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    Easter Sermon

    April 15, 2021 by Carey Meadows-Helmer
    Filed Under:
    Pr. Carey

    Easter Sunday  

    John 20:1-18

     

    While it was still dark….

     

    The Easter Gospel opens with these words.  

     

    While it was still dark, in those brilliant early morning hours when most of the world still slept, Mary gets up and goes to the tomb.

     

    While it was still dark…

    Even as the sun had not yet arisen from its western slumber, the disciple runs to the place where her loved one lays hoping this might take away the ache that is in her heart.  The grief she can feel down to her fingers. The very hands that Jesus blessed.  

     

    While it was still dark…

    She runs with the strides of a gazelle to be near Jesus.

    But the stone is rolled away. 

    For some reason this is of no surprise. 

    Jesus was known to add twists and turns to the story. 

    And now for a moment she understands, that tenacity of life, did not die on the cross.

     

    While it was still dark…

    The other disciples hear the news, they have taken Jesus’ body.

     

    For a moment, the disciples are taken back to when the earth went dark, when Jesus died… and the anger, oh the anger at the unjust ways. I can imagine the disciples wanting to hold accountable the leadership that allowed violence of such degree to happen. They weren’t guns but crosses. So many unnecessary crosses. So many innocent and unnecessary lives.  So much unnecessary violence…

    While it was still dark….

     

    Simon Peter and the one whom Jesus loved hear Mary’s words and run to the empty tomb, not knowing whether this would make things better or worse. Inside they find the linens laying, one on the floor and oddly the other rolled up neatly in another place.  Ahh.. they breathe. Jesus was not removed in haste or with violence. Someone took the time to roll up the linen that was on his head.  And when they saw this. They believed.  They were drawn so deeply into the faith Jesus had been living with them. And now they even more so than in the previous moment. True to what Jesus had told them, he would die but rise.

     

    The disciples must have been tired of all the pivots, changing course 

    with the blink of an eye, quickly coming up with plan B or even plan C , to 

    adapt to the ever-changing terrain. All within three days.  An 

    intimate meal, a great command to love one another, washing feet as a 

    lesson in how to serve, prayer in the garden, betrayal and then the violent 

    cross.

     

    While it was still dark…

    After seeing the empty tomb, they go back to their home. They too will hunker down and ponder the mysteries unfolding among them.

     

    But Mary stays.  Strong emotions flood.  So much loss, so much nonsense.  As tears fall to the ground, footsteps draw near.  Unrecognized yet the footsteps were of comfort and not concern.  At first, Jesus the one asking questions of her is thought to be the gardener.  But then a word is spoken and name is called. Jesus calls her by name, Mary. And she recognizes. 

     

    The stone is rolled away.

    The risen Lord is outside. 

    Jesus doesn’t remain in the tomb. 

    And now the Risen Lord comes near to Mary calling her by name.

     

      

    The part about this Easter Gospel that is so poignant for me is that you can’t quite pin down Jesus …like ever …. You can’t keep Jesus in one place for very long or hug him tight enough that he’ll never leave. Instead, the disciples, the ones who love the Lord of life, continually discover Jesus along the way. 

     

    In the tombs

    In the running

    In the sharing

    In the weeping

    In the conversation

    In the angst

    In the ecstasy

    In the bewilderment

    In the endless pivots 

    In the adaptions

    When we go back home and 

    When we go outside

    In the garden

    In the living

     

    Yes, in the living, the resurrected Jesus shows up and calls us near. 

     

    That Jesus doesn’t stay in one place or ask us to remain in one place keeps us on our toes - alert - a little uncertain -  if we are attentive the nudging of the spirit. Not even the first disciples could hold onto Jesus in the flesh. Maybe this is because it’s highly likely that if we could, we’d demand Jesus to conform to our ways or the shape of our faith or the shape of our church or remain as Jesus of the status quo.  The risen Christ invites us into much, much more than this type of certainty. 

     

    Jesus makes safe space wherever Jesus walks. Freeing his children with the words and rhythm of life, death, and new life.

     

    God’s continued ministry among us is rooted in resurrection and new life. 

     

    And resurrected life …

    Is a courageous life…

    because the tombs are always there.

     

    The resurrected life calls us to live and speak the way of life and love in face of all that threatens to upend a new creation.   Of all that threatens to put people or lives or humanity or God’s generosity or love and welcome into a tomb for safe keeping or worse yet hate.  

     

    It was a courageous life for the disciples to go while still dark outside.

    To run to the tomb. To see and believe.  To go back home or to stay. 

     

     

    Resurrected people - people who follow the resurrected Christ,  live boldly. 

    Because resurrected people know the power of God’s love in the lives.

    Oh what gumption resurrected people embody. Oh what grit.

    When lives are being transformed by the power of God working in us much more than they could ever ask or imagine - there are ripples.  Each glimpse - each taste of resurrection, no matter how small, ripples into our family, congregation, community and the world.

     

    The resurrection invites us to …

    Look around….

    To leave the empty tombs and to help others do the same.

     

    It’s no wonder Mary wept. The weight of the cross and tomb are far too heavy. Unbearable. The heartbreak and deepest sorrows of the world.   

    We are never free from these in the world. Troubles persist and will persist until the end of time.  Christians - people of faith - do not get a free pass. 

     

    The resurrected life is bold and courageous. It lives with tenacity, like Jesus, in spite of troubles and hardships.  Speaking another alternate more powerful word - Alleluia. Hallelujah. Alleluia. Alleluia will be our song. We will not stop saying Alleluia, Praise the Lord.   In spite of the troubles  - to speak god’s life into the troubles of the world.

     

    I think the words written by the first female anglican bishop, Barbara Clementine Harris are fitting, and they resonate now - in these lengthy times. She says, Hallelujah anyhow,

     

    Hallelujah anyhow

    Never let your troubles get you down

    Whenever troubles come your way

    Hold your hands up high and say

    Hallelujah anyhow!

     

    Not all moments of life have troubles, there are days when not even the grumpiest of persons could ruffle a feather in your Easter bonnet but when days, or months or a year of trouble visits, we can boldly and confidently say, Alleluia anyhow.

     

    Knowing that the word we speak is because of all that God has already done, and the what God is doing and what God still has to accomplish in the world with people like Simon Peter, Mary, the loved one and us. On our part, Alleluia names the praise and trust that the Risen Lord who came among us to lead us into the way of life, day after day, after day.

    Over peaks and valleys, through plains and beside still waters.

     

    Say it with me,

    Alleluia anyhow. 

    Amen

     

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