Homily for Easter Sunday

April 20, 2003

Grailville, Loveland, Ohio

The seed has been buried in the earth. Jesus' obedience has been accepted by the Father. And look around you to see the wonderful new life it has brought forth! Truly we have been richly blessed.

But it's important to remember that this new life is embodied. The law of Incarnation remains. Jesus does not rise to become some ethereal spirit floating up in the heavens beyond us. His life continues in embodiment, and that means within limitation. You know, in his earthly existence Jesus had to work out the Father's plan in limited circumstances, in a particular time and place, with particular ordinary people. He was in Galilee and so he couldn't be in Rome or Athens or Loveland.

Remember, during his ministry he didn't cure everyone. And in his risen life he doesn't appear to everyone. When he serves breakfast to some of the apostles by the Lake of Galilee, it's only some who are there; others doubtless only heard about it later. Incarnation is about doing infinite things within the constraints of human flesh, with particular people, in limited time and space.

I am reminded of that wonderful anti-war film of the Vietnam era, Harold and Maude. You may recall that Harold is a sixteen-year-old who is in deep despair about the meaninglessness of life. He goes around fantasizing all sorts of bizarre ways he can commit suicide. And then he meets Maude, who is 79 and a free spirit. She begins to take him on wild expeditions where they can flout every kind of convention, just acting spontaneously. Harold begins to find life interesting. But at a given point he begins to wonder if this isn't being very irresponsible; life should be more serious than that. He asks her, "But don't you have any causes? Don't you have any battles to fight?" She says, "Oh yes, every day. . . But the little ones." Incarnation, the continuation of Jesus' risen life, happens in the cramped quarters of neighbor-to-neighbor.

Someone stopped me before the liturgy started, and said, "I hope you have an Easter person to give to us." And yes, I do.

He's someone I don't know, a musician and poet named Leonard Cohen, who's apparently become quite popular on the circuit. Here's what he says:


by Leonard Cohen

The birds they sang

at the break of day

Start again,

I heard them say,

Don't dwell on what

has passed away

or what is yet to be.

The wars they will

be fought again

The holy dove

be caught again

bought and sold

and bought again;

the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your "perfect offering."

There is a crack in everything.

That's how the light gets in.

We asked for signs

the signs were sent

the birth betrayed

the marriage spent;

the widowhood

of every government --

signs for all to see.

Can't run no more

with that lawless crowd

while the killers in high places

say their prayers out loud.

But they've summon up

a thundercloud

They're going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your "perfect offering."

There is a crack in everything.

That's how the light gets in.

You can add up the parts

but you won't have the sum

You can strike up the march,

there is no drum.

Every heart

to love will come

but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your "perfect offering."

There is a crack in everything.

That's how the light gets in.

And finally I want to offer you an image that came to me some years ago. It's an image of church. You know, our tradition provides us with several rich images of church. The church can be seen as a great big Ark, a vessel that shelters us in the storm and brings us to safety. Or the church is like a mother -- we speak of "Holy Mother Church" -- at whose breast we are nourished.

I'd like to suggest that the church is a group of drunks, leaning on each other around a lamp-post. No individual really has a complete hold on the lamp-post; they're all really leaning on each other. But if there were no lamp-post and light, they wouldn't even be drawn together.

Oh, and by the way, they are singing drunks, not sad drunks.

There are really three lessons here: Always allow yourself to be drawn to wherever the Light is. Hang on to one another. And keep on singing.