Sunday, April 16, 2017

A New Heart & A New Spirit

Easter Vigil Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 15 April 2017
Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Exodus 14:10-31, 15:20-21; Ezekiel 36:24-28; Romans 6:3-11; Psalm 114; Matthew 28:1-10
On this night of nights, notice what Jesus says:
Do not be afraid...”
Jesus says this to the women who come to the tomb early in the morning. He says this to you & me. His words have been heard by millions of Christians on other Easters, including the 44 Christians killed by suicide bombers in Egypt during Palm Sunday worship this week [April 9].1 May they rest in peace.

These Christian brothers & sister of ours know the depths of Jesus' love more deeply than we can imagine. Notice what Paul tells the Romans & us: Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
Paul says all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death & have newness of life, no longer enslaved to sin. His words complement what we hear from Ezekiel:
the Lord God says,
I will...sprinkle clean water on you,
& you shall be clean.
Tonight we have renewed our Baptismal vows & been sprinkled with water. Even though we are clean, we are human & will make mistakes. When we do, remember what we hear in Genesis when God creates: God sees everything he has made is good – very good. We know Jesus comes to make us & everything good again – very good.
Remember what we hear God assure us in our scripture from Ezekiel:
“A new heart I will give you...
a new spirit I will put within you...
I will remove from your body the heart of stone
& give you a heart of flesh.”

As Christians, we know this is possible because the loving heart of flesh which beats within Jesus stops beating on the hard wood of the cross. Jesus' human heart stops beating on Good Friday – the day that looks awful, the day that declares: God DOES love us & God redeems us through Jesus' death. Death is not the final word.

We celebrate this truth: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Jesus' Resurrection gives us confidence to live in new ways.
Jesus calls us into a new relationship with God & each other, to live in holy community. Notice tonight's Gospel from Matthew repeats details to emphasize the work we have to do to share the Good News of Jesus' Resurrection:
  • The angel says to the women: "Do not be afraid... Jesus...has been raised...go quickly & tell his disciples."
  • They leave with awe & great joy & run to tell the disciples.
  • They run into Jesus, who also says, "Do not be afraid”.
  • Jesus sends them to go speak to “my brothers”. Now the disciples are more than followers: they are brothers.
You & I are Jesus' family. We have Good News to share. Do not be afraid to share it.
In our Baptismal Vows we have just promised to proclaim by word & example the Good News of God in Christ. This Good News includes what we read in Romans: We are no longer enslaved to sin. We are no longer trapped in sin. We promise to proclaim this with God’s help.
Proclaim is an interesting word. It can mean [the dictionary2 says]: “to declare publicly, insistently, proudly in speech or writing, to praise or glorify openly”.  My phone dictionary app also suggests: “extol: proclaim the rescue worker's efforts”3.
Proclaim the rescue worker's efforts:
Jesus is our rescuer.
This concept of the rescuer's efforts reminds me of the Chilean mining disaster in 2010. You may recall the mine's collapse kept 33 miners trapped 2,300 feet down in the bowels of the earth for 69 days – Aug. 5-Oct. 13.4
Humans have been trapped in sin a lot longer. You & I have Good News to proclaim to release trapped people. As we do this work, I encourage you to continue in the apostles’ teaching & fellowship, in the breaking of bread & in the prayers – all with God’s help.
We do this work with God.
We do this work in community.
God gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us in this rescue work so that our love may overflow more & more
with knowledge & full insight
to help us determine what is best.

Bacon, Ed. 8 Habits of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind. Boston: Grand Central Life & Style. Hatchette Book Group. 2012.
Dios Habla Hoy: La Biblia. 2da Ed. Nueva York: Sociedad BĂ­blica Americana. 1983.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Merriam-Webster. Smartphone Dictionary app. Merriam-Webster Inc. 2012. Accessed: 14 April 2014.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
Suicide bombers kill 44 at Palm Sunday services in Egypt”. Associated Press article. Goldsboro News-Argus. 10 April 2017. P.7A.
Timeline: Trapped Chilean miners. Accessed: 14 April 2014.

1 “Suicide bombers kill 44 at Palm Sunday services in Egypt”. Associated Press article. Goldsboro News-Argus. 10 April 2017. P.7A.
3 Merriam-Webster. Smartphone Dictionary app. Merriam-Webster Inc. 2012. Accessed: 14 April 2014.

4 Timeline: Trapped Chilean miners. Accessed: 14 April 2014.

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