"What is Grief, if not Love Persevering?", and how this Easter we know Vision is Very, Very Right.
Updated: Apr 6
This sermon was preached on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021. You can watch the sermon (and the entire Unfailing Light Holy Communion service) on the video below. To find out how you can join us live, click "Events & Gatherings" above to learn how.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
See, if we were in person I would have said that, and you would have repeated “The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!” back with me.
Alleluia. Christ is Risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Happy Easter, one and all!
Today is Easter. Easter is actually the most holy of holy days in Christianity, above Christmas even. Why? Well, Easter is when Jesus shows us and the world that death is no more. Easter is when Jesus rises again, and the principalities and powers of that age are unable to contain even a rebel-rouser from Nazareth. That is what Easter is.
So, we will come back to that normal Easter talk about Hope in the Resurrection, I promise, but first I want to talk about something very different, and yet just as Easterly. Death. Yes, yes, I know, we just came out of the time of talking about death, and yet, here I am, still talking about death. I’m sorry. So Sorry. Anyways….
So, this evening, you may notice that the Scriptures we are using are likely not the same scriptures that you might have heard if you went (or watched) a morning Easter service today. No, today is one of those rare days that the Lectionary gives us a gift: the lectionary not only has a set of readings for Easter, but also one for an early service and, well, you guessed it...one for an evening service.
And I picked this set of readings intentionally...we could have used the principle readings, but I think that there is something amazing and telling and especially applicable to the age we are living in today in 2021 in this Gospel story. Interesting fact: this story is only in Luke. There is a similar one in Mark that might be where this story derives from, but it could also simply be a late addition into the Gospel narrative given to us by the amazing Lukan community of authors...
And that brings us, again, to death. And, more specifically, the grief which surrounds death. The experience of grief by those around the one dying. Our Gospel lesson began with what is commonly known as the “Road to Emmaus” story. Strangely, although the Holy Land has been continually inhabited since Jesus’s life, we do not actually know where Emmaus was. We mainly only know that a road leads to it from Jerusalem...which well, now you do too because that’s in this Gospel lesson.
Anyways, the destination is not important, but rather the journey.
I wonder how many times you have experienced that truth of truths in your own life...that the destination is not what matters as much as the time you spent getting there….
As I said, the destination is not important...what is most important to us, the hearers of this story, is what is happening on this road. Here we have Cleopas and another disciple (whom we don’t know the name of) walking away from watching their friend, their teacher, their leader, their freedom-giver, their pain-taker, their Love of Loves and Hope of Hopes...die brutally on a cross in a state-run execution…
I think it is important for us to acknowledge that this was definitely a state-run, a Roman execution…. The idea of blaming “the Jews” for this execution is an illegitimate attempt to pass the blame from the Roman authorities to the crowd and mob….In the power dynamics of the age, the crowd had as much ability to force an execution of Jesus as Native Americans have to force foreign people...us...off their sacred lands…. But I digress….
We have Cleopas and No-Name Disciple walking along the road, away from the Roman-run capital where the death of their friend, their mentor, their rabbi just occurred.
In simpler words, what we have here is grief.
What we have here is something that we here in this second year of a global pandemic know way too well. If we, as a society, learn nothing else coming out of this time, I hope we begin to remember, as a global society, what grief is.
As a world, we have so far had approximately 2,863,564 of our human siblings die of this disease….and that number is probably higher now because it’s from when I recorded this sermon earlier today. 2,863,564 children of God…..
As I sat down to write this sermon, I struggled. Which, is bizarre. For those of you who have known me for a few years now know that I LOVE EASTER. EASTER IS MY FAVORITE SEASON EVER, and I usually can write Easter sermons in my sleep. And yet, I have struggled and procrastinated writing this one, and I have struggled with why. And then, then I ended up finding this evening option of a gospel reading, and it hit me: It is very hard to have the hope and joy and celebration of Easter when the world is still where it is in this pandemic. While I am very, very excited about the fact that as of this coming Thursday I will be considered Fully Vaccinated by the CDC, and I know many of you are in the same place (and if you aren’t, let me know if you need help finding a vaccine!)...and yet…. So far 2,863,564 haven’t made it to this point. And, as I wrestled with these internal thoughts, I realized that I identified with Cleopas and their obvious frustration with Jesus….It is like walking out today in 2021 and someone coming up completely clueless about why I might be wearing a mask…. ARE YOU THE ONLY ONE IN THIS ENTIRE WORLD WHO HAS NOT LIVED THIS HORROR?
Grief is hard. Grief isn’t pretty, but Grief is where I am, and so many of you might be as well on this Easter evening.
But, Grief is not the end of the story. Like perhaps some of you, I have been exploring all that is Disney+ lately, and I have watched, and thoroughly enjoyed, WandaVision.
This is the point that I should put a spoiler warning in this sermon, because pretty much the rest of it is a spoiler for WandaVision. While I don’t think it will ruin your ability to watch the show, if you are really worried, just mute me until I give the camera a thumbs up.
Pause (I’m letting you mute yourself if you need to)
In WandaVision, there is this flashback scene from where they were living at Avengers Headquarters in which Vision and Wanda are discussing her mourning the death of her brother Pietro:
Wanda says to Vision: It's just like this wave washing over me again and again. It knocks me down and when I try to stand up, it just comes for me again. And I can't... It's gonna drown me.
Vision says: No. No, Wanda.
Wanda replies: How do you know?
Vision then tells her: Because it can't be all sorrow, can it? I've always been alone so I don't feel the lack. It's all I've ever known. I've never experienced loss because I've never had a loved one to lose. What is grief, if not love persevering?
What is grief, if not love persevering?
What I propose to you today is that this is where we find love, and maybe, just maybe, this is where we can also find the hope for the hopeless on this most strange of Easters...a second Easter that we have not been physically gathered together to tangibly, physically, enjoy the feast and celebration that is to follow this sermon…..
For, if Vision is right in that quote, and, I would wager he is very, very right….then what I have been experiencing this past year is not simply grief and sadness, but it is love...and Love is of God, and Love is God. Love is Jesus. Love is Jesus dying on that cross. Love is Jesus going down to hell and vanquishing Satan and releasing the tortured souls who were in Satan’s grasp. Love is Jesus rising again and not being physically in the tomb, dead, when Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and Salome went to anoint his body on Easter Morning.
And Love is Jesus meeting his grieving friends who were in shock as they walked away from watching the most horrific scene they had ever witnessed… and when “...they came near the village to which they were going, [Jesus] walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them.”
THAT IS GOD, THAT IS LOVE, THAT IS EASTER, AND THAT IS THE HOPE IN THE RESURRECTION and that is what I want you to leave tonight with. Jesus has never taught us that life would be easy. No, far from it, one of the hardest things one can do is follow the path Jesus has set before us...but Jesus has told us that he will be there to calm our souls and wipe away our tears and remind us that even in the darkest of darkest nights, God is there, hope is there, and Jesus is with us...and Jesus will always choose to stay a little bit longer with us rather than continue down the road.
Since 2013, Brad Eubanks has served as a chaplain on the campus of Northern Arizona University. To learn more and get in contact with them, visit the Leadership page of this website.