Sunday, April 08, 2007

Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

A portion of the sermon for Easter Day:

I want to talk about when we were all small children and the games we played. Remember those hot summer days, when late in the afternoon, as the shadows started lengthening and it started cooling off, how we would get together with the other kids in the neighborhood?

I want to remind you of a particular game as a paradigm of my understanding of Easter. It's a game that's always been popular. It's the favorite of many youth groups. At one parish where I served many years ago almost every EYC meeting ended with at least one game of Hide and Seek.

There's something intriguing about this game. In many ways, that's what we've been doing during Lent. We have hidden Christ, and have been intentionally engaged in a prolonged period of self examination. Easter then becomes the cry at the end of the game, the cry of "Ollie, Ollie, oxen free," or at least, that's how I always heard it. Of course, it means, Ollie, Ollie, all come free. That, for me, is the meaning of Easter: All come free.

You remember how to play the game. Someone volunteers to be “IT”, and then everyone goes to hide. The darker and more out of the way our hiding place, the better.

What is it that we hide from? We hide from our fears; the fear of dying, the fear of pain and suffering, the fear of rejection, the fear that our deepest longings will never be realized. So we venture into a deep dark place within ourselves, and we hide. This place is kind of scary, sometimes, but we feel safe in the dark.

And who is it that we are hiding from? We are hiding from "IT." “IT” is really the person in control. “IT” decides when the game begins and when it ends. “IT” is the one who decides who wins and who looses. “IT” is the one who can enter a room and flick on the wall switch, bringing to light those things hidden in the darkness. “IT” is the one with authority, the one with the freedom to act. In the game of Hide and Seek, “IT” is God.

And we don't want God to find us. We hide because we are afraid of God, that we are not worthy. We hide because we don't want to see the things that we suspect God will bring out into the light. We crawl back into our deep dark place, deeper into the tomb, and refuse to come out on Easter morning into the light of day.

We hide, from ourselves, and from God. We hide from love, because love brings with it upheaval and change. That's one reason why we are sometimes so resistant to love. In everyday life, we make do with anything that might come close to love. When my everyday life becomes just "more of the same", when today becomes very much like tomorrow, sometimes I want to cry out in my loneliness, curl up in someone’s arms, close my eyes, and fall asleep. Now I know that's not a longing for mature love. It's a longing for security and safety. But sometimes I feel like I just need to be held, safe from the fears. I realize that I can no longer crawl onto my mother's lap, so I seek other ways to fill this void; religion, romance, money, power. But those things aren't quite it.

Let's return to the game. So we hide, as “IT” comes closer and closer to our hiding place. And what happens if we're the first to be found? What happens if we lose? We get to be “IT”! We get to take on the role of God. What a shame! When I used to play this game as a child, every once in awhile there would be this strange kid who always wanted to be “IT”. He'd never hide very well, and loved being the person in control. It kind of ruined the game. And he loved to cry out, "Ollie Ollie all come free". And we would all come out of our hiding places, and return to the base for another game. And what was the base called? It was called home. Easter is God's call to us, our call to come home, to a place that is safe and secure, to a place where God will let us fall asleep in loving arms.

When we are found by God, we become aware of the very essence of God within each one of us. We become “IT”, and we seek others, bringing light into the darkness, willing to suffer with those who are hurting, and proclaiming the joy of being set free from our dark hiding place, from the tomb of our own pain, set free to know what true love is all about, set free to love without reservation, set free to be “IT”, to be the presence of the resurrected Christ in the world today.

I know that Jesus is resurrected, because I have seen him in so many of you here today. I have heard your call, Ollie, Ollie, all come free.

On this day, we make that same proclamation to the world. But the words are slightly different. As we leave this place, let us step into the light of the resurrection, the light burning bright with the love of God, and instead of shouting “Ollie Ollie, all come free”, let us proclaim “Alleluia, Alleluia, Christ is risen”!


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