In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit,
we pray. Amen.
Well, Happy Easter!
Well, you are a quiet bunch. I can tell this is the eight
o’clock service! Fire up! Today is the day of the Resurrection.
Every day is a celebration of the Resurrection, but this one is
uniquely special because we gather from around the world, from the
smallest of churches and congregations to the greatest of Cathedrals, to
shout out the truth of Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Day.
Years ago when I was growing up in Winchester, Massachusetts,
Easter was always a very special time in our extended family’s life.
And we always would gather together as an extended family, aunts and
uncles, grandparents, cousins, gathered together for a great Easter
dinner after church services. Those were wonderful times. They were
more peaceful times, and they were times when families really were
Ever since, though I was a young child, I have been somewhat of a
daredevil. And in those days, I would always gather with my cousins and
my brother during these Easter celebrations, and engage in what I used
to call “the slide for life.”
In our old home which was built in the late 1890’s there was what
some of you might remember as an internal laundry chute, that went from
the second floor down to the kitchen. Laundry from upstairs was thrown
down the chute where it unceremoniously landed behind a small door in
the kitchen where it would then be gathered and taken to the basement to
be laundered. Narrow and dark, it was a challenge waiting to be
And ever since I was very young, holidays such as Easter were the
great opportunity to climb into the chute upstairs, and then to swiftly
slide down to the kitchen where my cousins and brother would greet me
with much fanfare and awe. Adding to the drama, I would put on an old
World War II leather flyer’s helmet, the one with the ear pieces that
would come out and that had goggles upon them. And so as I climbed into
the second floor entrance to the chute, I pulled the goggles down and
made my descent.
And I have to say that after all these years, weird as it was, it was
quite the sight.
This became a tradition when family gathered, until one year the
worst of all things happened. Not recognizing that I had grown
physically from my previous year’s Easter slide, I climbed in, helmet
on, goggles at the ready, began the journey downward to the kitchen from
the second floor, only to become wedged half way.
With parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and my brother
squealing and wondering whether they ought to call the Fire Department
to extricate me from what seemed to be a certain disaster, I was over a
period of almost 30 minutes able to wiggle, squirm, and hold my breath
just enough to become a little bit smaller, and to finally emerge
unscathed, none the worse for wear. But that experience of an Easter so
long ago ended my laundry chute escapades forever.
For on that Easter Sunday, I became aware that I had grown, and in
that growing I would never ever again be able to entertain the masses
with my annual death-defying slide for life. Growing had changed my
Now I share this story with you this morning because it is a story
about change that occurs when a person grows. In this case, it was
about physical growth. But today, Easter Sunday 2005, all of us are
being challenged to grow in another way. For Easter comes each year to
challenge us in our faith and practice as Christians, as followers of
Jesus Christ. Some would even say that on Easter our faith is on the
Have you grown and changed in this past year, in your relationship
with Jesus Christ?
Are you still sliding down the same laundry chute with a faith that
has not changed and has not empowered you to look at the world in a very
different way, the way of the Cross and the way of the Resurrection?
The reading from the Acts of the Apostles provides us with a
mirror to look at our own faith, how it is changing or not changing, and
in our own reflection, assesses us in our own spiritual growth in
A second from the Book of Acts reads as follows: “We are
witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put
him to death by hanging him on a tree. But God raised him on the third
day, and allowed him to appear not to all the people, but to us who were
chosen by God as witnesses and who ate and drank with him after he rose
from the dead.” Not to all the people.
In the case of this reading it is referring, and inferring, that
there were some who were witnesses to the Resurrection, but there were
others who were not chosen as witnesses. And the question is raised:
why were some not chosen on such a special day?
Study of the texts indicate that there were those whose faith and
belief in Jesus was not yet consistent, consistent enough to allow them
to change from their own way of believing through empirical evidence.
And so a change in believing through unshakable faith was not yet
possible for them. For those whose faith was unshakable, Jesus
If you’re a baptized person in the Christian faith there is a
phrase in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer that carries great power
about the eternal significance of change. It reads as follows: “We
thank you Father for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with
Christ in his death. By it we share in his Resurrection. And through
it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.”
And so this morning we gather again not only to celebrate what is
so confusing to so many—the Resurrection of Jesus—but also to
celebrate the gift of changed hearts, souls and minds that come to those
who believe through faith in the Resurrection of Jesus. A Resurrection
that changes lives and empowers those who have been baptized into
Christ’s life, death and resurrection, to make a difference in a world
where there is much to do, and a world that needs desperately to
I like the words of the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
who by the way was an Episcopalian, who said, “The test of our progress
is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much, but
whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” That phrase
needs to be reexamined in a nation and world with a divide between the
haves and the have-nots has risen, and in our own country, in the
United States of America, 45 million Americans have no health insurance.
And many of those 45 million are children. And many of them are living
This has got to change.
Phrases like “family values,” “right-to-life,” and the “moral
majority,” are phrases that too often are intertwined with political
exposition. We must remember, we must remember, that a great part of
Jesus’ earthly ministry was focused on challenging the comfort zone that
existed between the religious institutions of the day and the government
of the day. Jesus was about challenging folks to change their way at
how they looked at the world. And changing in the way they treated
other human beings.
Today, you and I live in a world where the daily working wage for
almost two-thirds of the world’s population is less than what I spend on
a daily copy of the Washington Post, New York Times, a bran muffin and a
latte at Starbucks. Two-thirds of the people of the world. As people
of the Resurrection and Easter people, we must address as individuals
and as a nation, such disparity, and work for the changes that will
eventually recognize that created in the image of God, we all have equal
value. Everyone! Even those who don’t like us! Even those who hate
us! They, too, were created in the image of God.
And we, all, have a responsibility to change the disparity that
places so many in abject poverty while a few live in the lap of luxury.
Today in Africa, within our 24-hour celebration of Easter, from
midnight this morning till midnight Monday, another four thousand people
will die of AIDS. Many of them will be children and younger women.
Thousands more beyond that will die of malaria, dysentery, water-born
diseases and inadequate sanitation. And that’s just on one
I am proud of the work already under way through the Diocese of
Washington, which in partnership with Fresh Ministries of Florida and
the Anglican province of Southern Africa, from which this coat I wear
this morning was given by the Archbishop, that we are the recipients of
a 10 million-dollar PEPFAR grant (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS
Relief). We will begin our work initially in Namibia this summer where
almost 40% of that country’s adult population is HIV-positive. We will
also work in Mozambique, and in the country in Southern Africa,
especially in the northern part of Southern Africa.
And I’m very proud of this Cathedral and our new dean, his first
Easter with us, for the emerging work in raising the visibility of
Africa. And for Canon Eugene Sutton and his work in scheduling
pilgrimages to Africa, another being planned this August. And for Canon
Howard Anderson and the Cathedral College, along with Canon John
Peterson who are engaging in seeking ways to challenge the G8 countries
into living their accountability to the millennium challenge goals
established by the United Nations.
We are not just standing in this pulpit today talking about something.
This Cathedral, this Diocese, and the Episcopal Church are doing
something about it, and we challenge you to join us in that journey.
Several weeks ago I was attending the Episcopal House of Bishops in
Texas, not one of my favorite pass times. While making the long drive
from the Houston airport to the Conference Center, I saw a sign in front
of a huge, non-denominational mega-church, with sprawling buildings and
a huge parking lot. The sign in front of it read: “Our Easter services
are short. Come and worship with us.”
While in San Diego where I used to serve, I also drove past another
huge mega-church in the wealthy north county which had advertised in the
San Diego Tribune on Good Friday the following for Easter: “Free pizza
for the first one thousand people! Clowns and face-painting for
children will be available, so bring the whole family!”
Easter is not about short services, although I know you might want to
go out and play some golf today. Or be with family for a little longer.
Nor for the convenience of church customers. Nor is it about pizza,
clowns and face painting.
Easter is serious business. Serious business. It’s about the
Resurrection. It’s about humility and betrayal. Of living into the mandatum
of loving another as God has loved us. It’s about the horror of a man’s
crucifixion. It is about those things and so much more. It is about
your life and my life. Every one of us has been engaged in some part of
a journey of crucifixion. But today we say, “enough.”
In all that is about Easter, it is about changing for the better, and
becoming something other than what we are right now.
So, what happens when you can’t any longer fit into the laundry
chute? How will your life change? How will it change for the
betterment of yourself, your family, your spouse, your partner, your
companion, your place of employment, your way of looking at those who
are needy in this country and those throughout the global community
debilitated by poverty and crushing debt, disease and illiteracy, war,
and who cry out for compassionate understanding and a helping hand?
Surely, their cries are as loud as those of Jesus when he was crucified
and when he was dying on the cross. Surely, their cries are that loud.
Why is it so difficult for us to hear their cries, and yet so easy for
us to look upon the icon of a dying Jesus with such grief and compassion
and then celebrate the victory of new life?
For all of us have been created equal, and in the image of God, and
Easter is for all of God’s people, not for just a few.