Preached on 5 April 2015 at St. Luke’s Memorial Church, Tacoma, Washington
Easter Day, Year B
Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen, indeed…
That’s not exactly how the women in today’s gospel responded, is it? Of course, they only witness an empty tomb and are told they would see Jesus if they go to Galilee. Each gospel tells the story a little differently. Each gives us a little insight into the storyteller’s response to the Resurrection. And it gives an understanding that there is more than one way to respond.
Mark leaves us with an empty tomb and silent, fearful women. They have found the tomb with the stone already moved and an angel sitting inside telling them there’s nothing to see here, go and tell the disciples to go to Galilee. They leave and tell no one. Originally, that’s where Mark’s gospel ended. Later two endings were added, a “shorter” one and a “longer” one in which Jesus makes brief appearances.
Matthew gives us a spectacular event with an earthquake removing the stone and an angel descending from heaven who sends the women to tell the others. This time they go away in joy and fear to tell the disciples and they meet Jesus on the way.
In Luke, like Mark, the stone is already moved. There are two men this time. The women go and tell the disciples without being told to, but the disciples don’t believe them. Peter, at least goes to check it out for himself. But then he goes home.
John gives a lot more detail. This time, it is only Mary Magdalene. As soon as she sees the tomb is empty, she runs to tell Peter and “the other disciple” because she fears his body has been stolen. At least they go to see for themselves and even go into the tomb. Again, when they find it empty, they go home, but Mary stays.
When she looks in again, she sees two angels who speak to her. And then Jesus speaks to her and tells her to go and tell the others that he will be returning to God. She goes and proclaims, “I have seen the Lord!”
I think it’s interesting that in each case, they go to the tomb, even when they’ve been told it’s empty. And in no case, do they go looking for Jesus. I wonder why?
How do you respond to the Resurrection? With joy or fear or amazement? With silence or do you proclaim it?
Resurrection matters in our tradition. But the truth is, resurrection only matters when it’s personal. Why does resurrection matter to you? The Resurrection – Jesus’ rising from the dead; or the general resurrection of the dead – the promise that death isn’t the end for those you love or for you. Or maybe it’s the little resurrections you have experienced in your life that make resurrection real; that make it matter.
How do you respond? Do you run to the tomb, so to speak, or do you look for the living one; that which has risen to new life?
Resurrection matters – but each of us will have a different response. To me, the resurrection matters because it tells me that this is real – I can trust what is revealed about God in the stories about Jesus. It tells me that death doesn’t have the final say; the Evil in the world doesn’t get the last word. The evil I may have done or the evil systems in which I may participate – even unwillingly or unwittingly – do not define me or confine me.
There is more. More to me, more to the world. There is something outside of ourselves – something greater, something good that embraces me and defines me; embraces you and defines you – as something good and worthy and lovable. You will have your own response; your own answers.
Maybe you have already experienced resurrection in your own life; times when you have received new life, new hope out of a time of change or of darkness or trauma or even death of sorts?
So if Resurrection matters, what claims does it make on your life now?
The Church tries to articulate some of those claims in the vows of Baptism which we will reaffirm in a few minutes. Of course this is not comprehensive and it may not express how you experience the claims of the resurrection. Words always fall short, especially when trying to express a sacred mystery like Resurrection or Baptism or our relationship with God.
All through Lent, we have heard the Old Testament stories of the covenants God makes with the People of Israel. Covenants that reveal God’s steadfast love for the world and God’s deep desire to be in relationship with the People, because covenant is always about relationship. These covenants lead up to the New Covenant in Jesus Christ which we celebrate today.
A new Covenant that includes all People. A covenant that offers the promise of eternal life, abundance of life, starting now. Resurrection matters because it is a sign of the Covenant with God; that through the incarnation of Jesus Christ – his birth, life, crucifixion, death, and resurrection – God demonstrates that God will do whatever it takes to draw us back into relationship; into the fullness of God’s love.
In Baptism, we publicly say yes to God, yes to the Covenant – or our parents said it for us. Now covenants are always about relationship and relationships require attention and commitment. And so, throughout the year, on Baptismal feast days, like Easter, re-reaffirm the vows we made in Baptism, our covenant with God.
In renewing our vows of baptism, we say that Covenant matters; our relationship with God matters. We proclaim, Resurrection matters.
Alleluia, Christ is risen!