Easter Sunday 04-12-2020
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let Israel say: His love endures forever.” The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: “The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things! The Lord’s right hand is lifted high; the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things! I will not die, but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death. Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of he Lord through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. The is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of he Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—-how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but god raised him from the dead on the third day and cause him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—-by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that his is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Se your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Chris, who is your life, appears, hen you also will appear with him in glory.
The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Matthew 28:1-10
After the Sabbath, as the first day of he week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of he Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said tot he women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.. Then Jesus said to them, “Go not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” The Gospel of the Lord.
Sermon for Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020
“Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!” A joy-filled proclamation. A mystery we don’t “get,” can’t “get,” weren’t designed to “get,” and yet it rings true to our world-weary, sin-sick souls.
“Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia…” We can’t say it enough. It is the balm in Gilead, the water to a parched tongue, the stream in the desert, the light at the end of the tunnel. “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.” Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed.
How different this joyful exclamation is from the words the risen Jesus heard from Mary Magdalene: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
You see, Mary was caught up in some serious grief – and, frankly, trauma. Her mind is stuck in a frantic loop: Where is he? Where is he? Where is he? The first time she says this is after she runs to the disciples’ safe-house to report this newest insult: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”
The second time, she says she can’t see straight because of the wave of disorienting grief. She is turned in on herself. You’ve been there, I bet. She misses the angels, dressed in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been laid. “Woman,” they ask, “why are you weeping?” “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
And then she senses another person behind her and turns around. Her grief is like a centripetal force, turning her in on herself, blinding her to capital-R Reality, trapped in grief, in thinking nothing would ever be okay again. She assumes this man is the gardener, maybe even the thief: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” The first words spoken to the resurrected Christ certainly are a long way from how we greet him today: “Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed.” You see, Mary was caught up in crucifixion vision. Crucifixion vision afflicts most of us much of the time. It is a way of seeing and perceiving the world that makes us think that Sin and Death are in charge. Crucifixion vision tricks us into wanting to go back to the past, to the good old days, as though the human condition has taken a dramatic plunge off the deep end since we were children. Crucifixion vision is what fuels our greed – we can never have quite enough to really be “financially secure,” can we? Crucifixion vision is what binds us in sadness when we take everything personally and think that we are responsible for everyone else’s well-being.
Crucifixion vision assumes that nothing will ever change in our politics, that the partisan divide is too great, that the world is divided between the elites and deplorables, between the haves and the have-nots, between the workers and the owners, between the educated and the uneducated, between worthy and unworthy. Crucifixion vision says the world is filled with winners and losers, firsts and lasts, and we’d better do everything we can to be winners. Crucifixion vision assumes death is really the end, so we’d better stuff our lives with as much stuff, as much pleasure, as much happiness as we can, and try to postpone death as long as possible with whatever means are available.
Mary was caught up in crucifixion vision, and we can understand that; Jesus had died. She was in blaming mode: Who took his body?! She was paralyzed and stuck. She couldn’t get up and leave the scene, like Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved. She didn’t have access to wonder and curiosity about why the linen cloths were rolled up so nicely in the corner of the tomb. Mary was trapped by crucifixion vision, like most of us are, most of the time. So much so that she couldn’t see the angels in front of her. Mary couldn’t even recognize the resurrected Christ in her midst. Until… until…“Mary… Mary…”
Until she heard her name. “Do not hold on to me… but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” And then her crucifixion vision fell away, like the scales on St. Paul’s eyes, and she saw for the first time with resurrection vision.
Resurrection vision is bigger than crucifixion vision. It overtakes it. It redeems it. Resurrection vision is looking away from ourselves and all of our problems to take in the beauty of a flower or the sunrise or the subtle sensation of breath – inhale and exhale – giving us life. Resurrection vision enables us to trust that all things – all things! – work together for good for those who are called to God’s purposes. Resurrection vision knows that joy comes in the morning, even though weeping is spending the night. Resurrection vision sees the burning, falling spire of Notre Dame and wonders what new thing God is doing, grateful that the French people, as secular as they are, remember and take comfort in singing the great hymns of the faith.
Resurrection vision is always open to being surprised by God because our resurrection God is a God of surprises. Surprise! God often uses the least qualified, least educated, least righteous, least “good” people to be his ministers in the world; just ask Moses, a man who had a fear of public speaking. Just ask the boy David, the youngest of all the brothers who used a slingshot and a pebble to defeat evil. Just ask King David, after he experiences God’s mercy, post-rendezvous with Bathsheba. Just ask Paul, who had been a violent persecutor of Jesus’ Way.
Crucifixion vision sees nothing but a single, dead grain of wheat, thinking, “Surely, that won’t be enough.” Resurrection vision waits for the surprise: now the green blade riseth from the buried grain, with bread for the world.
The only kind of vision God has is resurrection vision. God sent his only Son into the world, not to condemn the world – that’s crucifixion vision – but that the world might be redeemed through him. Surprise!
You see, if you only have crucifixion vision, you can’t see the surprise. You can’t even wait for the surprise. You can’t trust that the surprise is happening, here, now, by definition, beyond all you can ask or imagine.
But if you have resurrection vision, you know that with God, all things are possible. You know you aren’t the center of the universe. You know that love wins. You know that there are no more haves and have-nots, Republicans or Democrats, mountain people or beach people, rich or poor, slave or free, Jew or Greek, black or white. We are all one in Christ.
But here is the really good news. If you can’t seem to fix your vision – if the optometrist is closed and the readers are sold out Wal-Mart and the ophthalmologist isn’t on your insurance plan – God fixes it for you. God will seek you out, just as he did the lost sheep, the slaves in Egypt, the woman at the well. God will seek you out and remind you that you don’t have to, you can’t, in fact, you weren’t meant to “hold on,” because God is holding on to you. God is drawing you up from the grave, offering you free cataract surgery or just an updated eyeglass prescription – whatever it is that you need to see straight, to see with resurrection eyes.
It might take a while for you to see as God sees, to love as God loves. Remember that story in Mark where Jesus spits into his hands smears it on the blind man’s eyes? At first, the people looked like trees, so Jesus laid his hands on him again. And then his sight was clear. It might take a little time, a few tries – but friends, rest assured – God is at work, in our midst, meeting you just where you are, holding you, healing you and indeed the whole of creation, so we can see through resurrection eyes. “He is Risen, He is Risen, Indeed! Amen