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No Cross, No Crown (The Rev. Dr. Richard P.

Smiraglia) There is a quotation that I first saw years ago on Castro Street in San Francisco. Turns out, despite where I first found it, it seems to come from William Penn. No cross, No crown. Thats it. Pretty pithy. No cross, no crown. I guess that about sums it up. Not just Christianity although that, but life in general too. Which is why it seems so often to be found on plaques in spiritual places or maybe I mean places where spirits are sold .... No cross, no crown. I sat here (or maybe I should point at my chair and say there) last Sunday and watched communion. The choir was singing O Sacred Head Sore Wounded which always makes me cry. And everyone was coming to the rail for communion. I often wish that everyone who is usually out there, could just one time be in here, to see the quiet but certain drama of human intercourse that happens at this rail. There is bread and wine of course, there is much joy, there is laughter, but there also is much pain, and there are prayers and desperate glances. And I must say that as a priest one of the things I cherish most is this: that every time I serve in the Eucharist I have a relationship of sorts with each person I greet with the body of Christ, even if it only lasts a half a second. But I digress. I was sitting over there tearing up during that anthem. And then those words struck me: No cross, no crown. Simple but outrageously fulsome. And then I got to thinking about how on this night there would be a hardy band, but on Sunday morning there would be hundreds and hundreds. And then I thought about how we, the pious, shake our heads and think oh they dont get it. Because all of those hundreds who will show up tomorrow have missed out on the parallel dramas of Holy Week, in which we walk with Christ through Christs trial and death and resurrection at the same time that we walk through our own lives. Well we like to shake our heads about Easter crowds. But we forget, no cross, no crown. And we forget, we have no idea the crosses those people bear in their lives. Last Christmas Eve was I think my sixth here. I realized finally that these are the people of our Christmas congregation. We do not see most of them any other time. But they are faithful as best they can be. I had an aunt who was like that. She pledged! She wrote a check each month to put in the mail, and she went to church once a year at Christmas whether she needed it or not. All people regardless of when or whether they come to church have real lives, and those lives come with real pain. And that means that all people, bear their own crosses. So why should we deny them a bit of brass and flowers and Easter Egg hunt? Why not a bit of crown? Paul says: Do you not know that those who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? [Romans 6:3] I love it: Do you not know? That is almost the most important phrase this evening, it is certainly among the most important phrases in the letter to the Romans do you not know? Because we see with our eyes each day on the streets of this city, as Paul and those Roman Christians saw each day, the crosses people bear. We do know. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. [Romans 6:5] Wow. And we have been united with him in a death like his. I know you have; we all have. I have. Last fall when I sat at bedside in intensive care and watched each breath drawn by machine, I died a little with each minute that went by. And each night when I had to decide whether to sit there and collapse from exhaustion or go home and be

unable to sleep for my fear, I faced a death of sorts. And yet, my point is not to ask you for pity for me everything worked out fine! my point is to say, we do not know what crosses are borne. But of course in a way we do know. They are the same crosses we bear. Oppression. Sorrow. Illness. Broken relationship. Alcoholism or drug dependency. Or just the simple everyday pains of relationships that change, children who grow up, parents who pass away. And so the message tonight is the proud inverse of no cross, no crown Tonight the message is: Time for the Crown! We know that Christ being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion. [Romans 6:9] There is resurrection. You know when I was in seminary I had to do the usual stint as a hospital chaplain. I worked at St Lukes Hospital in Harlem in New York. It was a huge hospital, and it had a huge staff, and an enormous campus. And it had been an Episcopal hospital from its founding. So there was a tradition that chaplains could be found anywhere in the hospital. In some ways it was an impressive internship not just for me but for hundreds of other future clergy. The chaplaincy was well-ingrained. Our residencies paralleled the medical residencies, so we got to know (and be chaplains to) the residents as well as the patients. Our shifts mostly paralleled theirs. And yes, we spent up to 48 hours on duty at times. And the hospital had a tradition that nobody passed away without a chaplain present. So we were on 24/7 call: every death needed one of us. And you know it gets to be a job. But, what a job. I remember going at 4am to a bedside where someone dying from a shooting was passing, his family around him. Well I got done with that about 5:30 and went back to my room but I knew that sleep was pointless so I showered and changed and went to breakfast. I was sitting in the cafeteria when my pager went off. ICU. Ok. Off I went. The ICU was one of my regular units, so I knew the teams, and they often called me for some specific reason. This was a gentleman in cardiac arrest. I did not know him which only meant he had not been there at 5pm when Id done my last rounds. They were working really hard with all of those machines and things. My first thought was that I should get out of the way because there was nothing I could do. And then I remembered, of course, what Paul says: Pray, always. I almost laughed out loud. And so I started to pray. It was strange, because I didnt know what to pray. This was no gimme prayer moment. And so I had to work with the prayer see, I told you it was a job! I had to work myself into the prayer. And I had to stop thinking rationally and try to let the prayer be what God needed it to be. And as I prayed, the medical staff kept switching off and taking turns, although I became almost oblivious of them. And then the code stopped, the gentleman was stabilized. A resident came over to me and put her hand on my shoulder and told me to go get some coffee. And that was that. Resurrection for all involved. So you must also consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. [Romans 6:11] Remember that sin is dis-connection from God. Resurrection is more than just improved health, although that is one way we experience it. Resurrection is total connection, total connection with all of Gods powerful reality. Resurrection is in every moment in every life so long as we let Christ in. Tonight we celebrate one more time the eternity of our one-ness with God that Jesus came to show us. Whatever cross you are bearing this night, you can experience resurrection too; you can experience the crown of glory.