April 3, 2024

March 31, 2024, Easter Sunday

March 31, 2024, Easter Sunday


1When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint [Jesus’ body]. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

 6But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.



The feeling of Easter Sunday morning is usually one of relief and grateful joy. We’ve finally made it.

We have journeyed through these weeks of Lent. For those who joined us for our Holy Week services, we have heard our Lord’s new commandment to love one another, and witnessed the embodiment of sacrificial love for his disciples. We have witnessed his suffering and death, and did our best to stay with him to the end, to the cross. We made it. Each Easter morning, no matter what has happened, how many technical difficulties we have faced or how we have stumbled, Jesus is raised. God has done that, not our Lenten work. God has defeated death, we sing our alleluias, and sigh our thanksgivings that once again we have made it here. Easter feels like the end of a long journey. But the resurrection is not the end. The resurrection is the beginning.

Each Gospel gives us a window into the experience of the disciples coming face to face with this miracle and mystery. Today’s gospel from Mark is the shortest and least joyful of our resurrection accounts.Others bring more comfort, more joy, more…. Jesus. But in Mark’s account, Jesus does not appear. It is only a messenger, an angel, dressed in a white robe, who announces this Easter truth to the worried and grieving women. “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here”.

For a moment, put yourself in the shoes of these women. Once again, a gospel story begins with the quiet appearance of women, coming from the sidelines of the story to tend to what needs to be done, caring for Jesus’ body even after death. Imagine their surprise and fear when they come upon the tomb. They were just talking about the size of that stone blocking the entrance. They were just trying to figure out how they could possibly do their work with just the two of them.

Finding the stone moved clear was the first surprise, finding someone else in the tomb was the second, not finding Jesus body in the tomb was the third surprise. And hearing the message this white-robed man had for them was the final surprise. If you are a planner, if you like things to go according to plan, according to your presuppositions, or even if you like a surprise now and then – this might be surprise overload for you. So maybe it’s not a surprise to us that they ran away in terror and amazement.

The other readings for today – Peter and Paul – formative apostles of the Church – both stress as they tell the story that YES, he really really showed up. In fact, he not only showed up, but he ate and drank with us, would a ghost do that? And Paul lists all the folks he showed up to. So then why would Mark end with such suspense – unresolved, with a mystery and a command. He’s obviously not concerned about trying to prove Jesus resurrection to anyone. they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. That’s not an ending. Because Mark didn’t mean it to be. Mark knew that this was not the end. This was the beginning.

Jesus resurrection is not the end of the story – but the beginning of the next chapter of new life, a new commandment, a new covenant, a new way that God will be with us as they always have, and a new community. An Easter people who know deep in their bones that they are both safe and whole in God’s care and salvation, despite our fear and amazement. God defeats sin and death, the last holds on God’s people, in order that we may fully live that abundant life planned for us. And this new community of Easter people will now do the work of Jesus, the work that the Holy Spirit empowers us to do.Even when Jesus appears to the disciples, when he comes back and reveals his resurrected body, he doesn’t stick around. He’s with them 40 days, continuing to remind them of all he had taught them, orgiving them, feeding them, assuring them, preparing them, and comforting them. Knowing his purpose is now to leave them again, so that the Holy Spirit might remain with them, birthing the church, he body of Christ on earth.

That is what Jesus’ resurrection creates. Yes, yes, death is defeated, and our relationship with God is secure and salvation is possible by grace through faith. But this gospel needs messengers, witnesses, evangelists. This good news, this earth shaking, game changing, news needs to be passed on. Person to person. God’s love for his children would not allow this work of resurrection to become a tool to control us. Would Jesus come back from the dead to make the whole world his footstool? By snapping his fingers? No, he chooses us foolish and frail and afraid humans to embody his love. To show others, rather than coerce others. By this they will know you are my disciples.

Christians have gotten that part wrong since the beginning. Preferring power, coercion, violence, and judgement in order to fulfill the great commission, as opposed to, I dunno, being like Jesus. As a public witness of the church, I confess and repent of all those ways that the whole Church on earth has corrupted this message of new life and love and turned it into harm and death. That is not what Jesus was raised for.

But as we approach the end of my ministry among you, it is really a beginning. Pastor’s come and go. But the church remains. Leadership, members, money, buildings, and programs, come and go. The church, the beloved community of God’s Easter people remain, and this Easter story assures us Jesus goes ahead of us. He bids us follow him into the future, drawing us to himself. But where is Jesus? Mary Magdalene receives the easter proclamation to share with the rest of the disciples, as as the angel commands her to “go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” Back to Galilee, to the old neighborhood, to the people and ministry they started with; Teaching, healing, feeding, back to the basics. That’s where Jesus can be found. In the work of the community embodying what Jesus has done.

“You are the end of the Gospel. You want to experience the resurrected Christ? Live as he lived, love as he loved, forgive as he forgave, and believe and he believed and you will experience Jesus.” You will see him in the face of every person you love, each person you serve, each moment of forgiveness that YOU experience. The Risen Christ is present as we gather, as we share the bread and the wine – the body and blood of Christ that shows forth this new covenant, this new promise, this new beginning to the old, old story of God’s love. The Risen Christ is present as we feed and shelter and comfort our community. The Risen Christ is here, in our neighborhood, in the least of these.

May this community, in this neighborhood, with all its gifts of the Holy Spirit, remain firm in its calling and purpose and joy. Amen.


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