Easter Sermon

Easter Sermon
Jack Ledwon of St. Joseph’s University Church, Buffalo, NY

A few people have asked for a copy of my Easter sermon. I usually preach just from an outline, so I have tried to reconstruct the sermon from my notes. What most people asked about are the quotes from the Paul Simon song, the poet Jorie Graham and the story of the Holocaust survivor. They are included:

EASTER Sermon 2016

Well, it seems like we can really feel the beginning of Spring with the beautiful weather we’re having today. You know what that means. It means I can finally take the Christmas CD’s out of my car. Actually just one Christmas CD that I have been playing for the last three months. It’s Renee Fleming’s Christmas in New York. You may know that she is an incredible opera singer, but what you might not know is that she worked her through college singing in jazz clubs, and if you heard this CD you would never guess that it’s an opera singer performing. One song in particular captured my attention and I’ve been playing it over and over again. It’s called Love and Hard Times. There were a couple of lines I couldn’t quite get and so a few days ago I finally took out the liner notes to read the lyrics. I was surprised to see the song was composed by Paul Simon. The text goes like this:

God and His only Son,
paid a courtesy call to Earth
one Sunday morning
Orange blossoms opened
their fragrance,
blackbirds sang from the tips
of cotton roots.
Old folks wept for His love
in these hard times

Now these are the lines that really captured my heart:

“Well we gotta get going,”
Said the restless Lord to the son,
“There are galaxies yet to be born
Creation is never done.”

There are galaxies yet to be born; creation is never done!

That is what we are celebrating this Easter, the fact that God continues to create the world, our world, our lives. Creation is never done!

Another quote that I have been reflecting on through the Lenten season was from an American poet, Jorie Graham. A few months ago there was a festival in New York City based upon the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The festival included opera, ballet, poetry and even a dinner. One of the organizers, a former student of Graham said he was very influenced by a poem she wrote on this legend. He said that she had the ability to capture the way “myths depict things that happen at a subconscious level.” What was intriguing was what someone once said about her [Graham], that it seemed like she believed myths really happened.” She responded by saying: “It’s not that they happened. It’s that they are happening.”

We, with our Western, scientific, analytic mentality, think, when we hear the word myth, oh that’s just a story, a legend, a fairy-tale. But in fact myth expresses the truth in a deeper and fuller way than our rational discourse. It touches the subconscious level.

What we are celebrating in the resurrection is not something that happened in Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago or that will happen sometime in the distant future, it is something that is happening today. And it must be something that is happening in our lives and in our world. What we celebrate in our faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is that death has been conquered and that with Christ we too will gain eternal life. But eternal life in Christ is not just some distant, far-off dream. The Franciscan theologian, Sister Ilia Delio writes in The Emergent Christ:

“Resurrection is not an otherworldly future event; rather, it is the this-worldly future breaking into the present moment through a radical choice for life. Death anticipates resurrection because it is the necessary contingent for new life and new relationship with God. The wholeness that we seek in this evolutionary creation, this new catholicity, is possible if we are willing to engage the moment as self-gift. Without giving ourselves to something greater than ourselves, nothing new can happen, nor can we evolve toward wholeness by healing the divisions among us and within us.”

There are galaxies yet to be born; creation is never done!

The only proof for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the empty tomb. No not the tomb outside of Jerusalem, but the tombs, millions of tombs throughout the world, filled with our sisters and our brothers. We must call them forth to life.

I recently came across a story that exemplifies this process in concrete terms.

In his book The Liberators, author Michael Hirsch details the stories, impressions and reactions of American soldiers who liberated the Nazi concentration camps. He also includes in his book the recollection of one of those liberated. Coenraad Rood was a 24-year-old Dutch Jew who worked as a tailor. He was arrested in 1942 and spent three years imprisoned at a number of camps. In January 1945, he lay dying in a covered ditch in the camp at Ampfing when the 14th Armored Division liberated the camp. Rood remembers.

“Suddenly, I heard my friend Maupy. I heard him speaking English, saying [to someone] ‘go in there. My friend is dying. He should know that he is free before he dies.’ [The trapdoor to the ditch] opened up and there was an American soldier there . . . I was laying in the dark, in the dirt, and he told me, ‘come, you are free now.’ And then I started crying. I try to get to him, but I was, like paralyzed . . . I was crawling on the ground, trying to get to the door. And then he picked me up by the collar of my little jacket [and] he was holding me. I remember I thought, ‘Man, is this man strong!’ . . . And he told me, ‘You’re free now. You understand? It’s over.’

“As dirty and sick as I was, that soldier, that American soldier, kissed me. And I kissed him back, and he was holding me and took me [outside the ditch, into the light] and said, ‘See? You are free now.’ And he cried too.”

After the liberation, Coenraad Rood was reunited with his wife Bep, who survived the war in hiding. And they made a new life for themselves in the United States. You are free; it’s over – the words of American soldiers to the victims of the Holocaust.

Like Jesus on the hillside of Bethany calling his friend Lazarus out of the tomb, we must do the same with the voice of Jesus Christ. Not just in Bethany, but in Bethlehem, and in Bangkok, and in Beijing, and in Brusells, and in Buffalo.

We must stand outside the countless tombs of our sisters and brothers, and cry out: “My sister, my brother, come forth. It’s over. Death has been conquered, you are alive. You are free now. God is stronger than death. Come forth and live!”

Yes! There are galaxies yet to be born; creation is never done! –Easter Sermon from Jack Ledwon, St. Joseph University Church, Buffalo, NY

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An Easter Testimony by Lisa Ann

lisannIf you had met me ten years ago, and actually got to know me, you would have met a pretty angry, negative person. In 2001, I almost accidentally killed myself…if it would have happened it would have looked like suicide. In reality it was a chemical depression caused by a combination of pain killers prescribed by ‘doctors’ the insurance companies insisted on, PTSD, TBI and common grief.

By the end of 2009 the economy had taken its toll on me in addition to my family falling apart at the seams. Life was bleak and it was about to get significantly worse.

Somewhere in the mess of all this crap I got ‘involved’ with a man who was not healthy for me. There was once a conversation that went like this: “What if Jesus was just a Brett Favre on steroids?” In other words, a celebrity of the time whose popularity grew for no apparent reason other than people’s need to celebrate the perceived greatness of a man?

This was probably one of the darkest moments in my life. I would soon lose EVERYTHING I had thought was important after making that statement out loud.

I was one of those who laughed at how ‘Christians’– especially those who went to those rock-n-roll churches– were always ‘happy’ and always ‘sing’ even the words ‘good morning!’

Then it happened. I was officially homeless, sleeping on a friend’s couch. I was broke and broken. I honestly didn’t think I had any love left in me and wasn’t worthy of anyone’s love.

As I drove away from that man’s house with the stuff he didn’t see any value in keeping, I heard a soft voice in my mind that said ‘go pray at Midnight.’ I knew of an adoration chapel and went. At exactly Midnight the door unlocked and I was able to enter.

I grabbed a Bible and knelt down.

I prayed in a way I had never prayed before.

“Show me what you want me to know.” I randomly opened the book and read, “If someone takes what is yours, let it go, it is just belongings, no one can take your heart for it belongs to God.” Then I opened another page and I read, “Even if you no longer have family I will give you another.”

I was there a long time before I went back to my friend’s place and laid on that couch not knowing what I was going to do next. I still thought that I was in control of what I was supposed to do.

Around 4:30 in the morning I laid there and cried. I openly admitted that I could not control my life and that I had to give up. This wasn’t a suicide moment; it was a heart moment. I had to give up my heart and my mind and let God take over. I finally fell asleep. I woke up with a song in my head … It was ‘Be not Afraid, I go Before You Always, Come Follow ME and I Will Give You Rest.’ It was 7:32 in the morning now according to my phone.

I woke up light.

I got right to taking care of things and realized mid-morning what day it was. It was July 23.

On July 23rd of 1998 mom woke me around 4:30 in the morning. She had not been lucid in weeks but we proceeded to have a great conversation which ended with her telling me how much she loves me. I went back to bed. Later that same morning I stopped counting the seconds between each breath because I had to pronounce that there would be no more. She took her first breath of heaven at 7:32 in the morning.

I miss her more then words could ever convey.

A few weeks ago I received the most important compliment of my life. A co-worker answered my question of why she thought I didn’t ‘fit in’ at work.

“Honestly, we talk about you a lot! We just don’t get you. You have nothing, you want NOTHING, you are willing to give everything, and you sleep on an air mattress! On top of it you are always happy! We just don’t get you and that makes a lot of us uncomfortable.” My response was… “So, it’s the Jesus thing.”

Her reply? “Yeah, and you’re not like other ‘Christians’ — you haven’t forced your beliefs on any of us…we just don’t get you.”

I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Thank you, it’s okay that I don’t fit in…I will always choose Jesus over fitting in for the rest of my existence,” and walked away.

I’m not in control and no longer need to be. I’m no longer lonely and He has replaced my ‘family’ with people who love me for the broken person I am. I no longer see my life as tragic or blame others for my circumstances. I brought a lot of what happened to me on. I made those choices and the things that happened outside of my control? Shit happens … we live in a broken world… what matters is how we react to the crap.

There is a song in my head every morning and every night as I lay down. I give all the glory to my risen Lord.

So now…I’m one of those ‘Christians’ who sings good morning and puts her hands up in prayer. I wear bright colors and dance…for the Lord and if you just don’t ‘get’ me, I’m okay with that. My heart is overwhelmed with joy daily even in the stress of daily life.

If that’s what you would like…spend some time in the Book and have a talk with God. Then ask yourself if you can give up the identity of control freak. The moment you give that title up…will be a change no words can describe.

Happy Easter. –Lisa Ann Krutzik

Need a Biblical Counselor in the Buffalo, NY area?

Corey Nieman writes…

When it comes to spiritual care, sometimes people may recognize they need help, but feel like they can’t afford it…Other times people may not see the value in getting help, and don’t invest in it.

In response to these obstacles I am offering (1) free session, per person, to those who are looking for a hand-up and not a hand-out….at In His Name Outreach in Cheektowaga, NY.

I serve as a Biblical counselor, life coach, recovery coach, and discipleship mentor, for both couples and individuals. I work daytime, evening, and weekend hours, and am also available for online sessions via Skype. So please share this around, print it out, pass it on, then email me directly at corey@ihno.org to take advantage of this limited time offer…Thank you!

In His Name Outreach is a non-profit, charitable, faith-based resource center dedicated to building and restoring the spiritual, emotional, and physical health of our community. –Buffalo Christian

It’s the little things that matter

I have been feeling down lately, but today was a good day, and little did I know God would give me the opportunity to bless someone in a major way.

I craved a Nestle Crunch bar, and got one at my local Rite-Aid. But they didn’t have the real sugar Pepsi I wanted, so I went across the street to get one at 7-11.

When I was waiting in line at the cash register, a little old lady bundled up in her winter coat and hat came rushing through the doors and headed straight to the counter. Frantic, she asked the man behind the counter if anyone had turned in a credit card. She told him she had just been there, left, went to another store, and her credit card was missing. She had searched her purse and wallet to no avail.

Unfortunately, the man behind the counter was more interested in sorting the recyclable bottles in a bin, and basically told her, “I didn’t wait on you, I don’t know where it is, somebody probably took it.” She was visibly upset and ready to cry. He said, “You could talk to the manager.” The little old lady tried to get the manager’s attention, but she was on the phone and didn’t want to deal with her. I thought to myself, “What kind of customer service is this?”

I asked the little old lady, “What’s wrong?” She explained the whole situation to me, and we decided it would be smart to call the credit card company before someone else would use the card to spend “$80,000” as she worriedly said.

Since the two 7-11 workers had given her the cold shoulder, treating her like she didn’t matter, I decided it was the right thing to do to help calm her down. First I tried looking under a stack of flyers on the counter, thinking maybe it was under there. Nope.

Next, I used my eyes to scan the candy bar shelf underneath the counter. Amazingly, I spotted a credit card in one of the candy bar boxes. I reached for it, presented it to the lady, and said, “Is this your card?”

She went from exasperated to at ease in an instant.

She looked into my eyes and asked, “Are you an angel?”

I smiled and replied something like, “Today I guess I am your angel.” She asked me my name, and told me hers was Rose. We hugged. People waiting behind me in line were near tears, so encouraged by this.

We walked out of that 7-11 together and I told her to not worry about the rude lady on the phone who ignored her. She mentioned, “Here comes the rain,” as we both got in our cars to head home.

It’s the little things that matter. Awards and money will come and go, but helping ease the fear of a little old lady is God’s work, and I’d encourage you, dear reader, to have a compassionate attitude when you’re in line at the store and someone near you is having trouble. Moments like those are our chance to shine God’s light and love on situations, and that’s a most beautiful thing. –Mark Weber