A Sermon for 21 April 2019 – Easter Sunday!
A reading from the gospel of Luke 24:1-12. Listen for God’s word to us in this reading about the first Easter morning. Listen.
“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to (the apostles) an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.”
This is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God!
The gospel of Luke presents a curious telling of the first Easter morn. For in this gospel and this one alone, a question is posed to the dutiful women who go early to the tomb. They’re asked: “Why do you look for the Living among the dead?” On one level we know why they look. All of the gospels put the women who were disciples of Jesus at the foot of the cross. Though Peter and the others may or may not have been there, the women are. They see with their own eyes what had been done to Jesus. They watch and wail. They see him take his last breath – rendering his spirit into the hands of God. When Joseph of Arimathea comes to bury his body; the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke name the woman as there. Still watching. Still grieving. Still wanting to provide for the needs of the One who had become their teacher, mentor, friend. The One who had accepted them and gave them a special place in the circle of his disciples as the women too found the purpose of their lives transformed for the furtherance of their Lord’s mission. Why, according to the gospel of Luke, are Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them at the tomb at the break of light the first day of the week – after the Passover Sabbath had come to an end and it was time to go properly anoint the body of their crucified Lord? They’re there out of great love, of course. For that’s what we do when we lay our cherished ones to rest. After the final funeral casserole is gone and we’re left without all the bustle of sympathizers who have come to offer their support, we return to the grave to ensure the marker properly has been placed. We say our prayers, brush away the stray dirt. We return to the spot we last saw our beloved – wanting just to be in their presence again.
On another level the question to the women at the empty tomb is curious. Because if they’d been listening, wouldn’t they have expected to find the Living One among the dead? That’s where he’d always been. For wasn’t this the One who declared about himself at the beginning of his ministry – as recorded in the gospel of Luke – that “The Spirit of the LORD” was upon him? Because he had been anointed to bring good news to the poor. He had been sent to proclaim release to captives. He was here to recover the sight of those who were blind. To let the oppressed go free. To proclaim the time of God’s favor. Wasn’t this the One, the women knew, who had gone about his days cleansing lepers, who were as good as dead? Healing those who whose lives seemingly had become useless? Wasn’t this the One who taught a whole different Way than the death-tolling fend-for-yourself – use-force-if-you-must way that was being promoted in the culture all around them? Wasn’t this the One calling to his cause the most unlikely of folks? Fishermen far from the halls of Jerusalem’s great Temple. Despised tax collectors like Zacchaeus. Even women and other outsiders. Wasn’t this the One who spent his time among those good as dead bringing them back to Life with a touch of his powerful hand? A nod of welcome in his circle? A summons to follow in the Way of self-giving love? I realize that the messengers at the empty tomb wanted the women to know the Living One had been raised; he was no longer there. But where else really would the Risen Christ be than among those still needing Life?
Easter asks us to look – to keep our eyes open for the presence of the Risen Christ. And to remember where best to find the Living One. In the places where we are broken. Among the people still needing release. We’ll find the Risen Christ where bread is broken and the fruit of the earth poured out – especially for those who are hungry to eat. We’ll find the Risen Christ where bodies are healed and spirits are calmed. We’ll find the Risen Christ still where outsiders are welcomed. And those blinded by the ways of this world finally, at last, see. We’ll find the Risen Christ where all hope seems gone – after devastating loss when we come to one another to offer an empathetic ear, a helping hand, a sense that no one will have to walk alone. Everywhere any still are as good as dead, the Risen Christ will be. Working through us, working in us, sometimes even working in spite of us to bring new Life for all.
This is the mission. We’re invited to come follow. Until, at last, Life is all that’s left. Risen Life alongside the Living One!
Alleluia! And Amen!
In the name of the life-giving father, the life-redeeming Son, and the life-sustaining Spirit, Amen.
© Copyright JMN – 2019 (All rights reserved.)