1On the first day of the week, at early dawn, [the women] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8Then they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
|Wildflowers by Kevin Galens. Creative commons image on flickr|
This year, Easter falls on the earliest date since 2008—so it’s little wonder I’ve heard so many people say “I’m not ready for Easter.” I’ve probably said it more than anyone.
One major reason is that Holy Week is the busiest week in the Church—and it is a tremendous effort to bring it all together.
But I feel there’s a deeper reason…
To be truly ready for Easter, it would be nice if things were better. If our fears, sorrows, and burdens would just go away, then we could celebrate. If terrorist attacks, political upheaval, social injustice and poverty would just go away, then we could celebrate. Then, we could bring out the pretty spring flowers and sing our alleluias. Then, it would feel like Easter.
But death and evil remain a part of our world. Our sinfulness remains. So if you’ve come here this morning discouraged, with doubts that Christ’s resurrection is going to make any differently rence in your life; if life's pains have become too much to bear, you’re not alone.
One can only imagine the agony the women must have been feeling as they went to Jesus’ tomb. Not only did they suffer the loss of their friend and teacher, they lost the one whom they believed to be God’s Messiah. And now, they’re on their way to complete the gruesome and excruciating task of embalming Jesus’ body. I find it a miracle that anyone could do such a thing—because the men stay behind.. His arrest, trial, and crucifixion have proven too much for them. His death is too much.
All of us can relate to that. How do you react in a crisis? When something happens that you could never imagined in your worst nightmares? How do you react when your hopes are crushed, and your dreams are shattered? How do you react when you make a terrible mistake—and there’s no going back?
Death is real—and we see it all around us. We see it on the news; we see it right here in our hometown. And it happens to all of us.
Faith can die, too—especially when we see more of death than we see of God.
Death can destroy the life of the living. This is what we call despair. It can drive us to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world, either out of shame for what we’ve done or what has befallen us; or to prevent any further pain due to rejection or disappointment. Despair can drive us to seek quick fixes and instant pleasures that dull the pain for a moment, but do us greater harm in the long run. Sometimes, with some success, we can try and fake it—and work hard to make it appear as though everything’s great, but still we’re broken inside.
If things were better, we’d all be ready for Easter. But they are what they are.
Jesus was crucified. He died. The men stay in hiding, but the women go. In their loving devotion to Jesus, they face reality—and it is there, among the dead, that God changes everything. Two men in dazzling clothes appear in the tomb and announce that Jesus was raised.
There's one thing we need to remember about resurrection-- it's not resuscitation. It's not a return to the past. Resurrection is something totally new.
It’s no surprise that the female and male disciples are perplexed, terrified, amazed, and disbelieving at Christ’s resurrection—because that’s the nature of resurrection. It is new life rising from the ashes of death. It is change—but change is threatening. The unfamiliar is scary.
We can’t predict exactly what Jesus will be doing or when, any more than the disciples could. What we do know is that death and the devil will not have the last word—not in your life or mine; not in Leechburg, not in our church; not in God’s world. Everything that hurts and shames us will have a definite end.
Resurrection is God’s promise that awaits us at the dawning of each new day. But it is also what we do as Jesus’ disciples. When God’s goodness meets the faith, hope, and love of ordinary people like you and me, resurrection happens! We can’t recreate a glorious past, but with Jesus we can create a brighter tomorrow for ourselves, our community, and our world. We can win against hunger, alienation, and despair.
Yet you won’t see it or know it if you’re hiding out from the world; too scared and discouraged to face a new day. We have to face the death, wherever it is—because God shows up there. And God creates resurrection through the simplest gifts and graces…
· Coming here on Easter morning, full of doubts and questions
· It’s hands joined in prayer amid a hopeless situation
· It’s people sharing donated clothes in a church basement; and plastic Easter eggs strewn across the lawn
· It’s in our children’s first communion
· It’s reaching out in love to a complete stranger
· It’s saying “I’m sorry” and “you’re forgiven”
It may not feel like Easter. But today is a new day. Jesus is risen—and the time for resurrection is now!