By The Rev’d Dawn M. Frankfurt
St. James Episcopal Church, Wichita, KS

In the name of our Loving, Liberating, and Life-giving God,
Who was, who is, and who is to come,
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; now and for ever. Amen.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and the Easter promise has been fulfilled!

In this moment of joy, we should be reminded what it means for us that Christ defeated death once and for all more than two thousand years ago.

Each time we attend a funeral in the Episcopal Church, we hear this phrase: “For your faithful people, life is changed, not ended.”

Dying does not mean that life is over. 

Imagine, if you can, a version of life where everything that drains life out of you stops. Any guilt, memories, burdens or baggage you carry, disappears.

In the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, Luke describes it to us like this: “Everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through the name of Christ.” The influences of corruption, affliction, and decay are wiped away. Imagine the life you could live without debt of any kind! You would be free to love without limitation.

The Book of Common Prayer calls close-to-life visions of a sinless world: “A foretaste of God’s heavenly banquet.” A piercing of the veil is finding yourself in the midst of such an experience. 

One personal moment when I recognized the reign of God coming into being was in November 2008 when Barak Obama was elected. I’m not taking you down a partisan road or endorsing one political view over another. You are asked to remember seeing the crowd which gathered to celebrate his election that night and in the following days.

I saw masses of people gathered together. They were not just filled with hope. They did not merely yearn for a different kind of world; they believed that a new world was at hand.

Their shared joy was in their conviction that whole groups of oppressed people could look up from oppression. People who knew generations of obstacles to their most complete, fulfilled, life felt no doubt – maybe for the first time – that lifetimes of disappointment held possibility and promise.

A crowd of people believing their hope is coming to fulfillment beams because they are filled with light from deep within. Their smiles, shouts of joy, and exuberant hand-clapping give us a indication of what people’s faces look like when their cries have been heard and they are about to taste real, long-awaited freedom. Surely what it means to see people endowed with such hope that they can taste it, was palpable to anyone willing to see. This, my friends, is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet spread out in front of our eyes.

Today’s celebration is for every person who has ever felt oppressed, alienated, or held back for any reason. In the new world Christ heralded in, Love is just around the bend. Flourishing for all – at the expense of none – is the daily reality brought into existence with victory over the power of death.

A friend once told me of his sighting of how the world should be – his sighting of what “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” really is. This was a retired priest and he described this scene:  

It took place one time in the moments of chaos and assembling which take place right before a worship service begins. Acolytes, crucifers, and torchbearers pull on their robes and take up the symbols they are to carry.

In this instance, there was a shy, Spanish speaking boy who, at the front of the parade held the processional cross. The candles of the torchbearers were lit. One torch was carried by a tiny, blonde-haired girl with one knee-sock up and one knee-sock around her ankle. The other torch was held carefully by a young boy with special needs who sat in the wheelchair his sister pushed.

Acolytes who were members of this party may have had cottas askew, but each one of these differently abled children, belonging to a variety of identities, beamed in excitement as the music began and they started walking in procession together. In that moment, everyone was happy. This was a fond memory for my friend, who remembered, after a lifetime of ordained ministry, this moment as the one which looked the way he envisioned God’s kingdom would look. This, he thought, was heaven, eternal life, right here, right now.

We have too many marginalized people – pushed to the periphery of society – who need a new world. Partisans, educators, members of the LGBTQ community, especially our trans sisters and brothers, need a new world. People who are black, people who are brown, those who are ill, people born in the wrong zip code, or residents from regions around this globe where people have to flee for survival, they need a new world, a new life. Hater and the hated of every kind need another way to live.

Whether you make the list of the dispossessed or not, hear me when I say this: even with the weight of every burden you carry, the life, death, and life-again of Jesus Christ shows us that a new kind of life, a better world, is just around the corner. A world of pervasive love is just at the crest of the hill. A new day is coming.

For us who believe, a pledge has been made. A promise of inheritance in God’s kingdom where there is no death, neither sorrow nor crying, but the fullness of joy with all of God’s saints. Do not lose heart. A new world is coming. You have your part to play in bringing it into existence. It is just around the bend.

This is a day to celebrate! Today we hear the good news of eternal life and know we can be free from sin. This better way is waiting for you and for me. We already gain glimpses of its glory. God brought it into being through Christ’s resurrection and ascension.

Hear the way it is described in a classic sung by Nina Simone:

There’s a new world comin’
And it’s just around the bend.
There’s a new world comin’
This one’s comin’ to an end.

There’s a new voice callin’
And you can hear it if you try
And it’s growin’ stronger
With every day that passes by

There’s a brand new mornin’
Rising clear and sweet and free.
There’s a new day dawning
That belongs to you and me.

Yes a new world’s comin’
You know the one I’m talkin’ about
The one we’d had visions of
And it’s comin’ in peace,
coming in joy, comin’ in love.

The Lessons Appointed for Use on Easter Sunday
Year A, Revised Common Lectionary – Episcopal
Sunday, April 9, 2023

The Collect of the Day

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Savior’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Jeremiah 31:1-6
At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus says the Lord: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness;  when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall take your tambourines, and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards
on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit. For there shall be a day when sentinels will call in the hill country of Ephraim: “Come, let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.”

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24                Confitemini Domino
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; *
his mercy endures for ever.
2 Let Israel now proclaim, *
“His mercy endures for ever.”
14 The Lord is my strength and my song, *
and he has become my salvation.
15 There is a sound of exultation and victory *
in the tents of the righteous:
16 “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! *
the right hand of the Lord is exalted! the right hand of the Lord has triumphed!”
17 I shall not die, but live, *
and declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me sorely, *
but he did not hand me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; *
I will enter them; I will offer thanks to the Lord.
20 “This is the gate of the Lord; *
he who is righteous may enter.”
21 I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *
and have become my salvation.
22 The same stone which the builders rejected *
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing, *
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 On this day the Lord has acted; *
we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Acts 10:34-43
Peter began to speak to Cornelius and the other Gentiles: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Matthew 28:1-10
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

The Bible texts are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989 by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. The Collects, Psalms or Canticles are from the Book of Common Prayer 1979.

*New World Comin’
by Nina Simone

There’s a new world comin’
And it’s just around the bend
There’s a new world comin’ (joy, joy, joy…)
This one’s comin’ to an end

There’s a new voice callin’
And you can hear it if you try
And it’s growing stronger
With every day that passes by yeah, yeah, yeah

There’s a brand new mornin’
Rising clear and sweet and free
There’s a new day dawning
That belongs to you and me

Yes a new world’s comin’
You know the one I’m talking about
The one we’d had visions of
And it’s comin’ in peace, coming in joy
Comin’ in peace, comin’ in joy
Come in peace, come in joy
Comin’ in love

And I saw another sign in heaven
Great and marvelous
Seven angels having the seven last pledge
For in them is built up the rack above
And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire

And them that had gotten the victory over the beast
And over His image
And over His mark
And over the number of His name
Stand on the sea of glass
Having the harps of God all around them

There’s a new world comin’
And it’s just around the bend
There’s a new world comin’
This one’s comin’ to an end

There’s a new voice callin’
And you could hear it if you would just give it a try
And It’s growing stronger
With every day that passes by

There’s a brand new mornin’
Rising clear and sweet and free
There’s a new day dawning
That belongs to you and me

Yes a new world comin’
The one we’d had visions of
Comin’ in peace, yeah
Coming in joy, yeah
Comin’ in peace now, yeah

Comin’ in love now, yeah
Comin’ in peace now, yeah
Come in joy now, yeah
Comin’ in peace now, yeah
Coming in love, yeah

Comin’ in peace
Comin’ in peace
Comin’ in peace
Comin’ in joy
Comin’ in peace

Comin’ in joy
Comin’ in peace
Comin’ in peace
Comin’ in peace
Comin’ in love (joy)

*Weil, Cynthia and Barry Mann. Song: New World Coming, Album: Here comes the Sun, recorded by Nina Simone, 1971. Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.