LIVING THE DREAM

JOHN 20:1-18
ST. AUGUSTINE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH, MORROW, GEORGIA
THE REV. BARRY GRIFFIN, RECTOR

Preacher:  Alleluia.  Christ is risen!

People:     The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

I remember that it was springtime, and the weather was not unlike the weather we’re having today.  It was early evening.  I was twelve years old.  My mother and I had been to Sears.  I don’t remember why she took me to Sears or what she bought.  I do remember this: as we got in our car and left Brunswick’s Lanier Plaza shopping center, my mom took a short-cut.  Instead of getting on highway 17 as usual, we drove behind Lanier Plaza.  We took a right and passed the old high school stadium.  I’ll bet we smelled fumes from the nearby Hercules Chemical Plant.  My twelve year-old mind was definitely elsewhere.

As we entered Brunswick’s African American neighborhood I heard my mother say, “Something’s going on.  Something’s happening.  We need to get home.”

I looked around and I saw what she meant. Black people were filling the streets.  I wondered if there was going to be a riot like those I’d seen on TV.   I wondered if my mom and I were in trouble.

But no, thank God, it wasn’t like that.  These people were not angry. These people were grieving.  Some were crying.  Some shook their heads in disbelief.  Some walked about aimlessly, as if in a dream.

My mother was right. Something was going on. Something was happening.  This was something we had never seen before.

We went straight home, and I turned on the TV.  Then we heard the news: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is dead.  Earlier this evening he was shot at The Lorraine Motel in Memphis.  Dr. King was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m.  He was 39 years old.

This was awful, awful news.  I was young, but I understood.  And I wondered: what will happen next?  The truth is, nobody knew.

So sad.  So hopeless.  So frightening.

When President Kennedy was shot in Dallas.  I was eight years old.  I remember it like yesterday.

When Dr. King was shot in Memphis I was twelve.  I remember it like yesterday.

I was twelve when presidential candidate Robert Kennedy was shot in Los Angeles.  That, too, I remember like yesterday.

I remember these events very well.

So sad.  So hopeless.  And so frightening.

Every year on Tuesday in Holy week the clergy of our diocese gather to renew our ordination vows.  Laity are encouraged to join us.  In the context of worship, laity, deacons, priests and bishops renew the vows they have made to God, God’s church, and each other.  This year we gathered at Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, the home church of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  It was a gathering I will not forget.

This Wednesday will be the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King.  Last Tuesday we Episcopalians were honored and humbled to assemble in the sacred space of Ebenezer Baptist.  As Bishop Rob pointed out in his sermon, this is where Dr. King’s funeral was held.  Here is where the casket was placed. Over there is where Corretta sat with her children.  The black veil she wore did not conceal her grief or her courage.  And right over there, some time later, that’s where Martin’s mother was shot and killed by a deranged man as she sat at the organ bench during Sunday service.  A faithful deacon also died that terrible day.

When Bishop Wright proclaimed: “There is pain in these walls,” I knew what he meant.

I also knew that such pain is not confined to Ebenezer Church. Bishop Rob knows that, too, and you know it, too.

There’s plenty of pain to go around. 

There’s sadness, hopelessness, and fear.  Will the hurt never end?  Never?

Friday night we left this church in a world of hurt.  On Good Friday we stood once again at the foot of the cross.  With Mary Magdalene and the others, we saw Jesus open his arms to all the suffering of this world: all the sadness, all the hopelessness, all the fear, all the pain.

Yes, we left here in a world of hurt, but we knew something that Mary Magdalene and the other followers of Jesus did not know: we knew this wasn’t the end.  We knew there would be a resurrection.  We knew about Easter.  They did not.

Today’s gospel begins in sadness, pain, fear, and confusion. Early in the morning Mary Magdalene came to Jesus’ tomb.  The stone that sealed the tomb was missing.  She naturally assumed that Jesus’ body had been stolen.  “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him,” she reported to Peter and the disciple Jesus loved.

Those two disciples went to the tomb and found the linen burial wrappings.  Then they went home, not understanding that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

Mary Magdalene did not understand that either.  But she didn’t go home.  She stayed.  She stood outside the tomb, weeping.  But this time she looked in.  She saw two angels who asked, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

She responded, “They’ve taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid him.”

Then she turned around and saw the gardener.  At least, she thought he was the gardener.

The “gardener” asked the same question: “Woman, why are you weeping,” and added, “Whom are you looking for?”

Still, she did not recognize Jesus.  “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

In response, Jesus said one word: “Mary!”

On hearing Jesus speak her name, Mary finally understood.  She got it.  “Rabbouini!” she said, which means Teacher.

At the sound of Jesus’ voice speaking her name, Mary’s world of hurt was transformed into a world of peace and gratitude and joy.  Mary Magdalene experienced the healing power of the resurrection. 

That same healing power has continued ever since.  It continues here, today, in this place.

Dr. King often stated that the most segregated hour of Christian America was eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.  Well look around you.  Sadly, many churches remain virtually segregated, but not this one.  Saint Augustine’s knows the healing power of the resurrection.

I have a younger buddy that I see in the neighborhood every now and then.  Whenever I bump into him I always ask, “Patrick, how the heck are you doin?”

And he always responds “Man, I am livin’ the dream!  I’m livin’ the dream!”

Sisters and brothers in Christ, we at St. Augustine’s are livin’ the dream!  We are living Dr. King’s dream.  We are living in the power of Jesus’ resurrection with peace and gratitude and joy.

Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we too are raised. We are raised to newness of life, and we’re living it right now.

Yes, we live in a world of hurt.  Each of us knows pain.  There’s no denying that.  But we also know that this is not the end of the story.  Another chapter has already been written, and it’s wonderful.  We just haven’t gotten there yet.

In the meantime, we hold on to hope.  We hold on to the dream.  St. Augustine’s is living the dream.

Alleluia.  Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

Amen.

         If you would like to respond to this sermon or receive future sermons by email, contact me at barryqgriffin@earthlink.net

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