Easter Sunday 2018
Alleluia. Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
No wonder we all want to come to church on Easter Sunday. There is something powerful and uplifting in that word: Alleluia! Say it with me again 3x: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
We use that word on Easter because it is the most triumphant, joyous, empowering Sunday of all Sundays. It is the day of great rejoicing that God, through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit conquered death and sin for us all. Life wins! Love wins! Jesus is risen!
Easter could be likened to a New Year’s observation for our spirit, for our soul. The Church’s New Year begins in late November or early December with the season of Advent where we wait in anticipation to celebrate the birth of Christ. The global New Year, of course, begins on January 1st. It seems appropriate that we observe a spiritual New Year – a spiritual rebirth, awakening, or at least a spiritual remembering. And what better day to celebrate that than on Easter Sunday!
It is interesting that our New Year’s Eve celebrations are in the dark of night and Resurrection also happened in the dark of night. The first sentence of our reading tells us so: “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb.” While it was still dark….
While it was still dark.
While it was still night.
While she could not see.
While she thought death held sway.
While she grieved.
While she wept.
While it was still dark, resurrection began. (©Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com)
Mary Magdalene is the one who sees Jesus first because she chooses to remain in the darkness. Peter and John leave when they see the empty tomb, but Mary stays, bewildered and bereft. (Nadia Bolz Weber:) Mary “remains present to what is real, what is actually happening.” She does so even when what is real feels unbearable.
In his Easter Message, our bishop, Scott Mayer, reminds us: “The Cross was not the end. The power of God’s love reached into the Tomb and vanquished death, changing the world forever. …The love that reached into that Tomb in Jerusalem can reach into your life, into my life, and raise us up out of all the small ways we are dead. Where we feel dead to joy, to love, to new relationships with our neighbors, that love can bring resurrection. In all the dark personal tombs in our hearts, that love can bring light.”
It is that Light that draws us together on Easter Sunday, and quite frankly on all other Sundays. Perhaps you’ll come back in a couple of weeks… when we will look at the conversation Thomas, the one who had difficulty believing the resurrection, had with Jesus and see how the Peace that he promises us might take up more space in our hearts and minds… However, today, we consider the love and power of the Risen Christ that make us Resurrection people. Not Christians above the fray and challenges of life in this world, but Resurrection people who know hard places -- barren, broken places -- but cling to a compassionate Christ who knows exactly what it means to face difficulty.
At times, we are alone in our grief, loss, trials and disappointments. That is why it is important to be part of a faith family. I watch you, indeed I have experienced you, loving each other through hardship, reminding each other of the love of God, offering hugs, meals and conversations that shine even a pinhole of light into the darknesses of life that we sometimes must endure.
While it was still dark… while it was dark, Jesus was raised to life. Resurrection happened in the darkness. We do not know how. It is a mystery known only by God. God is not afraid of the dark places. God is with you in the darkness whether you realize it or not. Jesus comes in the darkness. It may take a while to recognize him, just as it took Mary a while. As a matter of fact, Mary didn’t recognize Jesus until he called her by name. And that same Resurrected Jesus calls each of us by name. It is for us to be still and listen. Be still and know. Be still until you hear Jesus call your name. It may come in the form of the person sitting at your side offering a word or act of kindness that is life-giving and affirming. It may come through a stranger who says just the thing you needed to hear. It may come while it is still dark in a means you cannot imagine, but Jesus knows you and calls you by name. You can handle anything life hurls your way because you are a Resurrection person. The “tombs” we encounter in life are just the thresholds to new life and greater beginnings. We need each other because as life cycles, when one is in a place a deep darkness, surely another will be in a place of light and life. We can help, support, love and encourage each other. We are a Resurrection Family and together, we can bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things.
This Easter, this Spiritual New Year, may Christ who rose in the darkness lead us into new life, new light, and new hope. May we know him in the half-lit places, the shadowy places, the hard places and the very dark places. May we dare to linger at the tomb until he calls our names. And may we always share with hope the good news of God's greatest mystery. (adapted from Debie Thomas)
Alleluia. Christ is Risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!