Alleluia Christ is Risen!
This is the season of resurrection. Here in Christ Chapel we have listened to the stories from scripture that tell of the appearances of the risen Christ to his friends. We have heard preachers David and Jana and John speak of the risk of resurrection, experiencing the unexpected Jesus, and knowing Christ through table and story and through the body. For even after all these years have passed from the first Easter week, we still know the resurrection through our senses: the faculties of the body: sight, sound, touch, smell, taste.
Here in our second reading is another resurrection appearance in the key of Apocalypse. From John of Patmos, exiled because of the testimony of Jesus. The Book of Revelation is a treasure - although it was not popular with Luther - it is a treasure if you can read it like a poet or a mystic, but not like a poet of privilege but a desperate poet in times of trouble. Revelation is a Magical Mystery Tour of sight, but also of sound -- of hearing, singing, chanting, praying. In our text this morning, I not only see, but I hear.
Lucy Winkett, Canon Precentor at St. Paul's Cathedral, is a musician, a close reader of scripture and a preacher. In her book, Our Sound is our Wound, she writes about sound as a metaphor for our life with God. She observes the sounds of scripture and the sounds of our culture and invites us to notice what they say about us and about God.
What is the sound of resurrection? How do you know resurrection or convey it?
"I was in the spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying..."
John is in an ecstatic trance, in the zone on the Lord's Day. He probably is not boxed into a pew, but he is in community and in prayer. He hears a loud voice like a trumpet.
Was it a voice like a trumpet, or was it a trumpet? What is a trumpet but a brass instrument with air forced through it? A magnified, metalicized voice, exulting like the trumpeters who play at Good Shepherd at Easter, or who played at my friend's wedding? The sound of the resurrection is a voice like a trumpet or a trumpet like a voice - Isn't Louis Armstrong's singing voice and jazz trumpet the same voice? The sound of the resurrection is Louis Armstrong. And for me this last spring of high school for my son, Henry, the sound of resurrection is the Austin High School marching band. Henry plays the trombone.... Trombones rock. Trombones rule!
"Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea."
¶ Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands,
and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest.
His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire,
his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters.
Water has color. Water has properties: taste, feeling, clarity, but also water has sound.
... and his voice was like the sound of many waters."
What is the sound of resurrection? It is the voice of the storm who thunders. It is the waves crashing on the rocks at Singing Beach or Swallowtail Light or whatever beach or whatever rocks you hear the water crashing. It is the mountain stream swelled by snowmelt in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It is the fountain that runs and sings outside my bedroom and porch window at home every day. When the rains pour and drive as they do here in the Hill Country, filling Shoal Creek and flooding, rushing, drawing - that's the sound. The voice is a big sound, a gentle sound, a resonant, endless sound - it's a chorus, it's a choir. It is the voice of creation.
In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force.
¶ When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,
and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.
Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this.
"Do not be afraid." That's one thing the risen Christ says. It's what the living Jesus said too... and that is the voice you recognize when it calls your name, just as the woman knew in the garden that the stranger was her friend: "Mary."
And the one Christ who speaks after he tells you not to be afraid, then tells you to do something-- to go, to tell, to meet him in Galilee, Do not hold on to me but go tell. Here, the command is to write. Write.
What happens when we hear the resurrection? The voice like a trumpet? Like the sound of mighty waters?
I have a friend who teaches preaching, Ruthanna Hooke, and she teaches about the preacher's voice and the way it speaks truth ... God's Word. She teaches with a book called "Freeing the Natural Voice." Working with her is about learning to hear and learning to speak from the inside out from the depths not from the shallows. It is a practice that is physical, psychological, and spiritual and all at once.
When we hear the resurrection... through water, trickling or thundering, or jazz trumpet or singing, the resurrection sets us free. It releases us from prison and fear, exile. The resurrection make us a new creation. The resurrection frees the natural voice.
We can go tell, we can go write, we can go tell it on the mountain, we can publish glad tidings...
Let me tell about one other friend, Barbara Rossing, who teaches at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. She writes about the book of Revelation - against all the violent, divisive, frightening Left Behind theology.
This is what she says: in Revelation, people are not raptured up to heaven, but God is raptured down to earth - to be with us, to dwell with us, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Heaven is raptured down to earth.
So let us hear the sound of the resurrection, and then may we speak, sing, preach and pray from the very depths of God.