Easter Math…Christ Is Risen ~ The Rt. Rev. Jay Van Lieshout, OPI

Greetings my brothers and sisters on this day of our Lord’s breaking of the bonds of death and resurrection.  Christ is Risen!

Yes, the Lord is risen indeed!

It seems as if it was just yesterday that we donned our sack cloth and inscribed on our foreheads a reminder of our own mortality; that ashen cross which reminds humanity that the Creator fashioned each of us from star dust and by the grace of the Holy Spirit’s breath we came into being.  Then, just as the ashes were place on our heads, they began to fade with the day’s toil; so, too, do our lives slowly fade away under the wear of our trials and tribulations till we once again return to the dust from which we were created.  But it is not just our lives which suffer such attenuation, the weight of our transgressions and the trespasses of others slowly eat away at our souls, a process which can lead the greatest and least among us to an inevitable spiritual death. But today we rejoice as the sting all death is eradicated, the tight fetters are loosed, the ashes of our sins have been washed away, and our souls set free from captivity!

From Ash Wednesday and throughout Lent, I have preached about how the ashen cross is not just a reminder of our human mortality, it is an open invitation to the Heavenly Banquet which bears the our Lord’s charge bring with us a guest, a “+1” if you will.  It is not merely enough to show up to the feast, even if we bring gifts of finest gold, frankincense and myrrh.  No, we are called to gather those who may not have received the invite, those who feel unworthy or unwelcome, the ostracized, the poor, the hungry, the dirty, the abandoned and lost, for as St. Lawrence taught us, these as the true treasures of Christ’s church!

It is basic ecclesiastical math.  The Creator has made each of us a single an unique creation, a gift brought forth from the Earth; therefore each of us begins as the Creator’s “+1”.  By the nature of our imperfections, our lives slowly ebb away, a fraction here and a jot there, the sum of which adds up to negative one “-1”. Every child knows that subtracting 1 from 1 results in zero, the null number (+1-1=0).  Each human lives this life equation, we come to earth in birth and eventually are place in the null set tomb of death.

It grieves me so that for many of our brothers and sisters, the same withering and eventual emptiness plagues their spiritual life as well; they are born, soul brightly burning in the image of the Creator’s endless love, the travails of life choke this flame with the ashes of remorse and regret, while others, because of their own imperfections and darkness in heart, seek to further suppress or extinguish the light of those around them in hopes that this might make their light seem brighter.  The final outcome are our brothers and sisters who feel as if they are worthless; like the proverbial  number zero, they represent nothing and have no value, the light of God’s love has been replaced by endless sorry and darkness.

On this day of our Lord’s Resurrection, I tell you my brothers and sisters, God’s light can NOT be extinguished but only hidden.  God has not and will NEVER abandon any of us, we have just been blinded to the truth by the wickedness of others!

The grace, compassion and love of our Creator has no limit. Our cries have been heard.  In one benevolent act of mercy, the world received the ultimate gift of the Son of Man; the perfect “+1” born to bring the light  of truth back into the world, the “+1” who brings the scriptures to fruition , the one who came to deliver us a from the oppressive bonds of our sins and the Good News to all of humanity.  And this man, Yeshua, this manna come down from heaven, allowed Himself to be tempted, pursued, betrayed, imprisoned, whipped, weighed down with the burden of His sentence, mocked, reviled, stripped, tortured and ultimately succumbed to death in order that He might serve as the atoning sacrifice for all our sins.  Yes, like all humans, Jesus carried out the full life equation from beginning to the end, from alpha to omega, birth to death, womb to tomb: +1-1=0 for each and every one of us.

Yet Jesus was no ordinary man, He was the Creator’s Son, the Christ, and our Creator lives and not even the bands of death can hold the Son!  In three days the great mystery unfolded: Christ has died and Christ has risen and we know He will come to each of us again!  On this Holy Easter and on every Sunday we celebrate Christ’s rewriting of the life equation.  The stone blocking the entrance to the tomb has been rolled away, the shackles of spiritual death are broken and so our sack cloth of mourning is replaced with the finest white linen of rejoicing.  The Son of Man has erased the debt cause by our transgressions and now our souls have been resurrected our spiritual light shines in brilliant reflection of His Victory over death!  By the “+1” of His life and the “-1” His death on the cross we have been forgiven.  By His Resurrection the zero is broke open, spiritual emptiness and death has been overcome, and an infinite amount Grace and a limitless number of “+1” places at the banquet table have sprung forth.  No longer is the cross to be a symbol of suffering and pain, it is now an emblem of God’s invitation to boundless grace and mercy; not a reminder of what we have committed but of all that He has forgiven!

At the start of Lent we were inscribed with a cross of ashes on our foreheads to remind us that we are all born out of dust and no matter how rich or how powerful, to dust we all will return.  Now we are called to wear this this emblem as an outward sign to others, an invitation to take our hand so that we might lift others up out of the dust, a promise to untie the bonds of injustice, a light to guide others safely around the pitfalls of life, a commitment to feed our brothers and sisters who are hungry, clothe them when they are naked, and comfort them when they are alone or grieving.  This cross we bear is no longer a reminder of our mortal shortcomings, it is the invitation Christ has extended to all humanity to  attend the Heavenly banquet, the gift of His Resurrection emblazoned on us so that we may always be an invitation to all those we meet to be our “+1”.

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