Easter 2020 sermon
When I was little, my favorite part of Easter morning was getting all dressed up and even wearing a hat to church. Easter is such a classy holiday. Best dressed, gloves, white shoes, fancy coats if you need them. But this Easter, feels so different. For the first time, I knew exactly where my white dress shoes were, and no one will see them except for Robbie and Samantha. Up until now, I really thought it would never feel like Easter, if we are all at home and unable to leave our homes. But this week, while I was reading the scripture, I was compelled to feel like this may be the most authentic Easter we will ever celebrate.
The first Easter was extremely quiet. No one even saw or heard the main event. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The tomb was just suddenly empty. No one saw Jesus come back to life. They found an empty tomb. We love to reenact his resurrection with trumpets and parades, but that morning when the women paraded to the tomb, it was quiet, and they traveled in secret, not with a fanfare.
That first Easter began in sadness and grief. No one knew he was risen yet. His disciples and followers, and even all of the other people at the cross and trials on Friday, they were all in shock and healing from this dramatic event.
That first Easter was a workday. You can imagine this more like a Monday morning than a Sunday morning. It was after their day of sabbath and so this was like the first day of their work week. Maybe they left so early because they had other Monday tasks to do later, and they wanted to make sure this got done first. No matter what their normal work day looked like, they were all trying to decide what they would do next. “Do they just return to normal? Which normal? What is normal now? Is it even safe to go back to normal?” You can imagine that the men disciples were discussing all of these questions when Mary showed up.
“We’ve got a problem,” she says.
“What now,” Peter says.
“They’ve taken the body. The tomb is empty.”
“What?” Peter shrieks, “How is that even possible.”
“I’m telling you, something weird is going on.” And before she can finish her thought, Peter and the other disciple give each other that look, like “it couldn’t be” and they both rush out the door to the tomb.
I have to imagine that Mary ran after them, because if she ran to get them, she also wants to get there and find out what is going on as soon as possible, but when she gets there, she waits in the background, watching and listening.
The other disciple pushes ahead of Peter, but when he arrives at the empty tomb, he is too mystified to go in, something about the space seems too holy or mysterious to be disturbed.
Until Peter crashes the silence, that is. He thrusts himself into the room and begins to examine everything. No dead body smell…no blood…no body…folded sheets? Was Jesus ever even here? Who folded these cloths back? Why would the cloths be here if they moved the body…unless.
The other disciple slowly builds up the courage to step into the room and take a look for himself. What happened or rather didn’t happen here?
The scripture says they believed, but not exactly what they believed. Maybe it was enough to convince them that it wasn’t the end of the story, even if they didn’t know what would happen next. So they went back home, believing that God was at work, doing something, and that something would be revealed in good time.
Then the first Easter starts looking like Christmas, with talking angels and spreading of good news for all people. Mary avoided going into the tomb while the men were there. Who knows how long she sat there outside the tomb after they left. But finally she was able to move herself closer, even if she couldn’t stop crying. She knew he wasn’t there, but maybe she would see something too. Every other time people see Angels, the people are afraid and the angels have to say, “Don’t be afraid.” But Mary is so overwhelmed in her grief, that the Angels only ask her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She responds to them, but she must have heard something over her shoulder, because she turns and sees a man she assumes to be the gardener.
I’ve always wondered what it was about him that made her think he was the gardener. Did he look dirty instead of all dressed in white? Was he admiring the flowers or bushes? WAs he tidying up? You’ve got to wonder if Jesus enjoyed making things nice and balanced if he folded the sheets on his death bed.
When Jesus shows up on that first Easter, no one recognizes him and nothing is really made clearer.
Mary sees this man and tells him her problems, and only realizes it is Jesus after he calls her by name. What was it now that convinced her this was her Teacher? Was it his eyes? That compassionate look? She must have embraced him, because he tells her not to hold onto him since he must continue on to be with God.
“Go and tell my brothers that I am not dead and I will be ascending to my father and your father, my God and your God is now also officially your father too!”
That first Easter connected families at a distance. Now they had a direct connection to God, one which they would never have been able to achieve on their own.
The good news on the first Easter didn’t make all of their earthly problems vanish. They were not suddenly millionaires, they did not gain military or religious control of their communities, they did not suddenly have all of the answers. In fact, everything seemed pretty much the opposite.
Now they had even more questions, they were unsure of their safety, they were still unemployed or worried they would not be accepted back by their employers, they still had families to care for and could still get sick and even die an earthly death.
Their lives were obviously completely different after the death of Christ, but how were their lives changed by knowing that he was resurrected three days later?
I think the most remarkable thing about the first Easter was that it was filled with surprises. From the empty tomb to Jesus’ later appearance in the locked room, his followers were shocked at the power of God to the point that nothing seemed impossible for God. Now they fully believed that anything is possible with the God of resurrection.
The good news let them know that they are loved by God, forgiven by God, protected under the power of God and supported by the all powerful strength of God.
I love this telling of the Easter story, because it is like a microcosm of every crisis and tragedy we face in life. Some of us rush in and try to take control like Peter, some of us hold back with a feeling of unworthiness or shame, some of us get frozen in our grief and have a hard time even coming up to breathe. But even when the shadow of death covers our path forward, Jesus makes a way through the darkness and shines a light towards hope.
This story validates different ways to faithfully respond to the mystery of the resurrection, and Jesus meets us and calls us to tell this story from our perspective and using our own personality.
We don’t have to have it all figured out. We don’t have to be joyful. We can still be in grief. We don’t have to know where our life will lead us next. But Easter compels us to Praise God for those things that are unseen and hidden from us, so say Alleluia, Amen. Blessed be the creator of the universe who takes away the sins of the world. Let it be so. Alleluia, Amen.
Before our stay at home orders, before we even knew Covid-19 would be a threat to our community, we put our Alleluia’s in this box with the hopes to find our Alleluia’s here today.
Are you ready to see what’s inside!
It’s empty. Like the tomb. The alleluia’s are in your heart. Even if you don’t know what to be thankful for, the Holy Spirit will sing through your heart.
I’d love to have your colored alleluia’s in mosaics, so that we can see our alleluia’s as beautiful butterflies, taking on new life, pieced together in love and hope for tomorrow.