Easter Sunday! Matthew 28:1-10! April 20, 2014!
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
We are dead today. We have come to the tomb with the women searching for something, someone who is not there. We are not expecting what we get. We are expecting to find a dead body but instead we find an empty tomb. And because we have the benefit of 2000 years of tradition, we move easily to shouts of alleluias and trumpet fanfares. But the first Easter was not like that. And for some of us sitting here, maybe this Easter is not exactly like that either.
! “Everyone who saw the risen Jesus saw him after. Whatever happened in the cave happened in the dark. As many years as I have been listening to Easter sermons, I have never heard anyone talk about that part. Resurrection is always announced with Easter lilies, the sound of trumpets, bright streaming light. But it did not happen that way. If it happened in a cave, it happened in complete silence, in absolute darkness, with the smell of damp stone and dug earth in the air. Sitting deep of Organ Cave, I let this sink in: new life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.” --Barbara Brown Taylor "Learning to Walk in the Dark"
Alleluia is not found on the lips of any of those first disciples who find out Jesus is not dead but alive. In fact in all of the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection the people closest to Jesus basically have no idea what is going on. They are struck dumb by their own fear and incomprehension about what has taken place. How much more so for us and our scientific minds! Resurrection was never something that really happened. It shocked those women and men then. And it shocks us and confounds us all the more today. !
! It is fitting that Matthew tells us there was an earthquake. To stare into the reality of our own death; the death of someone we love, is to have our lives turned upside down. To have our faith shaken as we wonder if the empty tomb we see is really a promise of hope beyond all earthly hope. Or if it is just a giant hole hewn in the rock of our own soul. The truth is that the resurrection is hard to believe. Maybe some of us here this morning finding it difficult to understand. Maybe we are a bit perplexed like the women at the tomb that first Easter morning. Peering into an empty grave and wondering about whether or not the words we speak are not simply idle tales. Maybe you have more questions than answers. Then you are in the right place.
! Every one of us comes here just a little perplexed. Even those who come to church regularly and know the words to the hymns and the correct responses to the prayers without even looking in the bulletin. Even we peer into the empty grave and are not sure what to make of the resurrection. You might think we have it all figured out. And indeed some Christians out there want others to believe that they have all the answers. But none of us do. Just think about the story on that first morning, the first day of the week. These women who go to the tomb had gone the whole way with Jesus. From the very beginning they were an integral part of the ministry -donating their money and their resources to support Jesus and the other disciples. They had heard the teachings from Jesusâ€™ own lips about how he would suffer, die and then rise again. But until the man at the tomb reminds them, they are really not sure what is happening.
! You see, resurrection isnâ€™t something we can comprehend easily. And if we think about it resurrection is not something we really want. The dead coming back to life !
is the thing of science fiction and scary movies. It is not the way the world is supposed to work. We know that people who die stay dead. It is something those first disciples also knew. So if someone says Jesus is resurrected we want some proof. We want to see for ourselves. We are not ones to trust the words of others without some confirmation. But faith is not about knowledge and proof. It is about a relationship with God that finds us clinging to hope in the promises. Hope is not about what is probable. Hope is about what we desire most with all of our hearts, even if it seems totally illogical. Even if it scares us. Because what we do know is that this life is not always such a generous companion. It overwhelms us with its demands -- work, financial burden, disease and failing health, fears and conflicts, aging and death. But in this place we say against all logic, that all of those burdens and destroyers have been defeated by God through Jesus Christ. That these forces ultimately have no power over us because we are dead to this life and we are alive because we belong to God. That because Christ lives today we also can live new lives that are fuller and without fear.
! So for those of us who feel ready to shout loud alleluias this morning with full conviction, don’t hold back. We need those voices to strengthen our hearts and spirits. And for those of us who are just not there; who still peer into an empty, dark tomb not sure what is happening. Do not fear, you are not alone. And just maybe we can all challenge ourselves to dream about the “what if’s?” of the resurrection. What does it mean to say that death and forces of evil have been defeated by God? What would it mean for you to trust the promise of new life? How could our lives be different if we lived as though we were dead to the destructive powers and alive in ways that really matter?
The good news about the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that you don’t have to understand it to have faith. You don’t have to know what it means to come searching for God’s promises to you. Resurrection is not something we ask for. It is totally the work of God, who grants us the gift of life whether we understand it or not. It is our promise of life that is hidden in God, revealed in glimmers of hope that shine through our darkest times. Making us cling ever more tightly to the promise that is ours.
! “There are other people signing words to hymns they’re not sure they believe today, other people digging out dresses from the backs of their closets today, other people ruining Easter brunch today, other people just showing up today. And sometimes, just showing up - burial spices in hand - is all it takes to witness a miracle.” “Holy Week for Doubters,” Rachel Held Evans
! Perplexed and doubting is sometimes the only way we come. And it is enough for God to work with.