(Easter Sunday sermon, preached at All Saints' Littleton NH on 4/24/2011)
I’ve had a vision of Easter in my head for a few weeks now...
It happened during our film discussion program.
The movie, was Chocolat.
For those of you who have not seen it, it concerns a little town in France, under the strict leadership of a Count.
This town is really good at the practice of what they understood to be Lent:
holding fast to traditions
It appears that they have come to live this way all of the time.
However, just as they are entering Lent, a woman named Vianne blows into town and opens a chocolate shop. She has the ability to open the senses of people through her craft. She starts to transform the people of the town, one by one.
It quickly becomes the impression of the Count that all hell is breaking loose. He is determined to conqueror the threat to his town.
While the characters are all delightful in their own way, there is one that I am particularly drawn to this morning: Pere Henri, the very young village priest.
Pere Henri has been with the town five weeks.
He is reminded, by the Count, that his predecessor had been with them for five decades.
Pere Henri goes from being intimidated by the Count...sharing his sermons ahead of time for suggestions...to delivering the Count’s words verbatim from the pulpit: suggesting that Satan’s work is being accomplished through chocolate. It puts the fear of an angry, punishing God into the people: driving them away from Vianne.
The night before Easter, as the Count yet again reworks Pere Henri’s sermon, he is driven to frantic, drastic action. The Count rushes to the chocolate shop at night, breaks in, and starts destroying the chocolates one by one. As he does so, a sliver of chocolate falls on his lips.
He tastes it.
And the man who had denied himself of all temptations finds himself out of control: laughing hysterically, eating every morsel of chocolate in sight.
But gradually, the laughing turns to sobs...as the heavy burdens of pain, loss, and shame...all the feelings he had buried deep in himself and hid from all others...comes to the surface and are finally released.
Easter morning arrives: and Vianne and Pere Henri find the Count curled up...sleeping in the delicious mess of chocolate.
The Count wakes up...looks at them, and whispers “I’m so sorry.”
They treat him with kindness and dignity.
The Count turns to the priest: “The sermon. I didn't finish it.”
The priest replies: “I'll think of something.”
So...now is our shared moment. Pere Henri slowly makes his way into the pulpit. He shares these words:
I'm not sure what the theme of my homily today ought to be.
Do I want to speak of the miracle of our Lord's divine transformation?
Not really, no.
I don't want to talk about His divinity.
I'd rather talk about His humanity.
I mean, you know, how he lived his life here on Earth.
His kindness. His tolerance.
Listen, here's what I think:
I think we can't go around...measuring our goodness
by what we don't do...
by what we deny ourselves...
what we resist...
and who we exclude.
I think we've got to measure goodness...
by what we embrace...
what we create...
and who we include.
This little sermon in the movie reveals a powerful truth: that Jesus’ divinity means little without embracing his humanity.
Easter is not just a call to believe in Jesus' resurrection: it is primarily an invitation to live our lives in his Spirit...valuing life and each other in the way that Jesus lived his life before us.
Thanks be to God