Apr13MonEaster Sunday Sermon 2020 April 13, 2020
At the break of dawn, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of Jesus
went to check on the dead.
At the break of dawn, we wake up and ask:
“What work has death done today?”
Many of us, when we wake up, we check the news,
and the news is frightening.
More cases of COVID-19, more dead.
We check on the death count globally, and the amount of dead locally.
We hear the news of famous people who have died.
And perhaps we, like the women, might have known someone personally who died.
The two Marys were up early checking on the work of death.
In a way it is normal.
We go visit graves of loved ones (it’s something people do),
To pay respects, to pray, to cry, to check on the dead.
It’s a normal part of grieving.
But what the two women were about to see when they arrived at the tomb,
was anything but normal.
This is a remarkable, unprecedented time to be celebrating Easter.
A time such as this. (Esther)
“A time when death is doing its deadly work.” (Rolf Jacobsen, Sermon Brainwave)
This morning is unlike any Easter Sunday in any of our memories,
And before today, no doubt many of us were wondering:
What will Easter be like without:
the big joyous service with Easter Lilies, and full pews singing lustily “Jesus Christ is Risen Today?”
What will Easter be like without the extended family meal and the big ham,
without the normal traditions.
And now that Easter morning is here,
We can’t deny reality: this is where we’re at.
We are still like dry bones in exile.
Easter is very quiet and very different.
Perhaps important to acknowledge
is that we are in a time very similar to the very first Easter!
Easter 2020 is like Easter 33,
Where the disciples were huddled together in fear.
Things were deadly quiet. Things were weird and strange.
The first Easter was not celebrated in a cathedral,
There were no throngs of worshippers, there was no massed choir
that first Resurrection Dawn.
Just uncertainty, confusion, just a few gathered and fearful,
“still reeling from the brutal heartache and loss they had experienced two days earlier, unsure of what the future held, unable to imagine their lives ever returning to normal.” (Lose)
Easter Sunday this year is very much like that first Easter morning
when the women came to check on their dead friend,
and they were afraid.
These days there is a lot of fear around.
Fear for safety, fear for our lives, for our futures.
Fear visible for example in the increasing use of face masks.
And given all that’s happening, it’s OK to be afraid!!
This virus rightfully causes fear.
The real difficulty, of course is keeping the fear to a a manageable level.
Because when dealing with a virus like this, we can’t discount the real risk.
We need a right amount of fear.
The fear needs to be proportionate to the risk.
We need to get informed, and take this pandemic seriously,
But too much fear can be paralyzing and counter-productive,
it leads to hoarding and asocial behaviour.
To counter it, we need to moderate our news and media consumption, practice deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and other practices to calm ourselves down.
Do not be afraid, Jesus commands the women!
And these Easter words of Jesus are directed towards us.
In the midst of a world turned upside down,
where an invisible, microscopic cause of death is rampant,
in the midst of isolation, unemployment and
rising disparity between the haves and the have-nots,
Fear not, Jesus says.
Do not be afraid, the risen Lord commands.
And why do Jesus’ words matter?
Why do we even listen to him?
Because the tomb is empty,
Jesus is risen,
and he is vindicated.
His words speak true: he is not a charlatan and a liar,
but truly the Son of God.
He is no ordinary Joe Blow telling people to “calm down”,
But he is : who he said he was,
And he was raised like he said : he would be.
His words are true and they speak reality into being,
As the eternal Word of God.
And since Jesus’ suffered, died and rose, we know that
“God is both with us and for us at all times and through all conditions.
In sorrow or joy, triumph or tragedy, gain or loss, peace or fear, scarcity or plenty, God is present.” in the words of David Lose.
Amidst the fear and uncertainty,
We can let Jesus’ words of comfort and hope speak to us,
And we can open our eyes to signs of consolation and reassurance.
Just like a sign of hope I experienced this past week.
Those of you in the Waterloo Region a week ago Friday evening might have noticed the amazing rainbow in the sky just before sunset.
I realized it had been a long,,, long time since I saw a rainbow.
I found it fascinating to witness,
esp. in the midst of this whole pandemic mess,
a real gift of joy and transcendent beauty to gaze heavenward and
breathe a sigh of wonder and awe at the colourful bow
that stretched across the horizon.
And then the sunset following that evening had the most beautiful hues
of orange and pink…another gift.
It gave me such a sense of calm, and my heart was at peace,
and I breathed out a silent prayer of gratitude: “Thank you, God!”
It helped me come to terms, in a small way, with where I needed to be, here and now,
and what I needed to do, to get through this stressful week.
“God meets us especially where we most need God” (Lose)
And I’m hearing from people who are telling me:
that their faith is helping them get through these dark days.
How prayer is sustaining them, and how our Golden Hours are a source
of comfort and connection.
Of course, there are no guarantees.
God never promised that there wouldn’t be pain or suffering,
that all would be fine,
and that we never would be inconvenienced by this or by that.
God also never promised unlimited health or limitless economic growth, and that churches would always be full to the bursting.
God never guaranteed that in the time of trial our faith
would be rock-solid.
Even Peter faltered and caved under pressure.
So perhaps this silent Easter, this quietest Easter ever,
which reminds us of the very first Easter 2000 years ago,
will bring us back to the essentials,
remind us of what is at the heart of the Easter message, that:
Death is not the end.
Disease is not the end.
Loneliness, fear and isolation is not the end.
that all the harsh realities of this life – hardship, struggle, loss, fear, hunger, – these realities – though painful
they most certainly are – do not have the last word. (Lose)
And our task, our call now, like the women,
In the midst of fear now,
We need to tell this story,
To give hope, give life for the generations to come!
To share where we received hope,
where we saw signs of beauty and new life.
Our call is to give witness.
To tell of Jesus,
“still inviting us to move forward and outward in faith, still promising to meet us up ahead, still reminding us that he will be with us always, even to the close of the age” (Lose)
We too can be a messenger like the angel and the women,
using not our words, but Gods’ words.
We can tell others and tell about God’s love:
how goodness triumphs over evil
how life triumphs over death
and how death has lost its sting.
Jesus Christ has risen, no matter what.
He didn’t stay dead this year!
We’re still having Easter!
Christ is risen!