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Resources For Communicators

A Faith Values Newsletter by Bob Cramer

About Bob Cramer

Bob Cramer was ordained to Christian ministry in 1957 after earning a BA in journalism
and English literature at Syracuse University (1953) and Master of Divinity at Colgate
Rochester Crozer Divinity School (1957). His Master of Arts in Information
Management came from Syracuse University in 1973. He has been a pastor and youth
minister, a writer and editor, director of media and information for a global mission
agency, information officer for the World Association of Christian Communication in
London, England, and information management consultant to the World Council of
Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations, IDOC International Documentation Center, and InterPress-Rome. He
has been a consultant to the Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodist
Communications, and other religion-communication organizations. From 1982-1997 he
published commercial-intelligence newsletters on food and wine, management of
religion communication, small-group media, and an electronic database of mainstream
Christian news releases updated daily. Now retired, he is active in First Congregational
United Church of Christ in Santa Rosa, California. Contact: bob_cramer@ecunet.org .


First Congregational United Church of Christ, Santa Rosa, California.
_An Open and Affirming Congregation._ Rev. Robert F. Cramer, Eucharistic Minister.

Christ the Lord is risen today, Allelluia!

Mortal tongues and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, glad heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!
Let the Victors people sing, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now your sting? Alleluia!
Dying once, he lives to save, Alleluia!
Where your victory, O grave? Alleluia!
Loves redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
God has opened Paradise, Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
Author and composer unknown. From Lyra Davidica, London, 1708.
_Our prayer: We would praise you every day, our Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer God,
for the gift of life you conveyed in your servant, our pioneer, Jesus. Especially this
day we praise you in song. Accept our Alleluias. Amen._
How modern much of this old hymn of praise is. I want to share some thoughts arising
from some of the words.
__Angels:__ We expect angelic voices at Christmas. Students of Hebrew scripture,
our Old Testament, encounter angels frequently in stories. It may escape our attention
that angels figure prominently in stories of the resurrection of Jesus. [See the enclosed
list of Easter stories.]
I like angels, although they can be bothersome. Angels are considered to be messengers
from God words from God, one could say. They meet us deep within ourselves where
no one else can see. Or they may appear in dreams, including daydreams. Bible stories
tell us people used to think an angel might be flesh and blood but think about how
often the person suddenly appears and instantly departs, as from the graveside

For the Apostle Paul, the spiritual, risen Jesus appeared only as light, using a voice he
could not possibly have recognized. In the gospels many accounts of appearances of the
risen Jesus there are many big differences among them. Angels are experienced very
personally and individually, and it is pretty hard to offer a journalistic accounting. The
gospels do not.
There can be times when we recognize, in the face, or words, or actions of someone
(whom we may know, or not know), a powerful reminder of the way love shone in
Jesus eyes, or words, or actions. We can say that is an encounter with Jesus, or the spirit
of Jesus, or with some sort of being we would call spiritual a real being, but real in a
special sense.
It is my belief that as spiritual beings ourselves not completed, as angels are, but as
spiritual humans we are equipped to recognize spirituality in others. Sometimes it is
so strong, or we resonate with that recognition so intensely, that we could say we are
encountering God, or maybe Jesus.
The hymn, above, says not only our tongues, but tongues of angels, sing Alleluia at
Easter. We are in tune with a reality many people still dont know is really real.
Especially at Easter we are called to acknowledge we are one in spirit with all of Gods
creation. Let some Christians argue that Jesus body reappeared and was transported to
heaven. I know it is okay for me, and for you if you wish, to celebrate Jesus own
spiritual rebirth after death, just as on earth he was animated through baptism.
__Where (is) your victory, O grave?__
Is this not the essence of Easter, that death is not really victorious?
Yet it is possible that modern people put aside questions about the reality of death.
Global news coverage of the Terri Schiavo case just now makes us realize that people
everywhere fear, and try to avoid, death. Much is said about Catholics and Evangelicals
believing in artificially supported physical life instead of seeing Terri as ready (long ago)
for release. Do we really believe in resurrection?
Dont trust anyone wearing religion on ones sleeve. Id like to think it is not too

audacious for those of us who believe in eternal life, who act out our belief by living into
deep spirituality, to announce, as the early Christians did, that Jesus in life, death, and
life after death is good news. Alleluia!
It certainly is great news to me.
This year, as always since 1987, Judy and I come to Easter with a story of faith and hope
growing within ourselves.
I love to tell that story, and yet I wonder if even more people need to hear our Easter
witness. Id like to tell you now.
Our only son, who came into our lives in 1982 after our grief over several

miscarriages, fell ill with what turned out to be incurable epilepsy at five months of age.
Kern Silvernail Cramer, and we, fought for hope and against despair; but, at last, the
grave seemed to have won.
Yet it was strange how our thoughts immediately turned to our belief that he continues to
live in some way. We both have been visited, not often, but in some way we call real. In
fact, soon after he died, we began visualizing him, free at last, happily going cosmic on
his very own cloud.
_Maybe thats silly._
But is saying God welcomed Jesus into Paradise and that he still lives silly? I dont
think so. It is not necessary or even helpful to believe that after
resurrection, Jesus was carried aloft in a cloud. Judy and I certainly dont want anyone
thinking we believe that Kern truly a spiritual being, made like all of us, and like
Jesus is still somehow a bodily being. A reality far more hopeful and exciting than
that is possible; and is true.
_What to say; what to be able to hear when resurrection occurs?_
A friend offered words for the plaque on Kerns niche at a Santa Rosa columbarium:
Always part angel, now hes all angel, Denise Keller said and it struck home with us.
Of course there are angels, who live forever and visit others of Gods creatures. We
know. We know one by name. So yes, Death in vain forbids _us_ rise.
__Hope and eternal life come with a costchanging our fear of death.__
I dont know if youre comfortable with calling Jesus Christ the King, or even Christ
or Lord. It is how the early churches settled a lot of huge questions about the meaning of
Jesus and the nature of God. The traditional view was, and is, that God sent Jesus to die
for our sins as a sacrificial lamb. It was the Plan and it worked, Christians have said.
That view, called atonement, doesnt work for me. It may work for you. What does have
meaning for me is that Jesus, in showing us the essence of Gods nature, also showed us,
by word and deed, the essence of human potential. He was the very model of how he
believed God intended all of us to be. He made that case powerfully and often, and was
killed partly because religious leaders thought him nonsensical, even dangerous.
The cost of conquering death, for us, is to radically metamorphose our very mindset,
to put modern language in place of words Paul used.
It could be very risky to be as born again as Jesus and Paul meant. Great benefits can
carry great risk; I think the biggest risk is not to risk.
Now, back to that old Easter hymn we sing every year. It has some very surprisingly
liberal and modern elements as it reaches its climax.
Look at it again with me now. I refer especially to the fourth stanza, above. Soar we
now where Christ has led. Not just in some far off general resurrection which

fundamentalists, and maybe most Christians, hope for, but now. To follow is to soar.
Okay, so far! And if we soar into life, now, as Jesus did, we can certainly be part of
Gods realm now, as Jesus presents that strange and wonderful idea in the gospels.
I guess afterwards, after death, we can be taken into Paradise just as the Apostle Paul
preached about that. Exalted, to Paul, I think, would have meant given new life on
earth and eternally: deep in the realm of God.
We might remember that when Jesus was asked if the realm of God is now or later, he
said, Yes, meaning that now and later are the same. So by our following Jesus radical
leadership we are raised, in fact, now.
Again, good so far. But the hymn ends, Made like him, like him we rise, _ours_ the
cross, the grave, the skies. Ah, the cross, the grave before the skies. Crosses now;
deaths in our spirits now; bodily death sometime; all to be conquered simply by grasping
the deeper meanings of resurrection.
I would say with Kerns death something deep within us died. We were given a new way
of looking at life, and Kerns and Gods gifts to us most certainly continue.
Other deaths and other rebirths visit us all. If we have eyes and ears to see and hear
God continuing to speak, as he did through Jesus, then we are fully citizens of the
realest of real worlds. __Alleluia, Amen!__
Easter sermon 2005 Posted on 3/25/2005 by Bob Cramer
Posted in General, Gospel Lectionary Companion