Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!

That ‘festal shout’ is the core message of Christ’s Church. When we shout those words, we make a bold assertion: that every sickness will be turned to wholeness; every silence will be turned to song; every sword, re-shaped a plowshare, every “no” drowned out by “yes;” every death transformed to life; every tear be wiped away; and every need, be met. When we shout “Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!” we name and claim what is the essential mission of Christ’s Church. When we shout these words today in Eucharist and building dedication, we name and claim the essential mission of Wartburg. So let’s shout it again:

Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!

At the dedication of Jerusalem’s first Temple in the 10th Century BCE, Solomon, King and builder, asked this prayerful question: “Will God indeed dwell on earth?” For generations, the Church has believed we know God’s answer to that question; the
answer given to us in the Book of Revelation:

‘The home of God is among mortals. God dwells with them; wiping away every tear from their eyes. Death — no more! Mourning and crying and pain — no more! The first things — passed have away.’

And when we shout, “Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!” we name and claim these words as our own; as God’s presence among us; as our mission here now.

And so, on this day in this place on this campus, we are not simply taking credit, as visionary and hardworking Wartburg staff, as wise and action members of the Board; and as bankers, brokers, architects, contractors, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, bricklayers and marketers for the Friedrich Residence which we bless and dedicate today or for that marvelous new facility to my right or, for that matter, for the rest of this magnificent campus, we are also saying — we are primarily saying — that the LORD has indeed built this house (these houses) and that all those who have — and who continue to labor to build and
maintain them are not laboring in vain because we are not just building edifices, we are building a home and God is chief among those who reside here. That is the joy and the mission we all confidently share as God’s People and as the community we call Wartburg. That’s why those of us who serve and work and lead and care here find such deep satisfaction in our work and know, in the best of times like these and in the worst of times like those of our not-so-distant past, that our labor is not in vain.

God’s presence and our God-given mission are the chief reasons why, every morning when he walks into his office, David Gentner is continually surprised, humbled and exhilarated to be CEO and President here. That, God’s presence and our God-given mission, is why Ryan Herchenroether, the genius behind the HEAL grant, the Friedrichs Residence and our other new building, teared up at the ribbon cutting last Tuesday! God is present here and we are doing God’s work of easing pain, wiping away tears, and providing a home here; a home for those who sowed with tears; a home for those who have gone out weeping; a home
where staff, residents and family members can be “like those who dream.” A home that can be, as the first resident of Friedrichs put it, “the best place I ever lived.” A home where, as we shall all soon sing, “all are welcome” in God’s name.

It is, I think, incredibly fitting — and not coincidental — that we are dedicating the Friedrichs Residence, the first of the new buildings of the new Wartburg, in the first week of Easter because this residence and the building to my right are products and signs of Christ’s resurrection, of new life, good life after tough living, breaking forth for all of us who are Wartburg community. It was not so long ago that, like Jesus, we felt alone and abandoned by many, even Christ’s closest disciples. And like the disciples fleeing to Emmaus or locked in their ‘upper room,’ we felt stuck and foolish and often dismayed. It is fitting and not coincidental that today we gather, like those first disciples, at this table and suddenly, like those disciples, find our hearts burning with joy. Christ is risen and so are we! This is but a foretaste; the best is yet to come.
In the gospels, several women, each named Mary, remained faithful to Jesus in his darkest hours, at the cross and at his burial. These three women were also the first to believe and to share Christ’s resurrection news. Here at Wartburg, we had a similar experience through our darkest hours as well and, once again, it was several women on the board who remained most faithful. This is no coincidence either. Two are Carols, Carol Delaney and Carol Trower. Two are Marys, Mary Rosser and Mary McNamara; and one was Julie, Julie Cassella. On this day, I, for one, and I hope all of you, give thanks for them and for their faithfulness too.

Nearly 500 years ago, Martin Luther summed up his whole understanding of God and God’s work, of Christ’s living, dying and rising, of the work of the Holy Spirit, of the sacraments and the whole Church in two little words: “Pro nobis,” he said. “For us.” It’s the “for-ness” that gives us our mission. It’s our “us-ness” that defines the collaborative and inclusive nature of all we do.
God is with us to be for us here in this sacrament. God is with us to be for us on this campus, in this new residence, and in all that we say and do. “The Lord has done great things for us and we are glad indeed!”
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!