Zofran uses

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine asked on Facebook what we would say if we had to Tweet the Good News of God in Christ Jesus on Easter morning.[1]

You all know what Twitter is, right? It’s that instant messaging service in which you can say whatever you want in 140 characters or less, including spaces and punctuation.

I have to be honest: I have not been a fan of Twitter. I find it to be terribly narcissistic, that most of what goes out to the world is useless, vainglorious nattering.

But Twitter now has a place in our lives. Look at the role it has played in the Arab Spring … in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon and Syria. More than 26 million Americans alone use Twitter … tens of millions more people use it around the world, and tens and tens of millions more people follow it without every posting a thing.

Which means that if we can come up with a really, really, really great Tweet on Easter, we could reach tens of millions. And if our Tweet is really, really, really, really great, we can reach maybe even hundreds of millions of people!

All we have to do is figure out what to say about the Risen Lord in 140 characters or less … including spaces and punctuation.

So here’s our challenge on this Easter morning:

What should we say?

How should we announce the greatness of this day?

The Women arriving at the Tomb, by He Qi.

Should we edit Peter down and say, “Jesus Christ is Lord of all, raised from the dead on day three. He is ordained by God as judge of all. All who believe receive forgiveness”? (That’s 138 characters, by the way.)

Meh … too complex.

Perhaps we could turn to the Psalmist: “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! The right hand of the Lord is exalted! This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”? (That’s 139 characters.) But … that’s not quite clear, is it? And it is very triumphalist. So this won’t work either.

Now we could quote Paul, the apostle who never met Jesus in the flesh, only the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus. His Tweet could read: “You have been raised with Christ. Set your minds on things above where Christ is. For you have died, your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Ha! That one is exactly 140 characters!)

Um … I’m thinking this isn’t the good news we were looking for.

So what about quoting the Risen Lord himself? “Jesus says: Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Ninety-five characters – pretty concise.) Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell people that Christ is risen, does it?

There’s the message from the angel: “Do not be afraid. He is not here. He has been raised.” That’s fairly straight-forward, and it only takes 53 characters.

It is Good News, but is it enough? Does it really convey what we want it to convey? Is it enough to convince people that this is the Good News of their lives? I don’t think so.

So even though we know what the Gospel, the Good News of God in Christ Jesus, is and what it means, we still don’t have a message to Tweet that is good news for our readers.

And we do want to convey good news, because this is our job. We don’t just get the Good News this morning … we have to give it as well. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, on the day he died for us, “It is finished.” He was saying that his work on this earth was done, and now he was turning it over to us.

Make no mistake: This is our job. We have to spread the Good News to a world that does  not know the Good News is even there! There’s a whole world out there that hasn’t quite gotten the message. For far too many people, this day isn’t about resurrection. It’s about Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies!

But Jesus gave us this job, and we’d better get working.

So tell you what.

Let’s roll up our sleeves, and let’s build a Tweet together.

Let’s figure out how to share with the whole world the Good News we receive on this holiest day of our lives.

We can start with the words of the ancient song, the Exsultet, which can only be sung on Easter.

The Empty Tomb, by He Qi.

 

(chant)

Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels,

And let your trumpets shout salvation

For the victory of our mighty king.

Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth,

Bright with a glorious splendor,

For darkness has been vanquish’d by our eternal King.

Rejoice and be glad now, Mother Church,

And let your holy courts, in radiant light,

Resound with the praises of your people.

That’s a pretty good message, don’t you think?

A little long, though … it kind of blows the 140-character limit.

So let’s reduce it down.

Let’s just make the first part of our Tweet say, “Rejoice!” That’s eight characters – still plenty of room to work with.

But to be effective, we have to be clear why we’re rejoicing.

What is it that makes us so happy on this holy day?

Is it the knowledge that Jesus died for us? For each of us? Personally?

Yes. But what does that mean?

That God loves us, perhaps?

That is why Jesus died for us, you know – because he loved us.

So I think that might be the next part of the message.

God loves you.

That’s another 14 characters, so we’re still in good shape.

But even though that message has been repeated many times before, there are still some people who don’t quite believe that God loves them. Some people don’t believe Jesus died for them, and others say, “Yeah, OK, he died for us, but how does that prove that God loves us?”

Well, we have that answer, don’t we? It’s pretty simple, actually:

Jesus’ tomb is empty.

(chant)

This is the night,

When Christ broke the bonds of death and hell,

And rose victorious from the grave.

The women went to the tomb on the third day so they could anoint Jesus’ body, but he wasn’t there. He was gone. It was the angel who told them the God’s-honest truth: He has been raised from the dead – just like he told you.

In that rising, my friends, God proves his love for us by not just defeating but by annihilating the one thing we fear the most: death itself.

Jesus loved us so much he died for us – for each one of us, right here.

God loves us so much he destroys death for us – for each one of us, right here.

So let’s make that the next part of our Tweet:

The tomb is empty! Jesus Christ, who died for us, is risen!

That takes us up to 83 characters. Meaning, we still have some room to get more of our message across.

So let’s explain some more why this is all Good News.

(chant)

Easter Morning, by He Qi.

 

This is the night,

When all who believe in Christ

Are delivered from the gloom of sin,

And are restored to grace and holiness of life.

How blessed is this night,

When earth and heaven are joined,

And man is reconciled to God.

And there you have it.

The gloom of sin, which leads to death – emotionally, spiritually and physically – has been lifted. Our lives, which sometimes can seem so empty, so pointless, so difficult, so draining, are restored to grace and we are made holy again.

Any separation from God that we may have experienced in our lives is over and done with. We have been reconciled to God. Our relationship has been put to right, we have been brought together, our accounts have been squared. We are reunited with God, and all our differences have been patched up and resolved.

By dying for us, Jesus wiped the slate clean.

By raising Jesus from the dead, God keeps that slate clean … forever.

And that is Good News indeed. Why, it’s such Good News that I think we ought to praise the Lord for it.

So let’s put an “Alleluia!” in our Tweet. We’ve got the room.

And look! We still have some room left.

He Is Risen, by He Qi.

So let’s go back to where we started. Let’s put in another “Rejoice!

Put it all together, and I think we just might have our Tweet. I think we are ready to proclaim to all the world what makes us so very happy on this Easter morning.

Rejoice! God loves you! The tomb is empty! Jesus Christ, who died for us, is risen! All of us are reconciled to God! Alleluia! Rejoice!

And we did it in 135 characters, thank you very much! I think my friend on Facebook would be pleased.

Yeah.

We have Good News to share this morning:

God loves us, and we can prove it. The tomb is empty, Christ is Risen. Alleluia!

And you can Tweet that!

Amen.

Easter sermon, preached at Trinity Episcopal Church, Arlington, Va., 24 April 2011, Year A.

 

[1] The Rev. Mark Delcuze, Rector, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Beverly Farms, Mass., “Tweeting the Resurrection,” 13 April 2011, https://www.facebook.com/mark.delcuze?sk=notes

 

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Words of hatred, words of grace: We must choose

A column written for McClatchy-Tribune News Service

By Lauren R. Stanley

The other day, I received a phone call from the garage where I had had my car worked on twice in two weeks. I was already on the phone, so I couldn’t take the call. But as soon as possible, I listened to the message, fearing something else was wrong with my car.

“Hi, this is …,” the owner of the business said. “You had your car back for service last week. Just calling to say thank you for bringing it back. Thank you.”

That’s it: Just a quick message meant to build a relationship with a new customer.

That’s the level of discourse I would like to see in this country – a simple “thank you” – rather the diatribes that fill the airwaves and jam the social networks.

Especially right now, in the aftermath of the Tucson shootings, vitriol dominates our lives. Fingers are pointing and awful  words are being said about the shootings, about who said what that might have incited a mentally ill young man to kill  six and wound 14 others.

But our need to harm each other, to sear each other’s souls with words of hatred, isn’t limited to the shootings.

If you listen to the ubiquitous talk shows, you know what I mean. There, words of hatred are shouted hourly, threats are  made daily. Vitriol is the currency, and we have only ourselves to blame, for we are the ones who listen, who support, who participate.

Or look at Facebook, where seemingly innocuous events cause people to declare their desire to “castrate” someone (that was for a snow closing), to put others in the “cross-hairs” (those generally center on politics), to “get” yet another person who has somehow disappointed or displeased us.

And dip into – if you dare – Twitter, where people threaten each other daily. I pray that those who Tweet are not seriously considering acting upon their threats, but who knows these days?

If nothing else, the shootings in Arizona have shown that we have lost the ability to communicate with kindness.

In our rush to comment, we have forgotten how to set a guard over our mouths, how to keep our tongues for evil and our lips from speaking deceit, as the Psalmist warns us.

We have forgotten that as beloved children of God – which all of us are, whether we like it or not – the writer of Proverbs warns us that we must watch over our mouths and our tongues if we want to keep out of trouble. Rash words are like sword thrusts, Proverbs says, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

The writer of Ephesians follows up on that: “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.”

“Give grace to those who hear …”

Would that that were happening right now in this country particularly.

What has happened to us that we have forgotten how to give grace, how to speak words that build up? Why are we so eager to blame, to hurt, to disparage? And when … when? … did we stop teaching people to be careful with their words?

This is not a diatribe against anyone in particular on the left or the right. This is not about politics, or gun control, or even the appalling lack of care for those who are mentally ill.

This is a discussion – I hope, I pray – about how we can find our way to being decent to each other.

We spend an inordinate amount of time disparaging others and speaking words of violence (really, who in the world wants to castrate someone over a snow closing? Does the person who wrote that even know how to do that? Or what it means?). We curse, we threaten, we denigrate, we abuse, we attack. We use words to hurt, to injure, to wound.

Why?

What purpose does it serve? It might make us feel better in that moment, but when we look  at what we have wrought – an atmosphere of hatred – do we still feel better then?

St. James wrote, “With (the tongue) we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and curing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.”

St. Peter added, “Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit.”

Our words, our comments, have meaning and they have impact. When we choose to speak dark words, are we really surprised when darkness envelops us?

But when we speak words of grace, healing results. Isn’t that what we want in our own lives? And if so, isn’t that what we should want in the lives of others?

It really isn’t that hard to speak words of grace. A simple “thank you,” such as the message left for me by the business owner, can be so powerful.

If we want to improve our lives, and the lives of those around us, if we want to heal our ailing world, first, we need to guard our mouths.

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