April 12, 2020
Matthew 28: 1-10
April 12, 2020
Ruth Chadwick Moore
The first day of the week was dawning, and according to Matthew’s gospel, two women go to Jesus’ tomb. In the other gospels the number of women and their names change. But in all four of the gospels the story of Easter morning is told to women.
Matthew does not say why the women headed to the tomb. He just says they went to see it. We have the advantage of knowing the end of the story. But they didn’t know they would hear good news.
We want to race to the celebration, that’s probably why you are watching the live stream this morning isn’t it? But like the first Easter morning, today we will first walk in sadness for what has been lost in our world. Like the women, we do not know what we will find as we journey through our fear and sadness in a time of pandemic. And so I invite you to remember that a faithful response to loss is grief, and I encourage you to not rush too quickly past it toward the Alleluias. Some days we are called to bear witness to death, to stand vigil and remember the ones we have known and loved who have died.
And then sometimes, in the midst of that sadness, we find an angel upending everything we thought we knew about life and death.
Today is the first Easter sermon I have every preached. Associate pastor’s never get to preach on Easter. It is an honor and privilege to do so today, but it is an awesome responsibility too. What can I preach that you have not already heard? Should I try to explain the unexplainable? If you came here today to hear me try to make sense of the resurrection, or to reduce a subversive mystery into something understandable and manageable, then you have come to the wrong place. I cannot define or even describe the resurrection because on Easter, God, has done something incomprehensible! That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus. It just means that as your Easter preacher I am going to try to distinguish between something that does not make sense and something we cannot make sense of.
So I guess what I want to say is, today, I am going to tell you a mystery. And that Easter mystery and message is that we will not all die, but we will all be changed.
The first Easter began in the dark of the early morning. The women were afraid. They did not understand what had happened. They had no experience with stone rolling, angels that look like lightening, or resurrection, but they knew Jesus when they saw him. They knew who had loved them until the end.
Two thousand years later we are much the same. We don’t understand the resurrection. We don’t get the physics of angels. Much remains a mystery, which is as it should be. But we are here today because the women accepted the mystery and ran right into Jesus on their way to tell the story.
And the story still matters. The truth in the story of God conquering death still matters in a world where the only hope we are often given is in earthly leaders who believe that power comes with money, might and fame. Earthly powers don’t seem to be as important in the midst of a pandemic, do they?
The value of the resurrection story is this. The moment mortality tries to pronounce a grim no over our graves, death will be overwhelmed and overmatched by Christ’s yes. That’s what happens to us when we stop believing in the grave and hold fast to the resurrection instead. The resurrection lifts us up, above the options that death presents.
Two thousand years later we are still gathering to tell the story told to women who went on to share it with a bunch of scared disciples hiding in a locked room because it was too dangerous to come out of the house. Two thousand years later we get to experience a glimpse of what that first Easter was like, daring to believe that hope is on the horizon. Two thousand years later we proclaim the miracle of resurrection and testify to being Easter people, people who believe that death has been defeated by love.
And now it is up to us to proclaim where we have seen resurrection. Do you have stories to share of being afraid and uncertain? Do you have stories of faith to share, where God showed up in the face or actions of someone and you knew it was a sign of new life? A sign of hope? How does resurrection hope change you and how does that help you cope with the realities of a world health crisis and the staggering consequences it has for all of us?
The powers of this world may try to tell us that the Easter story is an idle tale told by women. But I hope you will have the audacity to believe instead in resurrection.
We may still be in our homes daring to believe that hope is on the horizon. But hopefully, after a while, when it is safe for all people, when it is the most loving choice, we will come out, gather together, singing and shouting the good news that God brings life even out of death, and that love always has the final say.
Resurrection always wins. And that message today, in a world of fear, can bring us great joy! That is the story we must share with a world that is hungry for hope in a time of uncertainty. May we tell our stories of resurrection and make time to hear the stories of other people’s resurrection too.
Like the angel said, go and tell.
Resources: I have borrowed liberally from a previous sermon by Marci Glass and am grateful for her words. She is a PCUSA pastor in Boise Idaho.
“Be Ready for Joy”, Glass Overflowing, marciglass.com/2019,04/21/be-ready-for-joy.
“Preaching on Easter Sunday isn’t about convincing people”, by Jim Friedrich, christiancentuty.org.
“Thunderous yes: Preaching to Easter crowds”, christiancentury.org/article/2014.