May the wonder of Christ’s rising be seen in every dawn, the love of God as wide as the skies, and the power of the Holy Spirit invite us into each moment. Amen.
Happy Resurrection Day! Orthodox Christians refer to it as “the Queen of feasts,” because like a queen she reigns supreme over every other feast in the Christian year.
I suspect we have come here this morning from different places in our lives and for different reasons. As far as the Resurrection of Jesus is concerned, my guess is that some of us have come with great faith, some with serious doubt, some in certainty, others somewhere in the middle but I would venture to say that all of us are here hoping—hoping that just maybe there’s something to this whole thing; that there is a Power great enough to raise someone from the dead and hoping that Power can overcome evil and death in this broken world of ours. I think that within our DNA is an intense longing for something beyond what our limited human minds can grasp.
The story is told of a conversation with the then retired Episcopal Bishop Daniel Corrigan, one of those mid-twentieth century liberal princes of the pulpit known for his stirring preaching and passionate commitment to social justice. "Bishop Corrigan," someone asked, "Do you believe in the resurrection?" He looked at the questioner and said firmly, without pause, "Yes. I believe in the resurrection. I've seen it too many times not to."
No matter how uncertain we may be about the resurrection of Jesus, I think there is at least a tiny kernel of hope deep inside us that something’s there, that it’s not a fairy tale—for without hope we have little to live for. Hope is the anchor that keeps us planted in this life—no matter how difficult our life may be. Hope is what gives us the strength to go on when things get grim.
And, while some of us may wonder about the experience of resurrection, all of us are familiar with the experience of the tomb because we are no stranger to brokenness, fear, sadness, loss, and rejection. Alive as we may be this morning, I suspect that most of us have had our share of “little figurative deaths” and know that deep sense of longing to be raised up from their grasp.
Easter is the grand and ancient metaphor that proclaims that hopefulness can prevail over despair; love can prevail over hate, justice can prevail over injustice and freedom can prevail over oppression, life can prevail over death.
The characters in Luke’s Gospel longed for that to be true. After what they witnessed on Good Friday, they thought it was all over. The clan of his male friends abandoned Jesus and hid to save their own hides. But the women had guts. Exhausted from weeping, they crept out early in the morning to properly complete the burial rites for their dear friend, to anoint it with herbs and spices, to say one last “goodbye.”
Each of the four Gospels that tell the resurrection story includes various details about that morning, but they all contain words like “amazement,” “terror,” “fear,” and “confusion.” I find these keywords to be very appropriate on this Easter.
It is a time in our history that seems to earmark these feelings. “Fear” seems to abound in our world today—fear of differences, fear of scarcity, fear of the stranger, fear of government, fear of a pandemic, fear of a recession, fear of what we know, fear of what we don’t. There are sound reasons to doubt, to question, to live with uncertainty, to be fearful.
Into this reality comes Easter. “The women were terrified,” says Luke who tells the story this morning, “and bowed their faces to the ground, but the messengers said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” The women were told not to look for death but to look for life, not to seek evidence of mortality but rather of new possibility. Two of these ancient Gospel accounts of the resurrection offer these four words: “Do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid!
It may be asking too much of us, who live in this age of dazzling technology to believe in something so astonishing and so unbelievable as the resurrection. Yet there is the undisputable and historical reality that these women who went to that tomb, given the obstacles presented by the culture in which they lived and the opposition by the authorities to their mission, these women were emboldened to preach that Jesus had risen. That message would change the world.
Do not be afraid! Be awake to the way God brings energy and new life into our everyday existence. Have eyes-wide-open to God’s signature of resurrection in the signs around you. Don’t dwell on endings. Look for what is beginning. If Easter is merely a wonderful event that happened a long time ago—the way God worked once and never again—then it has little relevance for us. But if it is a once-and-for-all time truth, then we have good reason this morning to shout our “Alleluias.”
Whatever “tomb” you may be in, whatever emptiness you may feel or whatever fear or confusion or even terror is in your heart; wherever you may have given up hope, God can raise you up—for the power that took Jesus through death and beyond has the capacity to triumph over everything that is keeping us in that tomb.
Might we look past dark places in our lives and see Easter in a magnificent sunrise or sunset, or when we enjoy a meal with friends, tend our garden, listen to wonderful music or read, celebrate our relationships, embrace our kids, our pets—in the words of Garrison Keillor, “all the places where the gravy soaks and grace shines through,” –all evidence of God’s creative power to give, sustain, and even restore life.
Today, claim the promise that God will continue to breathe life into the dead zones of our lives, raise us up, and restore us. Sometimes, like these holy women on that early Sunday morning, we need to alter our expectations. In that awesome Easter hope and sense of glorious wonder, we proclaim today what has been shouted and throughout the ages of ages: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!