The Episcopal Church of the Holy Innocents
This Is What God Does Easter Sermon 4/21/2019 By the Rev. Daniel W. Hinkle +
Scripture: Luke 24:1 - 12
Sermon: Well, I have a confession to make this morning. I like movies, and I love American Westerns, especially a good shoot ’em up. And my favorite Western hero is a kind of dark hero. You can’t always tell if he’s a “good guy,.. or a bad guy with a gun.” Can anyone guess who he might be? Yup. Clint. Clint Eastwood. He’s my man. A real man’s man. And a real lady’s man, I reckon. Right, ladies? I thought so. I can see you’re all blushin’. Haha.
I like all of Clint’s movies, but one of my favorites is “The Outlaw Josey Wales.” It’s set during the year’s immediately following the American Civil War. Josey Wales is a simple farmer torn away from his simple life and thrown into the Civil War. At the end of the war, his wife and son are killed by a gang of rogue “Red Leg” soldiers. Left with nothing but his rage, Josey Wales teams up with another gang, tracks many of those “Red Leggers” down, and kills them one by one and anyone else who gets in his way.
His reputation grows after he kills an army of men with a Gatling gun. Bounties are placed on his head and it becomes harder for him to find safe harbor. He finds peace with a group of wagon train pioneers, and makes peace with the local Indians, but his past catches up with him in a typically bloody fashion.
Revenge is a complex beast. Often it consumes the one seeking it as surely as it does those being hunted. One common theme among all such stories is the emptiness of revenge. Once it’s found, do you truly feel better? Nevertheless, revenge is the way our world works. It’s what we humans do.
And I think it’s what Peter expected when he learned of Jesus’ resurrection. Like the other men, he didn’t want to believe what the women reported from the angels. It was too scary. So, the women’s testimony was dismissed as an idle tale. Peter had to see the empty tomb for himself. Even then he went home amazed, not quite sure what had happened, perhaps even hoping it hadn’t.
After all, Peter had betrayed Jesus. Indeed, everyone had betrayed Jesus, either openly by crying out for him to be crucified, or quietly by slinking away at his arrest. And now, if Jesus were truly back from the dead, there’d be hell to pay. No wonder St. Mark depicts the women running away from the empty tomb in fear when they learn of Jesus’ resurrection.
But revenge is not the way of God. Jesus is no Josey Wales. God knows that he suffered as much if not more. No! The resurrection is God’s resounding “NO!” to our ways of violence and revenge. The resurrection is God’s clear voiced “YES!” to us despite our sinful ways.
This is what God does, and it’s very Good News indeed!