This sermon, offered at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, by the Very Rev. Andy Jones, on Easter Day 2017, is built around the readings assigned for Easter Day in Year A of the Revised Common Lectionary.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Thank you. I so needed to hear that this morning…. Please be seated.
I really needed to be here this morning; to sing these hymns, to tell this story, to proclaim that Christ, Emmanuel, God among us, is alive and present with us here and now…
And then to have you, the Church gathered, affirm that proclamation with joy and conviction. I think maybe I can breathe now….
You might think that a little strange. We do this every year. We have been doing this for almost 2,000 years and without fail, every year, the tomb is still empty. In fact, the tomb has been so reliably empty that we gather every week and together we say, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
Every year, every week, every day, God’s unfailing, unconditional love; the truth that nothing, not even death, can separate us from that love; God’s promise to be with us always, even to the end of the age, is reliably, without fail, true! Every year, every week, every day… the same…
But we all know that not every year, every week, every day is the same.
Some years are harder than others.
Some years tragedy and loss, pain and fear seem to rise from the ashes of defeat and assert themselves in ways that threaten to overwhelm us.
We are an Easter People. We claim this moment of resurrection, of rebirth, a world made news by God’s love, as the key to the way we understand ourselves, one another, the world around us, and God.
But sometimes the circumstances of life, our own lives, the life of our community, the life of the world in which we live, can break our hearts in ways that we aren’t sure can be mended and we run the risk of finding ourselves stuck in Good Friday.
I have talked with an awful lot of people over the last six months who have felt the weight of Good Friday sinking into their bones, trying to lay claim and lay waste, and I have to confess to you that I have been there too.
It may have sounded strange to you when I shared how badly I needed to hear our Easter proclamation this morning, but among the truths that we proclaim it’s important to name Good Friday, to make space for our varied experience of life, and to point in this moment of truth telling we are not alone.
Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” arrived at the tomb this morning their hearts broken their hopes and dreams dashed. While other accounts of the story have them arriving to anoint Jesus for burial, Matthew offers no explanation for their coming. We can only assume that their grief and suffering they come to the only place that makes sense, the place where Jesus’s body has been laid. What is next healed their broken hearts but it might just as easily have stopped them altogether.
There’s an earthquake, the stone is rolled away, and an angel of the Lord whose appearance was like lightning and whose clothes were as white as snow sat upon the stone and spoke to them. The guards, who were there to keep watch over the tomb, fainted dead away, but the women who had come to the tomb with their bleeding hearts their hands kept their senses and their wits about them, and received the gift that changed the world forever.
“Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.”
So they left the tomb with fear great joy and ran to tell his disciples. Imagine how that joy was multiplied when on their way to tell the disciples Jesus himself greets them. He says to them, “Greetings.” They fall to their knees at his feet and worship him. Here in the midst of fulfilling the mission that they have been given, to go tell the disciples that Jesus has been raised from the dead, they are given the gift of Jesus presence and they find him on their way to Galilee. The two “Marys” then go to the disciples with a new message.
Jesus says to them,
“Do not afraid; tell my brothers to go to Galilee there they will see me.”
That message has the power to mend our broken and bleeding hearts, to make us whole, to give us hope again, and to send us into the world search in search of the risen Christ.
But it’s not without good reason that both the angel of the Lord and Jesus start their messages to those they address with the words, “Do not be afraid.”
once our hearts have been broken, once our dreams have been dashed, it gets harder the venture out into the world. It get harder to risk being hurt again. It gets harder to make ourselves vulnerable in that way by hoping beyond hope that the promises, which we have been given, are in fact true.
Good Friday is always lurking on the periphery waiting to assert its hold on us, waiting to creep into our consciousness, and to dark our vision and our ability to see. That’s why, I think, both the Angel and Jesus himself, in the post-resurrection appearances, tell us to search for Jesus in Galilee.
Galilee, near the place where Jesus was born, the place where in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus spends half 0f the chapters devoted to describing his ministry. The other half being devoted to his Journey to Jerusalem and the cross. Galilee, the place where Jesus preached, taught, and showed us the way to heaven, where he healed the sick, where for a sinners, where he cast out demons, where he taught us that the way to experience a life that is suffused with and color forever by the eternal, is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves. It is there, in that place, in Galilee that we will meet him.
We will meet him there in the loving signatures of the people write us cards expressing their understanding of our grief and pain in ways that only someone loves us can understand. We’ll find him there in the eyes of the people who with compassion turn to the people on the margins and the oppressed, and offer them a hand, lifting them up so that we might all stand together. It’s there in Galilee in communities that gather around the risen Christ and offer the proclamation that we shared this morning, that he will meet him, that we will feel his love, and where we will know that we are never alone.
So no matter how you came in here this morning, whether it was with your broken heart in your hand and the weight of Good Friday riding on shoulders, or whether it was to have reaffirmed and strengthened the sense of joy and peace that you feel knowing that God is alive and present, even if you only came this morning for the Easter Egg Hunt… It is good that we are here.
Jesus said this to the Mary’s, go and tell my brothers, and my sisters, to go to Galilee. There they will see me. This my brothers and sisters, is Galilee…
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!