Words of wisdom
On faith, bad news, bullies, second chances and goodness: Easter sermons from Manhattan churches
At Trinity Church, the Rev. Dr. William Lupfer invited congregants to take a flower home after the last service of Easter Sunday. Photo: Trinity Church Wall Street/James Melchiorre
The Rev. Schuyler Vogel stands inside the Fourth Universalist Society at 76th Street and Central Park West. Photo: Razi Syed
The Rev. Beverly Dempsey during Easter Service at Jan Hus Prebyterian Church. Photo courtesy of Jan Hus Prebyterian Church
On Easter Sunday, city clergy, while reflecting on unsettled times and the anxiety borne by competing ideologies, advocated for resilience and hope. They also gave voice to eternal themes of hope and rebirth, openness and acceptance. They reminded their congregations that the holiday celebrated rebirth, that spring symbolized new beginnings. Some excerpts from their sermons:Dr. Michael B. Brown, Marble Collegiate Church
“Every morning when we roll out of bed we are barraged with bad news on every hand, and it will not go away, and we will not turn away. How can people of faith ever ignore all of the issues that confront us? ... But on Easter Sunday we also acknowledge that there is an additional issue that we would like to ignore — we wish would go away but it won’t ... Is there something after this something? Easter says there is.”The Rev. Dr. William Lupfer, Trinity Church Wall Street
“Wall Street was what marked the colonial folks and our Dutch friends, who were afraid, so they built a wall. It didn’t really work, did it? ... We’re at the nexus — right here at Trinity, in our geography — between opening broadly to God’s love or shrinking down and worrying about who’s safe and who’s dangerous, and where we’re going to put our wall. ... We’re called not only as individuals to claim the reality of Easter, which is that nothing gets in the way of God’s love for us and for others, but also as a collective people ... that there is nothing out there that is so scary that it can take us from the love of God.”Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archdiocese of New York
“The word this morning, my dear friends, is light and life and newness and freshness and second chances and hope and mercy and goodness. It is spring, not winter, and it is a birth — a rebirth — not a funeral.”The Rev. Beverly Dempsey, Jan Hus Presbyterian Church
“In our world today, there are so many seismic shifts to our sense of normalcy; so many dramatic changes to what many of us believed was just the new baseline for a growing justice; so many previously presumed-to-be-managed conflicts rising. All of these surprising events compound our tension from age-old horrors, like piracy and terrorism and trafficking and the countless injustices against personhood like racism, homophobia, xenophobia and bigotry. It seems like we need Jesus to break through more than ever before...
Like the people of all time, we need a savior today. We need a savior to break through and remind us that we are never alone. We need a table turner who’ll stand up to bullies. We need a peacemaker who knocks down every bomb. We need a healer who binds all woundedness with surgical precision. We need a friend whose wide embrace leaves no one outside the love of God. We need a savior who never fails to breaks through the pain and the suffering of the world, methodologically shifting the plates beneath us all to set the world straight.”The Rev. Dr. Stephen Bauman, Christ Church
“Love and its derivatives are the only authentic positive change agents there are. Think about that. If someone is changing for the better, love is somehow at work.”The Rev. Schuyler Vogel, Fourth Universalist Society
“As Unitarian Universalists, many of us have a deeply complicated relationship with Jesus, no matter what version of him we have encountered. Many here were raised in Christian households or exposed to a version of Christianity where Jesus was literally God himself, divine, perfect, everlasting. ... Perhaps you have been hurt by rigid and unkind interpretations of Christian doctrine, or found that you simply can’t believe in miracles and resurrections. ... We come from two different traditions, Unitarians and Universalists, both who defied the prevailing religious thinking of their day. Where others saw God and Jesus as a hardened, divine judge, Universalists saw Jesus as loving and preaching the good news that everyone could find their way to God, no matter who they were.
These histories, and the diverse experiences of many of us here make Easter tricky. We honor the holiday, but do not deny its complexities. ... There is too much goodness in the story of Jesus to let theology get in the way. His life was too interesting, too poetic, and even too visionary for us non-conformists and skeptics to not admire his legacy.”
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