A sermon for Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022
I am always struck by the matter of fact nature of the “young man, dressed in a white robe,” the “angel of the Lord, descending from heaven… His appearance like lightning, and his clothing white as snow,” the “two angels in white,” or as Luke tells it to us today, the “two men in dazzling clothes.”
These messengers of God come to remind us of what is coming next, of what has happened just as Christ said it would.
This is what we celebrate on this Easter morning.
That Jesus Christ is risen.
That Jesus Christ is risen, just as he said he would be.
That Jesus Christ has defeated death for the final time, and through that defeat, we now access a new life in Christ, an eternal life in the salvation that has been accomplished on the cross, a new life made possible because our relationship with God has forever changed in Christ’s betrayal, death, and now resurrection, signifying the eternal forgiveness of our sins, signifying a new way of love that we are called to walk.
“Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
Our worship each Sunday, our worship especially this Sunday, is an act of remembrance that this exact event has happened, just as Christ said it would, and in that, a promise has been made and is continually fulfilled in our relationship with God that we practice in our faith, that we see realized in our own deaths and entry into that eternal life that lies before us.
But, imagine being these women coming before the tomb today.
They are deep in their grief.
Even with the words that Jesus has said, the path that he has stated he must walk down, there is still the very real reality that they are dealing with the death of their close teacher, leader, friend. Women who loved and followed Jesus, who loved the disciples, who were mothers, sisters, wives, themselves, following this man Jesus together with everyone else.
And, they come to the tomb today in their grief to perform their duty, to anoint the body that has lain in the tomb.
But, they do not find Jesus there.
They find an empty tomb, as if Jesus has been taken away.
And then, the two men in dazzling white remind them of what was promised.
The women go racing back to the eleven, the apostles, and everyone else who has gathered in grief over Jesus’ death.
They are excited!
They have Good News to share!
Jesus Christ is RISEN TODAY!
They have swung from grief to pure joy and wish to spread that joy with all of the followers, because the greatest thing to happen for creation in its relationship to God has been realized on this day.
“But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”
I mean, it is a preposterous tale.
Sure, Jesus was a man of miraculous healings, of miraculous acts, Jesus was the man who has raised others from the dead, but that is different, he was here to draw on the strength of faith in God to act, and, in his death, he is no longer here.
How can it be possible that he himself has risen?
That’s just not possible.
Remember, the two men in dazzling white say.
Perhaps it’s that word that echoes in Peter’s mind as he gets up to head to the tomb himself. He observes the empty tomb, and is amazed at what has happened.
Our story of faith, our identity as Christians, finds its moment of distinction on this day where we celebrate the empty tomb.
Jesus hasn’t even reappeared yet in the gospel lesson we read on this day, but that empty tomb holds inside it all of the promise and hope and anticipation of what the resurrected Christ will establish as his kingdom, of what the resurrected Christ means for us in relationship to one another and to God.
We observe this empty tomb on Easter Sunday, and are amazed, even if it seems like an idle tale.
Perhaps that’s why it can be challenging to share our faith with others.
Perhaps that’s why some find it challenging to step foot in a church in the first place.
There is simply no way that Jesus, the man we watched die on the cross on Friday, who we laid in the tomb, and rolled a giant stone in front of, sealing it shut, is no longer in that tomb, let alone that messengers have come to share that he has risen on this third day, that he has left the tomb, that the whole world, the very fabric of our reality as creation knew it to this point, is about to change.
It is a preposterous tale.
And yet, here we are, on Easter Sunday in 2022, celebrating this reality.
Here we are, on Easter Sunday in 2022, having experienced the past two Easters primarily from our computer screens.
Here we are, on Easter Sunday in 2022 celebrating that we are together once more in community with one another in a physical, tangible way, celebrating the Eucharist together, breaking bread together with a fabulous brunch immediately following the service (ALL are invited! There’s plenty of food!).
If you had told any one of us in 2019, my first Easter with this parish, that this would be our reality today, these words would’ve seemed to us an idle tale, and we would not have believed them.
We celebrate nonetheless because we believe.
We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. We believe that He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of Mary. We believe that He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. We believe that He descended to the dead.
We believe that on the third day He rose again, and in rising he trampled death by death, that in rising we now have access to an eternal life of salvation, that our sins are forgiven, that God holds an unconditional love for creation.
This is the Good News of Easter Sunday.
This is the Good News that is shared by the two men in dazzling white this morning.
This is the Good News that echoes that same Good News declared by the Heavenly Host on the occasion of his birth, that Jesus Christ is with us, still is with us, always.
Let us celebrate this Easter Sunday in the joy of that Good News.
Let us celebrate this Easter Sunday in the joy that we can share this Good News together, that we can share this Good News with our neighbor, that we can share this Good News with all we meet.
For it is on Easter that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, just as he said he would.
For it is on Easter that our faith finds its unwavering strength.
For it is on Easter that life begins again.