A sermon for Easter
Acts 10:34-43, Colossians 3:1-4, Matthew 28:1-10, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
A couple of nights ago, they built a fire, it was cold. This morning, it is cold. So why are Mary and Mary going to Jesus tomb? Unlike other Gospel stories, in Matthew’s Jesus is already properly buried, more importantly, the tomb is sealed, and under guard; the frightened Jewish leaders really want to make sure this Jesus person, stays dead; makes you wonder, if they wonder if there is any chance, the tiniest chance, Jesus’ teachings are true. So, why did they go? Matthew doesn’t tell us. But then again.
Ah I see. ‘See’ has many meanings, one is the result of looking, all that amazing stuff that happens when light strikes the backs of our eyes and rods and cones do whatever it is they do and our brains make sense of it all and we see. Then again, ‘I see’ can express understanding or perception. In Greek the word translated ‘see’ can also carry the meaning ‘to consider’ and Melinda Quivik posits ‘to keep vigil.’ [i]
So, Mary and Mary could be going to: look at, to keep vigil, or seeking to perceive, and to understand. Just perhaps, like the Jewish leaders a couple of days ago, they too they wonder, though hopefully, if there is any chance Jesus’ teachings are true.It’s interesting that none of the men have such inquiring vision.
When they arrive they are surprised. There is suddenly a brilliant flash of light, and an earthquake. It is so terrifying, the guards are frozen, unable to interfere with the women, which is why they are there; so much for the best laid plans of entrenched authorities in their efforts to thwart God’s works.
An angel, a divine messenger, who is described very much like Jesus transfigured on the mountain top, which Mary and Mary don’t know, but we, and Matthew’s readers know, or should know, speaks: don’t be afraid, you are looking for Jesus, he isn’t here, go – and see; then go tell the disciples to go to Galilee, Jesus is already in his way. In fear and joy, and in this case ‘fear’ is the scriptural meaning of awe; in fear and joy they go. Equally suddenly Jesus appears greets them, and Mary and Mary worship him; then Jesus repeats the angle’s instructions to tell the disciples to go to Galilee and he will meet them there.
Some initial observations:
- It is not wise to try to thwart God’s works.
- The brilliant clothes of a divine messenger reaffirm Jesus identity as divine.
- When you are in God’s, or Jesus’ presence the ground will shake, if not literally then metaphorically, the foundations of your life will be shaken.
- Worshiping Jesus supplants worshiping the emperor, or any other secular authority.
- Courage is not the lack of fear, it is the ability to act any way.
- The word ‘apostle’ means sent. In all four Gospels women are the first sent to share the good news, the gospel, of Jesus’ resurrection. Women are the first Apostles! Therefore women have an equal share in the church continuing Jesus’ ministry. Not news for Episcopalians, but it is for others. It’s also scriptural referent for equality of genders, and yes that extends to pay; but I wander.
What caught me up this morning start’s in Bp. Benfield’s Easter message, a copy of which is on the table in the hall, he begins saying that Easter is not a historical event. He continues:
[we] celebrate is what happened to the people who found the tomb empty. They started seeing the risen Christ in all sorts of places and faces… [ii]
The second inspirational seed comes from Scott Hoezee [iii] as he explores the implication of Jesus message to the disciples to go, in particular to Galilee. Why Galilee, why not some place in Jerusalem?
The disciples are already there, and it is a long trip, a couple of days, to Galilee. Moreover, Jerusalem is where the Temple, the home of God on earth, is. It is also the capital, the seat of all secular authority. Wouldn’t you start there? I would, most revolutionaries would. Then again Jesus is all about something else, endless surprises. Hoezee continues noting: The first Easter began with a long journey. There is no reason our continuing Easter experiences won’t include journeys of some sort or another.
Easter is a morning of many surprises, two are paramount. The first is the angelic pronouncement of the empty tomb, Jesus – the Christ – is risen. The risen the living Christ, literally is transforming all creation, the entire cosmos. Note I said transforming, meaning the work is still on going, meaning we are works in process. I know that is good news, I don’t know about you, but my process is still in process.
The second is GO! Mary and Mary the least likely apostles are sent to share the good news, the Gospel, that Christ is risen. Even more of a surprise is that you too, not the most likely apostles, are sent to share the good news, the Gospel, that Christ is raised. I don’t know about you, but every time I realize this I get blinded by the light, and my whole world is shaken, because Easter is not a historical event, it is an everyday event.
Every day our resurrected Christ meets us on whatever road we are on and sends us on to tell it out He is raised, and everything is being made anew. And that really is good news. Alleluia!
[i] 4/19/2014 Matthew 28:1-10 Commentary by Melinda Quivik – Working Preacher – Preaching This Week (RCL)
Commentary on Matthew 28:1-10
[ii] Bp. Larry Benfield, Arkansas, 2014 Easter Message
This Week at the Center for Excellence in Preaching