Sermon for Easter Day
Preached at St. Matthew’s
Early 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. So 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.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and 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. They 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.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus 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.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus 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.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
Today marks the culmination of our journey from Ash Wednesday through lent and Holy Week ending with the crucifixion on Good Friday and Jesus in the Tomb on Holy Saturday. Or as our tradition teaches – and we recite in the Nicene Creed – that on Saturday Jesus went to the dead to break open the gates of hell and to break the chains of sin that bind mankind. And today we find the tomb empty. An empty tomb just as Christ promised.
On this Easter Morning are we like Mary Magdalene ready to confront whatever is in the tomb – expecting to find the tomb sealed? And expecting a body – no matter how many times Jesus said he would rise again on the third day. Running to tell the disciples that someone stole the body. Or are we like Peter? Going to the tomb only after Mary reported it was empty – wanting proof that she was telling the truth. Or are we more like the other disciples who on that first Easter Morning where not ready to leave the security of the locked room? They were not ready for resurrection. On this Easter morning are we ready for resurrection?
When I went on the pilgrimage to the Holy Land about almost a year and a half ago we ended the main part of our pilgrimage by walking the way of the cross. The way of the cross ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The site that tradition tells us contains the place of crucifixion as well as the garden tomb. Walking the way of the cross –with the sounds of the people going about their daily lives. With the smells of people cooking and getting ready for the Sabbath. Walking the walk of Jesus’ final footsteps is intense and exhausting. When we reached the place of the crucifixion I was in tears. My emotions where stronger than I could have ever imagined – being the rational scientist that I am! I expected to be calm and composed. Knowing that the story does not end on Good Friday. Yet I found myself broken and in tears. It was hard to leave the site of the crucifixion. So hard. In fact I could not bring myself to visit the empty tomb that afternoon. I could not shake the crucifixion.
I did not go back to the empty Tomb until early the next morning. And like Mary’s first visit to the tomb it was still dark. And the empty tomb for some reason did not have the same emotional toll that Calgary did. Not then.
And sometimes that is where we all are. We are not ready for the empty tomb. Our lives may get stuck in places of crucifixion. In places that are dark and where we think God has abandoned us. Places where we have trouble letting the Love that refused to die into our lives.
That is when we need a Mary. When we need someone to run up to us and say, “I have seen the Lord!” To remind us that there is resurrection. That Love will not die. That is what we remember this Easter morning. That God’s love will seek us out – just as Jesus sought out Mary in her despair in the garden, and call us by name. Will call us out of our deepest despair. And that is what our world needs to be reminded of.
On this Easter Morning we are called to see Jesus in the most unlikely places. We are called to see Jesus in the person who out of necessity lives in the sheds on our property. To see the risen Jesus in the people who such amazing things to make this space one of prayer and love.
We are called to – like Mary recognize that resurrection will change us. When we can get past the crucifixion and onto resurrection we will be able to recognize that we are called to be disciples’s. We are called to be crazy Jesus people – as Bishop Curry likes to remind us. Jesus told Mary not to hold on to him. God’s time of walking with us in human form was coming to an end. And Mary – in that moment recognizes her call. Her call to be an Apostle to the Apostle’s and announce the Good News to the disciples locked in the upper room.
That first Easter Sermon we heard today ““I have seen the Lord” Was from a changed Mary. And we are changed when we see Jesus. When we see God in all of God’s creation.
Easter is about change. Jesus changed with crucifixion and resurrection. Mary changed when she met the resurrected Jesus. The other apostles changed when Jesus met them in the locked room – which we will remember again as we go through this Easter season. And when we- like Mary - recognize our call we will be changed and then we can change the world.
Our world is certainly in need of change. It seems that we can only focus on the bad in the world. And perhaps that partially is caused by our newer way of accessing instant media attention. Facebook, YouTube on-line news sources all assault our senses with what is wrong with the world.
However, in the midst of all of the assaults on our senses we will find Jesus. We may – like Mary – mistake him for the Gardner but it will be Jesus. Coming to offer us healing, forgiveness and Love.
Easter is not a single event. We are a resurrection people. Called and sent into the world to be bearers of resurrection. To show the world that death does not win. That Love cannot be killed. And that love brings healing and forgiveness to all - and will keep offering healing, forgiveness and love to us and to all of creation until the end of time.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!