Sermon Preached by the Rev. Fulton Porter, III
April 4, 2010
The Feast of the Resurrection (Easter Day)
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Several years before the recent economic collapse in the
Enron has become a by-word for corporate irresponsibility. It had been a company on the rise. The company was able to boast
The company had published a social and environmental report, which looked at the moves it was taking with regard to its environmental impact, its employee relations, its anti-corruption and bribery policies, and its community relations programs.
In this report, CEO Kenneth Lay described how the company's behaviors were guided by its vision and values: specifically, respect, integrity and excellence. The firm projected itself as a highly profitable, growing company - an image which quickly turned out to be an elaborate mistruth. Enron's statements about profits were shown to be untrue, with massive debts concealed so that they didn't show up in the company's accounts. And Arthur Andersen, the former auditing giant, collapsed after being found guilty of deliberately destroying evidence of its relationship with Enron; shredding documents.
And amidst the flying shreds of paper, and between all the lies and the deception, thousands of lives and thousands of families were affected; thousands of futures were destroyed and pensions evaporated into thin air, as Enron collapsed under the weight of their own dishonesty. And I believe Enron was the first domino in chain of events which has been the economic collapse of this country; it was simply the beginning of the uncovering of the corporate greed that has threatened to destroy the economic fabric of this country and has destroyed countless lives in the wake of record unemployment.
And so we have even defined this age as the Enron age. And we have alluded to this time in the history of this country as the post-Enron era. The word “Enron” has come to men cover-up and scandal. Those involved in the Enron scandal tried to cover up the facts. They tried to live as though certain things had not happened and certain realities were not real. But in the end, they couldn’t.
In the scriptures there are many instances of people trying to cover up the truth. There are instances of scandal of Enron proportions that occurred during the reign of David as king of
The Old Testament book of Joshua tells us about the cover-up of Achan. Achan was a soldier and had gone off into battle and come back and was supposed to give the trinkets gained in war to God as a thank offering but he kept some of the loot for himself. He kept two hundred pieces of silver, a bar of gold, and a beautiful wood carving from
You may recall in the book of acts, another attempt at cover-up and book-cooking. It seems that Ananias and Saphira wanted to gain a reputation for being generous, while minimizing the sacrifice necessary to gain that reputation. So they tinkered with the truth and made themselves out to be more generous than they really were. They told Peter that they had sold a piece of land and given all of the proceeds to the church. But Peter discerned that they were lying because they had held something back for themselves. And for their lies, God struck them both dead. Cover-up is death.
Even as we read the Resurrection story, we must understand that prior to the resurrection was an attempt at a cover-up the truth. If you read your bible, you will note that when Jesus was crucified, the religious leaders remembered his promise to rise again. They said that they did not believe his promise, but they feared that the Lord’s disciples would be devious regarding the resurrection promise as they had been in executing the plan to crucify him. So in order to prevent the disciples from stealing Jesus’ body from his tomb, they asked Pilate to secure it against theft.
Pilate appointed soldiers to guard the tomb and they rolled a huge stone in its entrance. Like Enron and David and Achan and Ananias and Saphira, they secured truth and righteousness in a tomb as best they could.
But sooner or later, beloved, we are going to learn that there is no human security system against truth, righteousness and the promises of God. No pack of lies or cover-up can bury the truth forever. No amount or wrongdoing can bury goodness and righteousness forever. No earthly power can prevent God’s promises from being fulfilled when God is ready. Today as we remember the 42nd anniversary of his assassination I am reminded of the words of Martin King when he said that truth crushed to earth shall rise again.
And so we come now upon the women who came to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus early on the first day of the week. When they had come to the tomb, they found the stone rolled away and they looked inside for Jesus, but he was not there. And two angels suddenly appeared and asked them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” And so the women went back to tell everyone that Jesus had risen like he had promised.
But meanwhile, if you read further in the Gospel of Matthew, the soldiers who guarded the tomb went into the city to tell the religious leaders and chief priests everything that had happened, and so they called an emergency meeting with all the elders to determine what they should do. And so came the attempt at cover-up. The Chief priests and elders devised a plan to pay off the soldiers with a bribe telling them to say that Jesus’ disciples came at night and stole his body while they were asleep. And so they took the money and participated in the cover-up.
It was no surprise that these supposed men of God would stoop to bribery to try to discredit God. After all, they had already lied and connived and threatened and intimidated to destroy Jesus. Instead of having open ears to hear what God was saying through Jesus, they let their jealousy and insecurity get in the way. And when we let jealousy and insecurity get hold of us, we get started down the road to wrong. When Jesus shot holes in their criticism, and injured their ego, they began to plot his downfall. They had already bribed one of Jesus’ disciples with 30 pieces of silver to betray him. They broke all the rules of their high court in order to convict Jesus. They slandered him with trumped up accusations in order to charge him in front of Pilate. When Pilate wanted to clear Jesus, they threatened to report him to Caesar as incompetent. When Pilate offered to release a prisoner because of Passover they chose a thief, Barabbas, over Jesus. They once again engaged in bribery to cover up the truth. It is no surprise, then, that the cover-up continued. They were living in a Good Friday world.
Good Friday was humanity’s darkest day. When one thinks of how unjust the crucifixion was, when one thinks of just how cruel it was, one could easily get the impression that might makes right, truth forever on the scaffold and wrong forever on the throne, justice is a joke and righteousness doesn’t matter. When one looks at the horror Good Friday, one could get the impression that God turned his face from the creation he had made and we have been left to be manipulated by the power of evil. When one looks at Good Friday, one might think that power and money rule the world.
When one looks at Good Friday, it would appear that we can do whatever we are big enough to do without consequences as long as we have the money and the power. Some folks think this is a Good Friday world, where wrong conquers right and evil conquers good and Enrons can have their way with the lives of ordinary folks. Some folks think that we live in a Good Friday world where anything goes and we have no soul to save. Some folks think this is a Good Friday world, where we can walk over folk and treat our neighbors any way that we feel like. Some nations think this is a Good Friday world where they can wage war on whatever country we want, lie about the reason, and get away with it. Some folks think this is a Good Friday World where violence and drugs and drive-by’s are acceptable. Some folks think this is a Good Friday World, where sin and suffering have permission to walk all over us. Some folks think this is a Good Friday world, where it seems that we are hopeless against the sad situations and calamitous conditions that face our individual lives; a world where our problems will always get the best of us and where our blessings are forever elusive.
Some of us in here today have lost hope, because we think this is a Good Friday world. There are those who act as if nothing happened beyond Good Friday. But God is trying to tell us something today. God is trying to tell us on this Easter Sunday morning that the cover-up, the hoax perpetuated by the religious folks of Jesus’ day did not work. The hoax and cover-up that Satan tried to pull over on us in the Garden of Eden did not work. God is trying to tell us that there is something beyond Good Friday. And so I came to declare to you today that the hoax didn’t work. The soldiers may have sold out, Enron may have sold out, your boss may have sold out, your friends and family may have sold out, but the women at the tomb did not sell out. They went and spread the word that Jesus has risen, and this is no longer a Good Friday world but this is an Easter Sunday world. Jesus Got up from the grave early on Sunday morning and he lives, never more to die. Not the Easter Bunny, but the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
And the song writer says that because he lives, we can face tomorrow, because we live in an Easter World.
God Friday folks and an evil world did not prevent Jesus from rising from the dead. Wrong and cover-up did not stop Jesus from pushing that stone away and joining the two disciples as they walked the road to Emmaus and prompting them to declare, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road?” Wrong and cover-up could not prevent Jesus, in his glorified body, from standing among the frightened disciples as they were hold up in the upper room and saying to fearful hearts, “Peace be with you.”
I declare to you today, my brothers and sisters, that this is not a Good Friday world, but this is the world of the risen Christ, who beat back the powers of evil and darkness and is alive forevermore!
While some may live as if this world is governed by the darkness of Good Friday, I have come to declare to you this morning that something has superseded Good Friday.
It is Easter! It is an Easter faith that rejoices in the reality of the risen Lord- a Lord of hope love and forgiveness; a Lord of might and Mercy, repentance and salvation. It is Easter! And Jesus is
If having an Easter faith means anything, it means that we can look beyond Good Friday sin, Good Friday cover-up, Good Friday hopelessness, Good Friday pain, Good Friday violence, Good Friday injustice, Good Friday cruelty, Good Friday corruption, Good Friday bitterness- and see that Jesus reigns above it all- and so we can keep on rejoicing even when there is Good Friday all around.
We can look beyond tensions in our church and know that nobody can stop the purposes of God.Nobody can stop God’s progress. We can look beyond tensions of Black and White. We can even look beyond some mean spirited remarks from one political group that would call esteemed Congressman John Lewis a nigger because he and others voted to extend to the underprivileged the basic human right of health care, and know that God’s purposes will be worked out and have been worked out- and keep on rejoicing. We can look beyond the tensions and see Jesus reigning as the Lord of history and the Prince of Peace- and keep on rejoicing.
With an Easter faith, we can look beyond our problems and see Jesus reigning as a problem solver- and keep on rejoicing. With an Easter faith, we can look beyond unemployment and see Jesus reigning with the power to make a way somehow- and keep on rejoicing. With an Easter faith, we can look beyond sickness and see Jesus reigning as a healer- and keep on rejoicing. With an Easter faith, we can look beyond death and see Jesus reigning as the resurrection and the life- and keep on rejoicing!
Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!