On Easter Sunday, we greeted each other with the words of joy “Happy Easter!” It was a wonderful chorus on the patio, at the exchange of the peace and as goodbyes were said in the parking lot. I have to admit, Happy Easter greetings arrived in the middle of Lent from some peoples lips, which reminded me of the Merry Christmas greetings before Thanksgiving and in early December. I always wondered why folks could not wait until the Easter Vigil/Easter Sunday and Christmas Eve/Christmas Day respectively. I know now that I was focused on the wrong thing.
While meeting with Najat Kafity during Holy Week, I learned that her late husband, Bishop Samir Kafity, member of our parish over 19 years in his retirement, would greet people on Easter Sunday with the words “The Lord has Risen.” I wonder if I have been an active participant in the watering down of the true focal point of Lent and Holy Week – the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
When I first entered the ordination process 14 years ago, one of the criteria for consideration was whether you were an Easter person. At first I assumed an Easter person is someone who always is positive, someone who sees a glass half full rather than as half empty. We all have known people were “positive people” or they became positive after reading books on the power of positive thinking. Reflecting back, I see that I too participated in the watering down of the meaning of Easter People by trying to understand a spiritual state of being with secular explanations.
In my opinion, if you are reading this, the odds are high you are an Easter person. The question is, do others see Easter in you – your lifestyle, words, actions and the choices you make? I have come to appreciate Easter people as persons who embody the resurrection in their life. Not necessarily with any perfection – because Easter people are not perfect, to be perfectly honest.
An Easter person is someone who fully embodies the pain, suffering, hunger, loneliness, and challenges of the people and world around them AND who proactively shines light on the Good News of Jesus Christ in those challenges.
On Good Friday, Fr. Chris asked us to seek out, discover, and then embrace our own meaning of the cross and not be subject to a limited, secular understanding of right and wrong – fitting God into a form of judgement made by humans. He testified to his own yearning for God that was above such human ways, and how he discovered such a God in the magnitude of God’s compassion, generosity, pursuit of every child of God. Fr. Chris prepared us to embrace a God who could transform how we see, experience and participate in the world today.
At the Easter Vigil service, Mtr. Mary Lynn reminded us that the first apostle, first evangelist, the first messenger that the Lord had Risen was a women named Mary. God revealed himself first to a women. Despite the challenges that would come in her life, she went forth with great joy and spread the Good News not by offering a “Happy Easter”, but by proclaiming “the Lord has Risen.”
On Easter Sunday, most everyone learned to say “I want to see your resurrection. Show me, and I will believe.” I charged us to invest making yourself a human billboard of the resurrection. By your choices and words, you will proclaim to the world the power of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ AND share your own personal experience of the resurrection.
To be part of St. Bart’s today and tomorrow is to join the “Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.” That is to be in the company of imperfect Christians embracing the Risen Lord and sharing it with world. All the while, being Easter People. I offer the final prayer from my Easter sermon, so that you too can begin to see in yourself the Risen Lord.
Bishop Klaus Hemmerle, before his death in 1994, wrote in his Easter letter (printed in Synthesis, April 2017) “I wish each of us Easter eyes, able to perceive:
In death, life
In guilt, forgiveness
In separation, unity
In wounds, glory
In human, God
In God, the human
And in the I, the You.”
~The Rev. Mark McKone-Sweet
Fr. Mark McKone-Sweet came to St. Bartholomew’s in 2014. He was born, educated, worked in Massachusetts, then entered into full-time ministry in Diocese of Massachusetts. Mark’s life has been a journey of participating in and leading communities through change, rebirth and growth. He is a cradle Episcopalian and avid Red Sox fan, along with being entrepreneurial in mind and heart (Holy Spirit driven).