Sermon: Easter Vigil 2017

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*Delivered at Chaplains on the Harbor, Westport WA on April 15, 2017*

“Haunt Rome Until It Falls”

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Happy Easter! Jesus lives! What a guy!
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The same Jesus who was just arrested on Thursday, beaten by the police, and executed by his government on Friday in the same way they killed rebellious slaves– he’s not dead anymore. The most powerful, brutal empire in world history couldn’t keep him in the grave. He was poor, he was homeless, people called him names, he was a nobody to the rich and powerful– until he started shaking things up, telling them to go sell all their possessions and give the money to the poor. That’s when they decided they had to make him a nobody– permanently. They tried. They failed! He got up out of the ground, praise God!
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He leaves the tomb empty, and where’s the first place he goes? Does anyone remember, from the story we just heard? Yes– he goes to meet two of his closest friends, Mary and Mary. The ones who stuck with him to the bitter end, who saw him killed, who must have been terrified but (unlike all the men disciples) refused to run away.  He comes back to them, and what does he tell them? “Don’t be afraid. Tell my brothers the same.” He wants them to keep going, to not quit. They still have a job to do, even though he’s gone– to keep up the work he started with them of feeding the hungry, healing the sick, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoners, binding up the brokenhearted.
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This part is really important. That holy work doesn’t begin and end with Jesus. Maybe it begins with Jesus, but then he hands it off to the Marys, who hand it on down to someone else and each generation picks it up until it gets to us. Meanwhile, we keep losing a lot of incredible children of God in each generation– we keep losing wonderful people to the same cruelty that killed Jesus. But when we say Jesus lives, and Jesus will come again in glory to judge the living and dead, we also mean that every beautiful life stolen away from us by poverty, war, and state violence will also come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

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Spencer Williams, a homeless Native elder living on the streets of Aberdeen who was killed after being hit by a car– with no news coverage or investigation into his death– will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
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Sarah Palmer, a 35 year old disabled woman living in an adult group home who was tazed to death by the Hoquiam police, will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
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Zach Vester, 24 years old, who died of pneumonia after being turned away from Aberdeen and Chehalis hospitals because they profiled him as drug user, will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
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Brooke Sandback, 35, chased into the Hoquiam River by police and drowned, will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
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Betty Murray and Pa Bailey, both evicted from the Harvard apartments in Aberdeen while they were dying of cancer, will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
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Every kid dead from an overdose because it’s easier to get heroin than it is to get housing or a job or decent health care in Grays Harbor County will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
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Every poor person killed by rich people’s wars will come again to judge the living and the dead.
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They will come again because we will carry them with us. Just as we carry Jesus with us. They will come to us in the times we are afraid, the times we feel like we can’t go on, the times we feel ashamed and humiliated– just like Jesus came again to Mary and Mary.
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We will raise them from the dead every single time we see a cop beating on a homeless person and we say NO.
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We will raise them from the dead every time we see somebody being treated wrong or discriminated against simply because they’ve used drugs.
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We stand shoulder to shoulder with the souls of all our beloved dead, especially the ones gone too soon, every time we stand up against this system that makes the rich so very rich and keeps the poor hungry, sick and dying. We’ll raise them up every time we insist that it doesn’t have to be this way, and every time we do our own part to make it different.
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Easter means: as long as we’re here together and still doing the work of God, still demanding some good news for poor people, the empire hasn’t won yet. As long as we’re choosing to pick up the work left to us by Jesus, Mary, Mary, Spencer, Sarah, Zach, Brooke, Betty, Pa and so many others– the resurrection is a flesh and blood truth. It’s hard work. You all know this. I know you know it, because we’ve done it together. It’s hard to stand up for the rights of homeless people when everybody is calling you names, threatening you, even assaulting you. It’s hard to work together as a community when we don’t agree with each other and when we all make mistakes. But I see you, and I see how you keep doing it here. It’s the very same work Jesus did. So I know he lives. I know the resurrection is real. And I know we’re going to keep working and together, with Jesus and all our beloved dead pushing us forward, we’re gonna haunt the hell out of this system until the day when nobody’s poor. When nobody’s homeless. When nobody’s suffering from violence. When everybody, the world over, has what they need to live a good life.
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About aaron

Catechist at Chaplains on the Harbor.
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