In which Easter comes and the secret is out
“Christ is risen!”
“He is risen indeed!”
The sanctuary was full and all the hymn numbers were correct. The service moved along at a good pace, the visitors satisfied with the lilies and brass, the children happy with their Easter baskets, and Claire a wreck as she made her way to the pulpit.
It was John’s Easter story that day. As much as she loved the ambiguity of Mark’s version, she needed the sweetness of John’s story if she was going to make it through.
The board had been stunned by her story, as she expected, but the presence of Alice and Bill Carr and Toledo helped. There had been a lot of follow up conversations, but as the days led up to Easter, Claire sensed a crackling in the air, a sense of anticipation by those who knew. And now the moment had arrived. Time to tell the Good News, and the good news.
“Friends, I bring you greetings! It is a great and glorious day, this Easter, as we hear anew the story of God’s love for us. Some have said that Easter is God’s joke on the Devil; some say Easter is God’s last word against sin and death. But this morning I invite us all to think of Easter as God’s truth-telling. Sin will not end us. Death will not end us. God gives us life, and that is the truth.
“Throughout this Lenten season, we here at St. Rahab’s have been on a journey of truth-telling, examining those places in our lives where we have needed to be honest with ourselves or with each other, or honest about our community and the world. We have admitted things we held in secret. We have confessed lies. We have looked at the truth of what is whole and what is broken in our midst.
“Today I would like to tell you a truth, a truth that has been covered up for years and years by well-intended lies. It is the truth about followers of God bringing light and hope and pardon and joy and faith and love into the world. It is an amazing story, and while its beginning long precedes St. Rahab’s, this truth has always been a part of St. Rahab’s, hidden in the shadows, but an undercurrent to all that we do here.
“It all began with a world in crisis, and with a desire on the part of a few to try to make a difference in the wounds of the world. When St. Rahab’s enters the story, it is because of our founding pastor, Reverend Bouvier, who had for a few years been a part of an underground spy ring whose charge was to live out the prayer of St. Francis – ‘make me an instrument of Thy peace’, the hymn we sang just before the sermon.
“It’s because of the work that Reverend Bouvier and others did that this church got its name, after the woman in the book of Joshua who hides the Israelite spies. For ninety years, St. Rahab’s has hidden a group of spies in a room everyone thought was nothing more than a dank tunnel that led nowhere, its end having been blocked long ago.
“In fact, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a room where a group of faithful people meet, sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly, year after year, sharing stories of people in need and making a plan to bring them some hope. Some of these Saints you know – our sexton is one of them. Our very own Church Lady Alice Weston is one of them. For those of you who love the Steel Horse Diner, Sandy is one of them. My best friend from Minneapolis is one of them, as is one of our frequent visitors….
“I wasn’t supposed to find out about them. It had been a long time since any of the church’s pastors knew about these spies for hope in their midst. But because I had left a candle burning and came back to the church late one Saturday night to blow it out – because of light shining in the darkness, I found out. And eventually I decided to share this secret, and I have our board’s blessing, and the blessing of the Saint Spies, in doing so today.
“Now I will admit that one of the reasons I decided to share this good news with you today of all days, today on Easter, is because the lying it took to keep this work secret was taking its toll. Lying does that. But more than that, I wanted to share this good news with you today, of all days, because what these people have been doing in our midst, for decades, is the work of Easter people, the work of people who have chosen not to believe the lies of the world which says that death is the end and violence is the only way and sin can’t be beaten – no! They choose not to believe that and they choose not to live that.
“These saints – some of whom I have come to know quite well – these saints believe the truth of God’s love and God’s light. They believe that God wants good in this world – that God gave St. Francis a call and St. Francis gave them words to live out, centuries ago, words that the world needs today….
“I know for some of you this is a shock, and maybe this good news will put you in the right frame of mind for how Mary felt that Easter morning so long ago. She was shocked when the tomb was empty. She was shocked that the gardener did not know where the body lay. And she was shocked – shocked and blessed and jubilant – when she learned the truth of who that Gardener was….
“He is risen. He is risen indeed! That’s good news enough for today.”
And Claire sat down. The truth was out. And then, to her amazement, someone stood up and began to clap. And another someone stood up. And another, and another, and another, until the entire congregation was on its feet, clapping and cheering and ready. Claire smiled at Toledo, in his usual place on the front pew, and he winked at her. Alice put her hand on her heart and nodded. Trystene, sitting near the back with Robbie and her parents, gave her two thumbs up. Emma blew her a kiss.
But Gladys and Bill did nothing, because they weren’t there that day.