hope out loud.
And you know – God assigns that mission to those who seem least likely to carry it out.  Go back to the Gospel reading we just heard.  Mary Magdalene has come to Jesus’ tomb to take care of the final details of burial.  Because he died just before the Sabbath began, she couldn’t finish her work on Friday.  Her world has come to an end – and now she has to deal with the body.  So in her grief, she comes to the tomb, where she finds insult added to injury:  The body is gone.  She runs to find Peter and John, either to help her find it or just to share the pain.  They look around and find the body’s wrappings neatly set aside.  But the men just go back home, leaving Mary alone in her grief.  As she sobs, she sees angels in the tomb; but even they don’t offer any help.  She turns and sees someone she thinks is the gardener, and she looks for help from him.  But that man standing there is Jesus himself, having come to Mary in her pain.  Once he speaks her name, she can see him for who he is – and his new life becomes her new life.  This person whose words were choked by tears now finds a new voice.  She runs to the disciples, who are hiding out at home; and she boldly says to them, “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18).  God has transformed her pain into proclamation as she lives hope out loud. 
In our own experiences, we’ve each had our places of pain.  If we have very many years behind us at all, we’ve each known Good Friday, one way or another.  Whether it’s abuse or addiction, limitation or loss, self-doubt or self-destruction – we’ve all come a little too close to the tomb.  And yet, here we are.  God has empowered us to keep on walking.  In a faith that thrives on paradox, this is perhaps the most surprising truth we come to know in our relationship with Christ:  That precisely through our deepest wounds, we’re called to help God heal the world.  The pain that we’ve confronted, the evil we’ve resisted, the tombs from which we’ve walked away – all of it prepares us to serve those still broken and bound.  Through our words and through our deeds, our call is to live hope out loud.
This week, we’ve heard an incredible example of this kind of proclamation – Mary Magdalene among us, in the flesh.  She is Mindy Corporon, the mother and daughter of two of Sunday’s victims, who was there when her loved ones were gunned down.  I imagine most of you have seen Mindy Corporan on TV at some point this week.  She’s appeared on local and national newscasts; she spoke at the funeral of her father and son on Good Friday.  And she’s done all this with astounding composure.  She embodies such peace that, as she describes her experience and her feelings about the shootings, you almost forget that this woman is living through hell:  the brutal killing of her father and her son, perpetrated by the worst person you can imagine.  Out of such sorrow, most of us would speak horror or bitterness or vengeance or despair.  Mindy Corporon spoke peace – even the very day of the shootings.  Only hours after losing her father and her son, at a hastily arranged vigil, this is the proclamation God gave her to share with the world.  She said:
 “I came upon the scene very, very quickly … before the police and before the ambulance … and I knew immediately that [my father and my son] were in heaven.  And I know that they are in heaven together.…  My dad got elected to take [my son to the audition] because my mom was busy with other cousins, and I was with my other son at a lacrosse game.  We were in life; we were having life.  And I want you all to know that we’re going to have more life, and I want you all to have more life.”1  
Deep in her bones, Mindy Corporon gets Easter.  Faced with seemingly unbearable loss, she chooses to bear it by proclaiming life and peace, fearlessly.  In doing so, she is nothing less than an apostle.  As God did 2,000 years ago for Mary Magdalene on the first Easter morning, God has brought life out of death, giving Mindy Corporan an unbelievable assignment and equipping her for her task.
That is our Lord’s pattern:  God takes the person in the deepest pain and chooses her as the proclaimer of new life – resurrected life – eternal life – in the here and now, and continuing forever.  Like Mary Magdalene, clearly Mindy Corporan has seen the Lord.  And in her witness, so have we.  In this terrible and beautiful and holy week, she has shown us the best way to join in Christ’s victory and stand against evil when it surfaces.  She has shown us that the wounded make the very best healers.  She has shown us how to take up the cross, bedeck it with flowers, and boldly bear it to a world that loves to hate.  Mindy Corporon has shown us how to live hope out loud.
And now, that call is ours.  We, too, have been to the cross.  We, too, have come to the tomb and found it empty.  Unlikely witnesses though we are, we, too, have peace to proclaim.  Use the wounds you bear to help God heal the world.  Live hope out loud.
1.        KansasCityStarVideo.  “Daughter and mother of victims speaks at prayer vigil after Overland Park shootings.”  April 13, 2014.  Available at:  Accessed April 18, 2014.


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