Sermon Archives

Sunday, March 27, 2016
The Resurrection of our Lord
The Reverend Andrew Van Culin, Rector
Easter Day 2016 - We Thirst

In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Less than 48 hours ago Christians across the globe gathered to hear again the tragic account of Jesus’ arrest and betrayal, and the agony of his crucifixion and death. Some gathered on mountainsides under the stark shadow of three crosses as if bystanders to that gallows event; others walked the streets of their towns and communities retracing, as it were, his unfaultering steps that led to Golgatha, that hallowed place called a skull; some, no doubt, read this story again in silence, perhaps even a bit hidden from others, to privately consider again Jesus death for betrayer and disciple alike; still others, by far the largest number, would have been too busy with the ordinary demands of life to have to have done much than reflect for a moment or two in the business of life to remember a gift once and always given.

Others, of course, gathered in simple churches such as this, to quietly listen to and retell the sacred story, making their own solemn procession to the foot of the cross to offer themselves, for the first time or perhaps the thirty third time, in repentant gratitude for the one laid down before us.

Regardless of how we may have spent these last days, whether we watched or heard or read, or simply remembered again the account of Jesus passion and death, there are likely to have been a few points of particularly familiar remembrance: a crown of cruelly woven thorns, a cocks crow and a friend’s sorrow and shame, a jeering crowd and an acquiescing governor, and, of course, a wooden cross and a few last words:

  • Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.
  • Today you will be with me in paradise
  • Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.
  • I thirst.

While any one of these images and words from Jesus’ last hours of life surely provides us a pathway into the mystery and meaning of this festive day, it is the last of these, those final words of distress uttered by a parched and thirsting man strung out to die, that ought to catch us up today.

On the surface of things they seem so foreign to us. In a society today in which fresh water is conveniently bottled and readily at hand on nearly every corner of our lives, who would fault us for thinking that all that thirsts for water are the cut flowers and beautiful gardens that decorate our lives and our homes.

But pause for but a little while, be still long enough for the distractions of our mind and phones to subside, and we will begin to remember again just how thirsty we are.

There is no doubt in my mind that, in spite of the beauty of our lives, our thirst runs deep. We thirst, do we not, for calm waters of rest? In the frenzied life of work and families, lives that take us from our bed to our car, to offices and to meetings, to rushed meals and even more hurried conversations with those closest to us, before we sink again into our beds with racing minds . . . we thirst.

We thirst desperately, however, for rest from more than simple business. We thirst, too, do we not, for a rest from the pervading anxieties of our life. We thirst from a rest from the fear of our ever-present mortality presses upon us with greater weight each and every passing day. We thirst, too, for rest from the anxieties that stem from our ever present desire to succeed and society that has perverted our understanding of the necessities of life. Where the basics of life were once clean water, healthy food, and safe lodging, today include a well-stocked bar, a pantry that will see us not only through winter but spring summer and fall as well, and house that will includes a multi-car garage, a guest bedroom or two, and a Florida room for the cold of winter. These now are the basics of our lives, and with them come untold anxieties.

We thirst for a peace which this world cannot give. We thirst for a quietness that even darkness does not provide.

We thirst, too, I am convinced, for something more in our relationships. We long for something in our relationships that social media can never fill. We thirst, do we not, for such substantive love in our relationships, not only with a spouse or partner, but with our friends and community, a love in which the reality of our life not only is known, but is received with grace and affection. In a world of carefully cultivated personas – profiles, in today’s vernacular – in a world in which we constantly Photoshop the images of our selves that others see, ensuring that only the beautiful or flattering or touching images are presented for comment and likes, we yearn, we thirst for so much more.

We thirst for those true friendships in which we have been laid bare. We thirst for those embracing and transforming and life-giving relationships in which our imperfections and inadequacies, not only of body, but of our skill and even of our personality and temperament, are known yet forgiven on account of love and affection.
We thirst for a depth of relationship that is not found in any number of facebook likes or friends. We thirst for a love capable of loving all of us, a love capable of receiving us not only in our youthful beauty, but even in our failures and unsightliness.

We must consider ourselves fortunate if that is all for which we thirst; if all that we lack is peace and love.

Sadly, however, there are too many in our world who thirst, too, for the basic needs of life: for clean water and healthy food; for good education and the safety to be publically their true selves – be it the expression of their faith or their sexuality; there are those who thirst every day for a world free of violence and terror, be it in the privacy of their homes or along the roads and alleys of their communities.

Tragically, we live a world that is parched and gasping for the waters of basic human life.

As Jesus hung upon that cross so long ago, parched and gasping himself, he utter a word that is among the most human words of all, “I thirst.”

And this morning is God’s response, and like so many things with God, there are two parts.

God, of course, commits to doing God’s part. You will notice that, at the center of our life this morning – and every Easter morning for that matter – lies the Baptismal font, a font filled with a water no quick-stop convenience store sells. To a thirsty world, God offers water from a spring of life that quenches a thirst that transcends our bodies. Here in the waters of Baptism we are promised, first, a relationship unlike any other. We are promised a relationship with love as its foundation, a relationship that promises love not only in our childlike innocence, but even through the pain we cause throughout the course of our life; a Love that offers forgiveness and mercy even in the face of our betrayals of self and one another, and ultimately of God. Here in our baptism we are invited into a different life, freed from the desperate frenzy by which we vainly strive for immortality and success, and so in our baptism we are invited to rest. Here in our Baptism we are invited to rest, confident in God’s promise to meet death in all its forms with life.

But there is our part, too. We are part of God’s response today. Crazy as it sounds, you are part of God’s plan to quench the thirst of this world. You, individually, and we as a community, are called to live a different life, to live a life – and to invite others to know and live this life as well – we are called to live a life that aspires not simply to success and acquisition, but to a life that overflows with Love, pouring itself out into the world. We are challenged to live with, to share and to make real, that same Love that loved us first, to form relationships on the firm foundation of love and affection, to develop relationships that receive another not merely in our youthful beauty, but even in our failures and unsightliness. This is to love as God loves us.

And yes, we are called to provide water in all its forms to those who thirst for the basic needs of life. We are called – not merely because we are Christians, though it is fundamental to our life of faith – we are called because we are bound to one another as tightly and as closely as a sister is to a brother, to meet the needs of the suffering and dispossessed in our society. Whether it is water for family in Flint, or a thirsty child in country far from here, the thirst our sisters and brothers have for the basic needs of life are ours to meet.

I thirst, says Jesus. The world thirsts with him.

May we drink today from the waters of life.

May we serve those same waters of life tomorrow.