Dear Family, Friends and Colleagues,
You are aware the mentor in my ministry is Fred Trost. He was the senior pastor at St. Pauls Church in Chicago when I took my first ordained ministry steps in 1966. Since then we have shared much. He shared his Easter sermon and I have his permission to share it in this blog. May Fred’s words bring comfort and peace and a deepened commitment to care for those around us and beyond our reach.
A ST. PETER’S EASTER SERMON, Kiel, Wisconsin, March 27, 2016 by Dr. Frederick R. Trost.
DEAR MEMBERS AND FRIENDS OF ST. PETER’S CHURCH,… A JOYFUL, BLESSED EASTER TO YOU ALL.
ON BEHALF OF THE STAFF OF ST. PETER’S,… DAN AND MIKE, MARI JANE AND SANDY, OUR WONDERFUL ORGANISTS AND MUSICIANS, OUR SUNDAY SCHOOL AND CONFIRMATION TEACHERS, THE CHILDREN, AND THE MEMBERS OF THE CONSISTORY, I WISH YOU AND THOSE YOU LOVE,… ALL OF THE HOPE AND PROMISE OF THIS EASTER DAY.
AS GOD INSPIRED THE MARTYRS AND SAINTS OF OLD, MAY GOD INSPIRE ST. PETER’S INTO THE FUTURE BY THE WONDER OF IT ALL.
AND MAY THE GRACE AND PEACE OF GOD IN CHRIST, THE ONE WHO WAS, THE ONE WHO IS, AND THE ONE WHO EVER SHALL BE, ABIDE WITH US, EACH ONE, UNTO ETERNAL LIFE.
NOW, TO BEGIN…
THE GREAT PHILIPPS BROOKS, who wrote the Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” spoke of Easter and PUT IT THIS WAY:
“TOMB, THOU SHALT NOT HOLD HIM LONGER:
DEATH IS STRONG, BUT LIFE IS STRONGER;
STRONGER THAN THE DARK, THE LIGHT.
STRONGER THAN THE WRONG, THE RIGHT;
FAITH AND HOPE TRIUMPHANT SAY.
CHRIST AROSE ON EASTER DAY!” (See “Master Pieces of Religious Verse, 638, adapted)
There is a sense in which our souls long for Easter day. As “EVERY BLADE OF GRASS, AND EVERY FLOWER, BUSH AND TREE,” appears to stretch towards the light and the deep blue sky, in springtime, so we too await the arrival of Easter.
We join WITH EVERY ROBIN THAT SINGS, with every bluebird that builds its nest, for a future marked by hope. Like all of nature we long for the wonder of God’s grace and for the good news we have sung about this morning.
To adapt the words of another poet,
‘THE RUGGED MOUNTAINS STOMP THEIR FEET,…
THE WAVES OF THE SEA TOSS HIGH THEIR WILD BLUE HANDS…”
AND “OVERHEAD AND UNDERFOOT AND
ALL AROUND, WE LONG TO SEE, TO HEAR, TO FEEL AND SMELL THE JUICE AND
JOY OF Easter” (cf. William S. Coffin, Sermons, vol. 2, 28, adapted)
WHAT SHALL WE SAY OF EASTER? WE LONG FOR THE TRUTH OF IT. We place our hope in it. WE lift our hearts and our voices TO SING ABOUT IT.
EASTER, IS GOD’S GIFT TO US ALL. THE STRONG, THE WEAK. THE YOUNG, THE OLD. THE CONFIDENT, THE UNCERTAIN. THOSE WHO DOUBT. THE JOYFUL, THE SAD. THE CONFIDENT, THE BROKEN HEARTED. BUT WHAT DOES EASTER MEAN? WHAT DOES IT REQUIRE OF US? IT REQUIRES A CERTAIN AUDACITY. IN THE FACE OF THE WOES OF HUMANKIND, AND THE BROKENNESS OF THE WORLD, IT REQUIRES COURAGE TO BELIEVE AND TO FACE THE CONSEQUENCES OF EASTER, WHICH ARE OFTEN DANGEROUS. STANDING UP TO ALL THAT DENIES CHRIST IS DEMANDING. IT CAN COST US DEARLY. IT REQUIRES HEART, MIND, SOUL AND STRENGTH.
EASTER IS LITTLE CHILDREN, ATTENDING MASS IN A SMALL VILLAGE IN RURAL EL SALVADOR,
RECEIVING HOLY COMMUNION; THEN RUNNING OUTSIDE INTO THE SUNSHINE AND SKIPPING ROPE THE MORNING AFTER THE THE SOUND OF SOLDIERS’ GUNFIRE IN THE NEARBY
MOUNTAINS AWOKE THEM FROM SLEEP IN THEIR TINY BEDS.
IT IS MOTHERS IN THE BANDUSTANS OF SOUTH AFRICA PLACING HUNDREDS OF LIGHTED, CANDLES ON THEIR WINDOWSILLS, AFTER GOVERNMENT SOLDIERS ORDERED THEM TO STOP SINGING CHRISTMAS CAROLS;… SO MANY CANDLES THAT WHEN NIGHT ARRIVED THE HEAVENS ABOVE REFLECTED THEIR GREAT LIGHT.
EASTER REVEALS GOD’S WILL FOR A NEW WORLD. It means THAT IN THE SEARCH FOR WHAT IS JUST AND honest and good and TRUE, WE ARE NOT LEFT ALONE. It means living in THE PRESENCE OF ONE WHO PROMISES NOT TO ABANDON US, THOUGH THE MOUNTAINS IN OUR LIVES SHAKE, AND THE “SEAS OF OUR PERSONAL LIVES BEGIN TO TOSS HIGH” AND AN OCEAN OF TROUBLE SHAKES THE FOUNDATIONS OF OUR DREAMS.
EASTER PROCLAIMS THAT GOD HAS A SURPRISE IN STORE FOR EACH OF US, as God had for the women who were met at the tomb. It means that HOWEVER HIGH OUR JOYS, HOWEVER DEEP OUR SORROWS, HOWEVER MANY OUR TEARS, HOWEVER PROFOUNDLY WE experience THE WOUNDS OR THE WONDER OF LIFE, God has a heart for us.
Easter means THAT THE HARSH WINDS OF DEATH ARE NOT ABLE TO KNOCK US TO THE GROUND AND KEEP US THERE.
EASTER ANNOUNCES THAT THE ICY GRIP OF HOPELESSNESS, WHICH can INFECT OUR SOULS, DISSIPATES WITH THE RISING OF THE SON OF GOD AND WE BEGIN TO FEEL OURSELVES SOMETIMES CAUGHT UP IN THE WINDS AND ENERGY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
EASTER TESTIFIES that IT IS GOD WHO SPEAKS THE LAST WORD ABOUT US; NOT PILATE, NOT THE HIGH PRIEST, NOT THE 30 COINS OF JUDAS, NOT THE CROW OF THE ROOSTER, NOT THE DENIALS OF PETER, NOR ANY HUMAN ACT OF BETRAYAL.
EASTER IS THE RESPONSE OF HEAVEN ABOVE TO THE REALITIES OF LIFE ON EARTH BELOW. IT IS THE FACE AND THE HEART OF GOD. IT IS THE FACT THAT “COME HELL OR HIGH WATER,” THE LOVE OF GOD FOR US, AND FOR OUR BROKEN WORLD, ABIDES FOREVER,…
AND THAT “ALL THE TENDERNESS AND STRENGTH WHICH ON GOOD FRIDAY WE SAW SCOURGED, BUFFETED AND STRETCHED OUT ON THE CROSS,… “ cannot be OVERCOME by the foolishness, VIOLENCE and absurdities of human ways?
EASTER IS BOYS AND GIRLS FROM OSTERBURG, IN THE FORMER EAST GERMANY, CLOSE TO WHERE THE IRON CURTAIN HUNG DOWN NOT MANY YEARS AGO, SINGING LULLABYS TO A PERFECT STRANGER FROM THE WEST AND ASSURING HIM THAT “JESUS LEBT,” THAT IS, “JESUS LIVES.”
EASTER IS GOD alongside HUMANITY, alongside ALL THE SCARS AND EVERY WOUND, AN UNDYING PRESENCE OF LOVE THAT pierces deep INTO THE LIVES OF ALL WHO have the humility and faith to BEND DOWN TO JESUS IN GRATITUDE, AND LIFT UP EASTER TRUTH IN WORD AND DEED, WHILE ACCEPTING THE CONSEQUENCES.
EASTER MEANS RESISTANCE TO every instrument and every INSTITUTION THAT CRUCIFIES THE INNOCENT, and that INCLUDES THE MONEY-CHANGERS AND the war-makers AND THEY THAT PROFIT FROM THE ENDLESS MANUFACTURE AND FASHIONING OF DEATH IN THIS WORLD.
Easter is MORE THAN A LONGING. IT IS A DIVINE ASSURANCE OF A DAY WHEN THE REALM OF GOD SHALL AT LAST ARRIVE, when AND THE SMALLEST CHILD SHALL BE UNAFRAID TO PLAY AT THE DEN OF THE ASP.
EASTER IS THE COURAGE TO CHALLENGE THE UGLY, VIOLENT AND ANGRY RHETORIC THAT POISONS SOCIAL RELATIONS AMONG THE CHILDREN OF GOD.
EASTER IS A CONFIRMATIJON CLASS STUDYING ITS LESSONS AND PROFESSING THE TRUTH OF THE CATECHISM AS IT PAUSES ON AN EASTER DAY TO PRAY, WHILE TWENTY MILES AWAY
THERE ARE SOLDIERS CHASING AFTER THE CLASS IN DETERMINED PURSUIT.
Easter CHALLENGES the belief in exceptionalism, and the idea that ANY of US HAS THE RIGHT TO DECIDE WHO LIVES, OR WHO DIES, OR WHO IS TO RULE THE WORLD… EASTER ANNOUNCES THAT “I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD. YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.”
EASTER signifies that ANY EFFORT TO FILL THE RICH WITH GOOD THINGS WHILE SENDING THE POOR EMPTY AWAY IS INCONCEIVABLE TO PEOPLE WHO TRY TO LIVE BY FAITH.
EASTER MEANS THAT “THERE IS MORE MERCY IN GOD THAN SIN IN US.”
Sisters and Brothers, THIS IS WHAT THE CELEBRATION IS ALL ABOUT. “IF GOD BE FOR US, WHO CAN BE AGAINST US?”
May we ACCEPT, AS MARY MAGDELENE AND THE OTHERS DID, THE WONDER, DIFFICULTY AND CHALLENGE AND JOY OF IT ALL, KNOWING THAT WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY ANGELS, UPHELD BY THE SAINTS ABOVE, AND EMBRACED BY THE SPIRIT OF OUR RISEN LORD, WHO MEETS US ALONG THE WAY. AMEN.