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  • The Rev. Arianne Rice

God’s Almighty Hug – Alleluia!

Easter Sunday 4/4/21

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Good morning. It’s such a joy to be here together. I’m going to be getting used to it for awhile. Honestly I don’t want to rush back to taking it for granted. Regathering is definitely akin to resurrection. A gift – a verb - a process. And I pray we look to those first disciples in their resurrection season as our example.

Alleluia indeed. We can think of alleluia as another way of saying thank you. To praise the Lord – is to give thanks to the Lord. The ring of truth that Alleluia holds comes from bursting forth from a heart where praise cannot be contained.

At a service that is also known as a liturgy of the resurrection, but yet very different than this one – at the point in the service when the gathered commend a person’s body and spirit to God – the priest says - yet even at the grave we make our song – Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

That is where today begins. Not a grave but an empty tomb – where they were supposed to find the one who came to save.

Salvation in a way never imagined – never expected – and not really wanted either. Jesus saves not with power as we think of it – but with the power of love - born of and through our humanity. Jesus shows us not how to be God – but how to be human.

One of the more frequent occurrences I’m noticing, as we start come out, cautiously and wisely into the next phase of this pandemic – knowing we are not out of the woods yet – but as we’re enjoying some newfound freedoms I’m noticing some newfound awareness of something we humans do all the time.

Arianne – do you know what the best part of seeing my mother – or friend – or grandchild – was – being able to give them a hug!

The simple gift of being able to wrap our arms around a person we love who we had to see from a distance for so long. In the course of this pandemic in my house we got a guinea pig because my daughter told me – I can’t hug any of my friends and if I don’t have something to hug other than you and dad, I’m going to go crazy.

What is it about a hug that is so satisfying? Just pretend you met someone who had no idea what a hug was. It’s easy to explain the mechanics of it – but how would you explain why hugs matter, why we need them? How would you convey that joyful sense of full presence that a hug brings? (Heart to heart)

At an earlier point in Jesus’ ministry – when all the adults think he is too busy for little ones – Jesus says – let the little children come unto me – and we imagine all of them running into open arms – with embraces of wholehearted joy.

Just as an Alleluia bursts forth from a praise-filled heart – wrapping someone in our arms – or being held in arms we’ve missed – embodies that overflowing joyful gratitude.

I’m not a neuroscientist – and I didn’t google this one for hours – but surely hugs release endorphins and memories – of when we were held as children. Held by the one we knew loved us – and would save us if saving was what we needed.

When Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb – in those predawn hours – and finds it empty – she bolts. Of course she does. One can only imagine the shock and adrenaline that propelled her to run and find her friends –her small community – to bear witness, help make sense of what she was told but didn’t expect.

And when she runs back, now joined by Peter and the unnamed, beloved disciple – they don’t fully believe resurrection has occurred. Who would? It confounds belief? It’s not reasonable or rationale?

Peter leaves – I don’t think he knows what’s going on. He needs to process. The unnamed disciple – believes but does not understand – so he goes away to sort it out.

But Mary – Mary Magdalene – she is all about staying present. And maybe her presence at the cross the day before finally catches up with her. Because she gives in to what none of us ever like giving into – she weeps.

I wonder if that is what those angels were waiting for? It seems God often waits until we’re at the end of our rope to let us know we’re not alone. Or actually – God is there all the time – and sometimes, when we finally give up and give in –those tears are just what we need to be able to see.

Why are you weeping? The angels ask her. “Why do you think?” would be my translation of her answer. And then she sees – but doesn’t yet recognize – until she hears her name.

The Good Shepherd promises we will always know when we are being called by name – we will always recognize that voice. And she does.

And what does Mary do – she runs over and gives Jesus a hug. Bursting forth from her humanity – she runs to love! She grabs hold of salvation – and I’m certain she wanted to stay present and hold to Jesus forever.

But oh – resurrection is a future-oriented movement that reorients and regathers us for what is new. Resurrection is not about what was – but what is to come. Resurrection is a go-tell-it on the mountain – moment – even when you are at an empty tomb.

“Do not hold onto me” Jesus says – you have to let me go. And you have to run to your community – your brothers and sisters. Grab hold of them – give bear hugs galore and tell them the good news! Jesus Christ is risen today alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

We don’t need to hold onto to Jesus – because God is always holding onto us. That’s the good news of Easter – that’s why even at the grave we make our song alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Death has no dominion – the light shines in the darkness – and the light is what breaks through.

When you and I wrap our hearts and minds and arms around the smallest gifts of connection, compassion, mercy, forgiveness – we participate in resurrection. The world needs us to do so now more than ever – needs us as we come together as we come together and regather – and reorient – and hopefully – reprioritize what matters in our one precious – human – and holy life.

Go and tell – go and praise – go and embrace those who needs some embracing today and tomorrow and the day after that. Alleluia. Christ is Risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

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