4/20/2014 Easter The text for today’s sermon is Matthew 28:1-10.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! We can proclaim these words with great joy as we share the greatest miracle and the greatest mystery of all times. We believe these words. We know them in the depths of our soul to be true. But what would you say if you were given the task of proclaiming – Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia and Amen!
Steven Molin (Four Truths and a Lie) tells the story of a first year student in a Catholic seminary who was told by the dean that he should plan to preach the sermon in chapel the following day. He had never preached a sermon before, he was nervous and afraid, and he stayed up all night, but in the morning, he didn’t have a sermon. He stood in the pulpit, looked out at his classmates and said “Do you know what I am going to say?” All of them shook their heads “no” and he said “Neither do I. The service has ended. Go in peace.”
[Now, I bet you thought that he was going to say, Christ is risen! And that the students would respond, “He is risen, indeed.” But obviously, this student was lost for words.]
[And, of course, his inability to come up with the most profound words we speak did not make the dean happy. So, the dean went to him and said,] “I’ll give you another chance tomorrow, and you had better have a sermon.” Again he stayed up all night; and again he couldn’t come up with a sermon. Next morning, he stood in the pulpit and asked “Do you know what I am going to say?” The students all nodded their heads “yes.” “Then there is no reason to tell you” he said. “The service has ended. Go in peace.”
Now the dean was angry. “I’ll give you one more chance; if you don’t have a sermon tomorrow, you will be asked to leave the seminary.” Again, no sermon came. He stood in the pulpit the next day and asked “Do you know what I am going to say?” Half of the students nodded “yes” and the other half shook their heads “no.” The student preacher then announced “Those who know, tell those who don’t know. The service has ended. Go in peace.”
The seminary dean walked over to the student, put his arm over the student’s shoulders, and said “Those who know, tell those who don’t know. Today, the gospel has been proclaimed.”
In a sense, that is what the women were told to do on the very first Easter. They had been given a great gift – as they saw the stone being rolled away. They had been given the great message – delivered to them by an angel. Although not explicit in St. Matthew’s account, they peered into the tomb and found it to be empty, as the angel had told them. And they ran away from the scene to deliver the message they had been instructed to give to the disciples.
As if all these things were not enough to convince them of Jesus’ resurrection, along the way, the women were a given a great vision. They were surprised by Jesus who greeted them. I can see them falling to their knees, with mouths frozen in a gasp of awe as Jesus reinforces the message that they are to deliver to his brothers. If they had doubted the words of an angel, and the barrenness of a tomb – the women doubted no longer. They had seen… they had heard… they had touched his feet and they had worshipped. They were in the know – “Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!”
Surprisingly, this is not the message that they were instructed to deliver even though I have no doubt that those words rolled off their lips. The women, who were in the know, were to tell the disciples, who were still in the dark – reeling from the events of Good Friday – to go to Galilee. There, they would see Jesus.
But, how do you share this kind of incredible news, let alone convince 11 men who are in hiding for fear of the Jews to leave their safe haven and go to Galilee? How do you do stop your heart from beating out of your chest and calm down enough to share the fact that Jesus, the one you saw crucified and laid in the tomb, is alive! His body is not in the burial cave! He is not among the dead, but among the living! He has risen! How do you convince people that what you saw and heard and touched was real and not some hoax?
You know what the women faced. You’ve gotten the same kind of reaction from avowed non-believers. They see the resurrection as nothing more than a fairy tale – a story made up by people in order to control lives. To them death has the final word. Not even those who believe in reincarnation accept the notion of a soul returning to a dead body.
And yet, the cave was empty. An angel spoke to the women in the same way that an angel spoke to Mary and Elizabeth before them, giving them the good news. Jesus lives! Through Jesus Christ, death no longer has the final word. The final word belongs to God and that word is a word of life!
May we believe the witness of the women and may we, who are in the know, tell those who do not know – Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia and Amen! And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.