Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Same Spirit Dwells in You [Easter 2017]

The Rev. Jeremiah Williamson
John 20:1-18


The Same Spirit Dwells in You

In one of the few scriptures we didn't read this morning, the Apostle Paul writes, to a newborn Christian community, living in the shadows of the same powerful Empire that put to death their Lord Jesus, to a fledgling community struggling to survive: “The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in you.” And here you sit today, descendants of those first Christians; and I want you to know: this message, Paul's message, is meant for you too. The very same Spirit of the living God, the same Spirit that empowered the baby Church, the same Spirit that spoke life into that dark cave, into that lifeless tomb, that same spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in you. You are housing resurrection power. Can you feel it? You are breathing the breath of God.

What you are breathing in and out, holding in your lungs, is as ancient as Creation. In the beginning, before the worlds were made, that spirit of God danced on the watery chaos. And breath, spirit, wind set everything in motion – passing through the mouth of God: Let there be light; let there be heavens; let there be earth; let there be life. Worlds set in motion by the Spirit of God. The breath of life animating the dust of the earth. That same spirit, the spirit that tamed the ancient chaos with a dance, that same spirit dwells in you. You are breathing the same sacred breath that first filled Adam's lungs.

What you are breathing in and out, holding in your lungs, today, split the Red Sea and made a dry path. God breathing salvation into those places where only oppression and sorrow could formerly survive. Breath, spirit, wind set everything in motion – passing through the mouth of God: a strong wind turning the sea into desert, turning a dead end into new life. They were slaves, forgotten people, and yet God heard their cries and saved them. And that salvation, it felt like the wind at their back – pushing them in their future, pushing them towards the promise. That same spirit, the spirit that made a way when there was no way, that same spirit dwells in you. You are breathing the same breath that split the sea and spoke salvation history into being.

What you are breathing in and out, holding in your lungs, today, in this holy place, put breath to dry bones. In the days of the prophets, the prophet Ezekiel watched as a valley filled with dry bones started to move; those bones rattled on the ground – a disorganized pile of death; and then came together – a nation of skeletons. And then there were sinews; and then there was flesh. But there was no breath, spirit, wind and so there was no life. And then God breathed life into their lungs and they were alive. Some might say it was only a vision. I say there is no such thing as only a vision. God gives life to visions; God breathes life into dreams. The prophet's audience was not literally a stack of dry bones; they just felt like it. They were wasting away in exile. They felt like life had passed them by. Gone so long they had lost hope. And so God gave them a vision, a dream. It felt like sorrow and death were their destiny. And so God made them a promise: “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live.” That same spirit, the spirit that woke up a valley of dry bones, that spirit dwells in you. You are breathing the same breath that brought a nation of exiles back to life.

What you are breathing in and out, holding in your lungs, twirled the flowers, and rustled the leaves, and lapped up Mary Magdalene's tears as she made the dark journey to Jesus' tomb. She was coming to the tomb because breath no longer filled his lungs and his spirit he had already commended into the hands of God. And so where breath, spirit, wind were absent she came to weep in the presence of death – to weep for her friend and weep for herself and weep for a world that seems to suck the life out of every beautiful thing. It was dark on Easter morning.

But a new wind was blowing through that garden. And the stone was rolled away. And the grave was empty. And the voice of Jesus was floating on the breeze calling her dry bones and crushed spirit back to life. That same spirit, that life-giving spirit, that same spirit that raised Christ from the dead, that filled that empty tomb with resurrection life, that same spirit dwells in you.

Easter is not a Palestinian morning two-thousand years in the past. Resurrection did not happen once upon a time. The very same Spirit of the living God, that empowered the baby Church, that dancing on the waters of Creation, that split the Red Sea, that put breath to dry bones, that lapped up Mary's tears, the same Spirit that spoke life into that dark cave, into that lifeless tomb, that same spirit dwells in you. You are housing resurrection power. Can you feel it?

What you are breathing in and out, holding in your lungs, today, in this holy place, on this Easter morning, once filled the lungs of your Risen Christ. Breath, spirit, wind: it is his own first gift for those who believe, to complete his work in the world, and to bring to fulfillment the sanctification of all. It has been handed down through the ages, from the first apostles on whom he breathed, on whom the spirit fell. And now the breath of God fills your lungs. And now the Spirit of God inhabits your heart. And now the wind of God is at your back – pushing you into a Good Friday world to breath resurrection life into dry bones and hopeless souls and lifeless tombs.

Easter is still happening. That new wind is still blowing. The Spirit of God is still taming the chaos in our world. The breath of God is still calling life out of dead places.

That is why we, sisters and brothers, dare to dream. That is why we sing our songs at the grave. That is why we hold onto hope in the face of sorrow and death. Easter is still happening. Can you feel it? You are housing resurrection power. The same spirit that raised Christ from the dead: it dwells in you.

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