A churchless sermon for Easter

BY ANDREW TAYLOR-TROUTMAN, Columnist
Posted 3/31/21

I am a Christian pastor and a believer in the Resurrection. I capitalize “Resurrection” in reference to the faith of the church that a man named Jesus was raised from the dead.

For this …

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A churchless sermon for Easter

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Posted

I am a Christian pastor and a believer in the Resurrection. I capitalize “Resurrection” in reference to the faith of the church that a man named Jesus was raised from the dead.

For this churchless sermon, intended for readers who do not necessarily share my faith or tradition, I use lowercase “resurrection” not in a dismissive or pejorative way, but to indicate the general sense of the word — a resurrection means “to rise again” and can refer to many different things or events.

This is the season of Easter, but resurrections occur all the time. Think of the rising of the sun as the resurrection of the day. Think of the resurrections during the spring season — greening trees and blooming flowers after the cold, bare winter.

Again, I do not write to discredit such resurrections. They may even save lives.

That’s why, when I want to hear a resurrection sermon, I listen to addicts.

I know people, blessed and broken like all of us, who display the rare courage to talk about death and their own death-dealing impulses — their bents for self-destructiveness, shame spirals and cavernous holes of regret. It is only by naming such chasms that they believe they can keep from falling back into them. Alcoholics Anonymous claims, “We must face who we are, else we die.”

It is also true the first steps of AA are to admit powerlessness over addiction and believe that a Higher Power brings recovery from addiction and resurrection to new life. Likewise, the New Testament is clear that the Resurrection of Jesus was an act by a Higher Power — a force greater than nature. Humans cannot bring life from death any more than we can spin the Earth through space and recreate spring.

But it is clear to me from listening to addicts preach that resurrections still require human effort. That is a lesson for all of us.

This Easter, I have heard many people hoping for a return to “normal” after the COVID-19 pandemic. Next year, I hope it will be safe to gather in churches for Sunday worship.

It is also clear that the world outside the walls of our sanctuaries needs our attention. We need to face some painful truths about what is “normal” in our community.

In the fall of 2020, the Chatham County Public Health Department released a study of “health disparities” — preventable differences in health outcomes between groups in our society. Disparities occur across many dimensions, including race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, location, gender, disability status and sexual orientation. Even before the coronavirus, “normal” was often unjust and inequitable.

Like any addict, the society that has created and perpetuated these “disparities” must first face the truth about itself. We cannot return to the status quo or business as usual. Once we name the injustices and inequalities, we must rise up to transform them.

I wrap up this churchless sermon by noting that writer Flannery O’Connor claimed “everything that rises must converge.” May people of all faiths work together to address disparities and bring about a new day for justice and equality. May it be so: amen.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church and author of Gently Between the Words: Essays and Poems. He is currently working from home with his wife and three children.

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