“Easter 2014” 04/20/2014 by Rev. Stacy Swain (Click on title for audio)

Easter Sunday Meditation

April 20th

Will you pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God our rock and our redeemer. AMEN

It was not what they were expecting.

When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary left their house early in the predawn light to make their way to the tomb, they went with heavy heart and slow step. It felt as if a stone sat on their chests. It was hard to breathe, let alone talk. So they make their way in silence.

They never expected it would end this way.

They had expected great things from Jesus, for that is what they had come to know. They saw how people had been healed. They heard hope again. They had begun to feel, expect even that Jesus was gong to be the one to save them.

But now all of that is gone. All their expectation died with Jesus on the cross. Hope now lay buried with him, sealed away in the tomb.

And so this morning as the first day of the week dawns, as they make their way to the garden, they expect little.

All they expect to see — is the tomb;

All they expect to do — is sit;

All they expect to feel — is grief;

All they expect to hear – are their own sighs.

And what about the guards who stood there? As the day dawned what do you think they were expecting? They had been positioned there for three days now. Day and night they were guarding the tomb because of the fear that the followers of Jesus may try to remove the body and then claim that he somehow had risen from the dead. So the guards are stationed there to make sure nothing happens.

And so as the first day of the week dawns, all the guards expect little. All they expect to see now — is more of the same.

All they expect to feel now — is boredom.

All they expect to do now — is just stand there.

All they expect to hear now — is perhaps one or the other of them complaining about how tiresome this detail is.


suddenly, suddenly!

With that word, it is all put in motion! Suddenly, nothing is as it was. The women who in their grief were barely alive, are now suddenly standing there with hearts racing and eyes wide open as they feel — the earth quake; and see– an angel whose appearance is like lightening and his clothing white as snow, and hear the words “I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised.” Suddenly a future opens before them where authored not by their expectations but by divine love.

And the guards who were set to guard the one that was dead? Well they become like dead men themselves, as everything is turned on end.

The angel tells the woman, “Do not be afraid” Come see the place where he lay, then go quickly and tell!” Not only are they to receive the good news but they are to be bearers of it.

These two women who expected nothing more than to sit vigil outside the tomb and now commissioned to be holy messenger themselves!

But even though the angel told them not to be afraid, I think they still are. Though they feel joy rising there is fear still.

They are afraid for “what if it really is true?” What if he is raised? What if he really will meet them? What will he say to them? If Jesus does meet them, won’t it be with anger, and how could they bear that? I imagine they are afraid that Jesus will be angry with them for the ways they failed him time and time again of the trials of the past week. For how they failed to stay awake, for how they ran away, for how they denied and betrayed; for all the failing of this past week. What else would they expect – after having let Jesus down so?

They came to the garden that morning wanting nothing more than to see Jesus again and now I bet that they are terrified that they will! So can you imagine the look on their faces when SUDDENLY Jesus is there before them! And can you imagine how the earth must have moved for them yet again – when instead of anger they are met with love. When instead of condemnation they see the unfathomable depth of forgiveness in his eyes, and hear his words “Greeting or Rejoice, as it can also be translated, “Do not be afraid!”

With that the last of fear does vanish. Joy over flows washing them in the waters of new life and now with a radiance not unlike that of the angel they set off running to the brothers as fast as they can, bearing their message of good news out into the world. And I can almost hear them laughing and calling out to each other as they run “This is the last thing in the world I was expecting!”

The good news of Easter is that God is alive and is moving in the world in unexpected ways that can absolutely transform our living. For how we see the world is not how God sees the world. Where we may see a dead end, God sees a life giving, world changing “Suddenly!”

How may we be changed if instead of accepting what is as all that can be, we begin looking for the yet unseen. If we begin listening for what new arising may be waiting to break forth?

For I have become increasingly convinced that Jesus’ resurrection is, in essence, our resurrection too where we are to come alive in a whole new way of new seeing, and hearing and feeling – enliven through the living giving presence of God with us.

We may never fully understand what exactly happened during the time between that first Good Friday and the dawn of Easter morning. So much about how Jesus saves remains a mystery.

But what we do know is that those who followed Jesus while he lived, continued to encounter his presence even after he had been killed. And not only did they encounter his presence but they themselves were empowered by it. They felt in their very flesh and blood, something new and powerful rising in them, transforming them and giving them new life. Death could not hold Jesus and through the power of his presence they knew that all the death dealing fear filled ways of the world no longer had a hold on them. And they felt it, they lived it. Suddenly, they were no longer afraid. Suddenly they were seeing and hearing and feeling in new ways. Suddenly they knew that they were truly a wholly loved and forgiven people, set free to forgive and to love — come what may.

Today, this Easter morning we step again into this mystery of life beyond death, of hope beyond fear, of the power of love fully present – fully alive to us all. We celebrate not only the risen Christ but also the new life that rises in us. So when we go from this place, let us follow the example of those first disciples. Let us set off bearing their message of love and forgiveness and new life out into the world. We live the Gospel hope. Ours is a world of possibilities beyond our wildest expectations. Do not be afraid! He has been raised! Go quickly and tell! Go quickly and live! Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Amen.