The way to keep a trail alive is to walk on it: Sermon for Easter Sunday 2015

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Christ_Pantocrator_Deesis_mosaic_Hagia_Sophia

Sermon for Easter Sunday 2015

Readings:

Acts 10:34-43 
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
John 20:1-18 

I once heard an archeologist use an expression in an interview that has since become one of my favorites: The way to keep a trail alive is to walk on it

As someone who had a great deal of experience in digging up the past, he was well aware that the difference between a living tradition and a dead tradition is practice. The moment that people stop practicing a tradition, stop teaching its history or stop holding its rituals it dies. And just like a path that no one walks on, the weeds and the grass creep in, and eventually it fades away, disappears and is forgotten.

When our youth group was travelling the Way of Saint James to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela a couple years ago, we were travelling along a path that had been used by pilgrims for over a thousand years, but despite the fact that this trail was so old, most of the time you didn’t have to worry about getting lost or wonder where you were going, because not only is the path well worn from ancient use, but people are still using it. People are still walking that way and using that trail. It is a living tradition and it is alive because people still experience God along the way. The experience still has something to teach modern people, it still has something to offer to our lives, something which all of the modern technology in the world just can’t replace. There at the tomb of one of Jesus’s first followers, or in the cathedral itself, or in the incense, or maybe just in the faces of the people you meet along the way, God is there and people are still walking that trail to seek him.

This past week we have been walking a different kind of path. We have been walking, figuratively at least, the way of the cross with Christ. We have been telling his story and the story of his disciples, we have been observing ancient traditions that speak to the last things that he said and did, and we have done these things for much the same reason that people still walk the Camino in Spain. This path, this trail of Holy Week is still walked because people still find God there.

Our journey of Holy Week ends this morning with taking a short walk with Mary Magdalene to the tomb. She is walking there to clean and to anoint the body of her dear friend, her leader and her teacher. She is walking there with the expectation of performing the gut wrenching task of unwrapping him from the linen shroud and having to again witness the lifeless body of someone she loves laying before her. We are traveling that way with Mary this morning. Year after year we walk this same path to the tomb with Mary and we retell the story of what she found.

We continue to walk this way and to tell this story because at the end of the road we find something which gives our life meaning. We find out that the world which we thought we knew and understood might be a little more complex and a little more mysterious than we had previously imagined. We find out that miracles do happen, that God really is in control. We find out that the path which we thought led to the grave and no further actually leads to new life.

Mary didn’t find a dead body that morning as she was expecting. What she found was the Resurrected Christ, transformed, but more alive than ever.

I will venture to say that the Easter story isn’t new to most of you. You have heard the gospel witnesses, you have heard preachers and priests talk about it before, you might have even seen the movie…there are lots. You are not here this morning to find out how this story ends, you are here because you know the ending and you find there in that story of Christ’s resurrection something which changes your life and gives it deeper meaning. You are here because deep down you know or feel that the story the secular world tells us, the story that only looks to the material world and not beyond is simply not good enough. You are here because Christ’s story challenges you to imagine a world that is bigger and more miraculous. You are walking this path with us because this trail, this tradition has been kept alive by generations of individuals who have continued throughout the years to find God here and you are walking this path because you have probably found God here too.

Ours is a living tradition. A living trail that continues to lead travelers to a deeper knowledge and love of God. If we have found God along the way, if we have walked to that tomb with Mary and found it empty, if we have experienced God in this place or in the proclamation of the gospel or in the sacraments and rituals of the church that teach us and draw us deeper into the life of Christ, if this path has led us closer to God then we must keep it alive. We must continue to walk on it. We must continue to proclaim and live out these stories which we believe to be true so that future generations will not learn about who Christians were and what we believed between the covers of a textbook. This way, this path, this trail must be kept alive for them.

Our tradition is a living tradition and it will remain so as long as we continue to live it out. This trail will stay alive as long as we continue to walk on it. If we want our children to have faith we must continue to live it out ourselves, not just today, but every day. We need to be living sign posts along the way, arrows that constantly redirect people to the empty tomb and the resurrected Christ.

Walking this way has forever changed my life. I have been and continue to be amazed at the many ways I have encountered God along this journey. It has given me immeasurable hope, not just for what my resurrected life might be like in the next world, but for what my forgiven life can be in this one. If you share this hope of mine, if you have experienced God here in this place or in our tradition and if you want to keep this trail alive: keep walking on it.

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