A few years ago my sermon title for Easter was “Still We Rise.” It was, of course, inspired by the incomparable Maya Angelou. We actually listened to her read her poem as our modern lesson. Because she now is a member of that “great cloud of witnesses,” she couldn’t be with us, so she recited it on video.
Her poem reminds me of the rising up of so many people who had been given up for dead. My grandfather had terminal cancer. The only thing was they never told him. He thought they simply had removed part of his lung and he would recover … so he did. I could go down a long list of friends who contracted AIDS long before there was any treatment. Many of them became ill and were not expected to live … but they did. I also have friends whose businesses or careers seemed to have been dead, but, low and behold, they came back. I suspect all of us can cite examples from our own lives when we thought a relationship was dead, or perhaps our hopes and dreams had come and gone. Still we rise.
That is the real message of Easter. It wasn’t just the resurrection of Jesus, the first-century rabbi and prophet; rather, it is the promise of our own resurrections. If resurrection is only a future promise to be claimed after we die, then it has little impact on our daily living. However, if we are convinced that life is stronger than death, just like light disperses darkness, then that conviction should guide our days.
Yes, we all have faced death in one form or another, and we all will face it again. It is a terrible thing. It is the worst enemy human life has. We who are followers of the Way of Jesus, though, believe that, regardless of how terrible death is, it is not the final word. As people of resurrection, we live our entire lives facing toward morning and the rising sun. Night may come, but, like the sun, still we rise. As the Psalmist put it, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
Rev. Michael Piazza