3/20/16 Flower Communion Easter Sermon
A Rebirth of Hope
Rev. Paul D. Daniel, Minister
The Easter story begins in despair and hopelessness but ends in a renewal of our spirit,
a revival of hope through the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.
For Unitarian Universalist an immaculate conception and bodily resurrection are difficult if not impossible to believe
for it is not logical for someone to die and be physically reborn.
The Christian Story exists as a matter of faith, and it has a place in UU.
But Unitarian Universalist reject the supernatural but do believe that faith and reason can coexist in the search for truth embodied in these ancient mythic stories.
Even as UUs reject the particulars of the resurrection,
we also celebrate the victory of life over death, a resurrection of the spirit, life ever renewing.
We mark Easter as a seasonal rebirth after a long hard winter.
Life begins again where the grounds finally cracks open and the first crocus raises it head to the sun.
We recognize that when our spirit is crushed by the losses of living always brings,
there is hope again in the morning and peace at night as
the sources of our strength stirs once again.
In our more eclectic and earth centered ways,
we also honor this Christian myth and celebrate the fundamental cycle of the seasons with flowers, natures symbol of hope, renewal and life everlasting.
We follow in the traditions of a much more ancient understanding.
The Spring equinox welcomes in a greener time, life resplendent and renewed.
The fallow ground cracks open yielding up its buds, new born harbingers of hope and life.
Thus we celebrate nature’s beauty – flowers springing forth in all their glory and color: red, yellow, magenta, fuchsia, and all the hues of the rainbow.
As we view the dappled landscape, joy comes rushing back into our hearts.
How could we not be elated, hope grows amidst such splendor.
Like most Unitarian Universalists, I don’t believe the story of the resurrection literally.
As my colleague Mark Bulletin put it,
“I preach against the literal, the foolish notion that the ancient story is to be understood in authoritatively shallow and surface way, or else tossed into the garbage pail.
But at the same time, with my whole ministry I preach on behalf of a literate understanding of our ancient traditions,
one respectful of our life experiences, our reason, our passion, and a desire to live a good and honest life.”
I find synchronic in this and here in lies my hope when I face a sea of trouble. Our faith is the bridge over our distress and despair.
No matter how we might want to camouflage this day, it is still a profoundly human story about the life and death of Jesus.
Today we celebrate the ordinary transformed into the holy.
A carpenter and teacher, a man of humble origins who through the power of his spiritual presence,
his simple message of peace and hope, compassion and mercy, turned the world inside out, up-side down.
The awe inspiring part of this story is that an ordinary person born to poverty single handedly created
a new paradigm of what it meant to be human and a person of faith gathered in community.
Because of Jesus’ unique spiritual ministry his death was no less devastating for his disciples as
the death of a child to a parent, or of a partner to a spouse would be.
His crucifixion profoundly changed the disciple’s world for all times.
It seemed that sadness and inconsolable grief enveloped them without respite.
The world seemed without color, lifeless, devoid of joy.
This, no different than it might seem to us today, when we experience our own “dark night of the soul”.
Like the disciples before in the face of such devastation we to would need the communion of love, of life and hope that Jesus represented.
That is what the disciples thought they had forever lost. Devastation and grief is the all too human response to any tragedy.
After the resurrection, the disciples professed to see Jesus as a humble gardener,
a slave in the fields tending flowers, a stranger along the road to Emmaus.
It was in these encounters that they came to believe that they had experienced the spirit of Jesus, reborn to life as the risen Christ.
They needed that hope, if they were to have any faith and hope that life would bloom again after the storm has passed.
We to also need hope today, but perhaps of a different sort.
We need to believe that death can somehow yield to life that grief can surrender eventually to gladness.
It why we gather at Easter time, to share the company of others who struggle with the same pain of human existence.
Now, in this very moment we are assured that we are not alone.
We know that the message we seek on Easter, that life can emerge from death, that resurrection is possible,
will be heard here in this place, each year when the flowers bloom.
While we don’t believe in a bodily resurrection, we do believe that new life returns with the spring and
that the flowers we bring and share here today are a living symbol of our hope to live and love. Again.
Hope can and will push through the darkness of the loam and bloom in the nurturing, healing sunlight.
Peace and joy will once again shine on us as
the golden orb of the sun casts its beams over the crest of the mountains of sorrow.
So it is in the struggle to find the meaning of loss and death, of life itself that
we gather to mourn and be comforted, to celebrate and share the dawning of a new day.
And thus we come together to share the sorrow of loss, the joy of rebirth and renewal.
We seek; we can give and receive that love which we all need, regardless of how we understand Easter.
It matters not whether we see today as a celebration of bodily resurrection, mythic symbol of renewal, a rebirth of hope, or a turn of the pagan calendar and of the seasons.
The good news for this day is the triumph of joy over sorrow.
Today we open ourselves one again to a renewal of the heart, to living in the face of death,
to laughing in spite of the tears, to caring in the face of a world seemingly indifference to our existence,
and loving in response to the challenges of what it means to be human.
“To choose to love, is to choose to go on living.
That fundamental faith filled decision to love embodies the hope of resurrection, of our personal triumph of life over death.
For that we are grateful and moved by all that lives, abundant and rich.
Such is our triumph, and the fount of our gratitude to God, for this most amazing day:
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.
(If I who have died am alive again today, and this is the sun’s birthday, this is the birthday of life and of love and wings: and of the gay great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting, touching, hearing, seeing, breathing, any—
lifted from the no of all nothing – human merely being doubt unimaginable You?
(how the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened)”. — e. e cummings.
Thus it is and shall be. Amen!