4/12/2020 Resurrection of our Lord The text is John 20:1-18.
1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.
11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! I make a request of you, of all of you; each time you hear these words this morning, you are invited to reply, “Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! It is what Easter is all about! This is not a time to mumble a half-hearted response to a church liturgy, concerned whether you are vocalizing more loudly than the people in the pews around you. This is not a time to be self-conscious, or to worry about whether it is appropriate to belt out the most important news the world has ever heard. It is what Easter is all about. If you’ve been forced by current circumstances to be alone, and no one is nearby to hear you, speak as loudly as you dare, anyway. It is what Easter is all about. If you’ve been locked up with your family for a few weeks now and you’re running low on board games and binge-worthy TV, try to outdo one another in volume. Try a game of, “I can shout Alleluia louder than you”. It is what Easter is all about. Open a window and announce Christ’s rising loud enough for the neighbors to hear. It’s a good bet they will welcome hearing this Good News. And it’s possible that they might just repeat it back for you to hear. It is what Easter is all about.
This is not a time to be timid in the expression of our faith in the risen Christ; not a time to be shy or restrained in our celebrations. Not a time to be worried that someone may hear and judge us. Peter denied Jesus three times; we refuse do the same. This pronouncement of Christ’s resurrection is what Easter is all about. This is the message that, in this time of illness, fear, worry, and isolation, that everyone needs to hear. It is what Easter is all about. So, I ask you, nice and loud this time, Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! This is what Easter is all about.
Under normal circumstances, Holy Week is a difficult time for Christians, and no walk in the park for preachers. Initially, we journey with Jesus during his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He is met with adoration and shouts of “Hosanna”. This is not what Easter is all about.
We are blessed with the institution of the Eucharist during the Passover meal on Maundy Thursday. We are also taught the lesson of how we ought to treat our fellow creatures as Jesus, the Son of God stoops to wash the grime from the feet of his disciples. We are given the new commandment to ‘love one another’ as Jesus loves us. While all these are vitally important tenets of our Christian faith, and for which we are eternally blessed and thankful, this is not what Easter is all about.
Good Friday brings us face to face with our sin; as we revisit the betrayal by Judas, the denials by Peter, the weakness of Pilate, the cowardice and struggle to maintain their power of the temple authorities, the bloodlust of everyday people, and the willingness for one man to die for the redemption of the world. But this is not what Easter is all about, either. All these events, and indeed all of Jesus’ earthly ministry has led up to the glorious miracle we are witness to this morning. Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! This is what Easter is all about!
But let’s face it, these are not normal circumstances. God’s people are not able to gather together to make our proclamations. A global viral pandemic has caused all of us to remain isolated from one another, and unable to share in the Christian fellowship we hold so dear. But the undeniable fact remains, and we declare it to the heavens; Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! This is what Easter is all about. Jesus Christ, Son of God has risen from the grave and has redeemed the people to a righteous relationship with the Father. And though this redemption God’s children are promised life eternal with the Father and the risen Son. This is what Easter is all about.
At the empty tomb, Jesus simply said to her, “Mary”, and nothing would ever be the same again. The first person to behold the risen Christ immediately recognized that the unimaginable had occurred; her “Rabbouni”, her teacher, and humanity’s Savior had returned from the dead, and the world would never be the same again. This is what Easter is all about. Mary arrived at the tomb alone, in the gloom of predawn darkness. She was afraid and isolated because her promised Messiah, her beloved teacher had been brutally put to death three days before.
And in her deepest fear, misery, and sorrow, she was rewarded with the vision of Jesus, standing before her, victorious over death. Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! This is what Easter is all about. We too, are fearful, worried, and isolated in this unprecedented time. Who can blame us? These truly are difficult times. The predictive models for when the world will return to some sort of normalcy are vague at best. No one is really certain when we will be able to step out from the darkness before the dawn. And we’re not guaranteed that everything will be as it was before all this began. After this is over, our world will likely never be the same again. But we are Easter people, today and every day. Our identities are wrapped up in all that Jesus’ rising means for us and the world; love, mercy, forgiveness, redemption, faith…and hope. And this hope is what we cling to, and trust in; hope grounded in faith that we too will rise from the gloom that precedes the dawn. When the stone of global illness is rolled away; when, like Jesus’ burial cloth, we may discard our face masks, and as when Mary recognized Christ, there will be no more weeping. For hope is what Easter is all about. Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
And as we wait for the dawn with hope, let us boldly and faithfully obey the commandment Jesus gave to the disciples, and us just this past Thursday. Let us love one another as he loved us. No, as he loves us. Let us reach out to those in need, those suffering illness, worry, fear, or isolation. For others, the darkness may be deeper, and some may find themselves unable to imagine the coming of the dawn. For this is what Easter people do, this is what resurrection people do. They share the love, mercy, forgiveness, redemption, faith…and hope that make us followers of the risen Christ. We can loudly make the proclamation, or we can quietly whisper it in the ears of those who may need to hear it the most. Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Will you pray with me? Good and gracious God, we are filled with joy at the fulfillment of your promise to your people. You have given to us a Savior to bring us out of the darkness into the light of a new dawn. The dawning of a world that will never be the same again. And in the name of the risen Christ, together we say…Amen. Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.