Easter Sunday 2015
Resurrection begins in the Dark
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
Here we are amidst the sweet smell of flowers. Here we are singing our Hallelujahs while Trumpet’s notes soar. Bedecked in our best, we bear witness this morning to the coming again of Life. We proclaim the Good News of Easter “Jesus has been raised.”
It is good to proclaim the good news of the Easter, But I think it is also important to remember, that just as those crocuses in my front yard emerged from the cold, dark, lifeless ground, so too does resurrection. That first Easter, that Maya read about in scripture today, that first encounter with resurrection, came not with trumpets’ notes and songs of Hallelujah.
Instead resurrection emerged slowly, quietly, pressing up out of the cold, dark and lifeless tomb. To borrow the words of Episcopal Priest and author Barbara Brown Taylor: Resurrection happened in a cave, in complete silence, in absolute darkness, with the smell of damp stone and dug earth in the air. [i] .
Scripture says, it was just after dawn when the women came to the tomb on that first Easter morning, but they came very much in the dark. For they were in a very dark place that that morning. Their hearts were heavy with loss. Jesus had told all of them that after he was killed he would rise again. He told them this at least three times, but they did not believe it then and now, with his lifeless body sealed away in the stone, his words are forgotten completely. The women come this morning to anoint the body, but they are not convinced that they will even be able to do that for who will roll away the stone?
They come carrying not just spices, but also burdened by all of the ways they fell short and let Jesus down in those awful days before his death. They come remembering how one had betrayed. How another had denied. How some fell away, and how all the rest fell silent. They come carrying shame and guilt and loss.
It may have been just after dawn when the women come to the tomb, but they come in a place of deep darkness.
Do we dare join them? For like the women, we too are invited to come to the dawning of this day with all that burdens us. We too are invited to come with our failings, our heart aches, our fears. Our uncertainties about what the future will bring. Like the women, we too are invited to come with our shame and our pain. We may have put on our Easter best this morning, but it is the worst of ourselves of our world that we are to bring with us into this place of resurrection on this Easter morning.
There is so much that we don’t know about what happened in that sealed tomb, in the darkness between Good Friday and Easter Morning. We have many theories of how Jesus death somehow atoned for the sins of humanity. That his death cancelled out a depth that humanity could never pay. We have many theories of how Jesus death snatched life out of the hands of death, opening the doorway to eternal life and salvation. There is so much about what happened in the darkness of that tomb that remains a mystery to us.
But one thing we do know, and that is when the women stepped into the darkness of the tomb that morning, the seeds of their own resurrection were sown within them. They come in seeking to tend to Jesus in his death, but what they find is a summons to their own new life. For instead of the lifeless body of Jesus, they find one proclaiming new life, new work, and new hope for them. The man sitting where the body of Jesus had laid, offers words of comfort to them and then commissions them with good work, he says they are to go and spread the good news that Jesus is raised and will go before them to Galilee where he will meet them.
Now we may want what happens next in the story to be that the women toss down the spices and all the burdens they were carrying leaving them there in the tomb; that they emerge from that darkness as courageous witnesses to resurrection; and that they set off singing halleljauh, and running just as fast as they can to spread the good news that Jesus is risen!
But that is not what happened at all, is it? That is not at all how the Gospel of Mark tells the story, is it?
Instead what the Gospel of Mark tells us is that the women step out of the tomb and flee. They run way from that encounter, from that place of resurrection.
Why? Maybe because they don’t believe what the man dressed in that white robe is saying. Maybe they think that somehow it is a trap. Maybe they think that Pilate troops are coming for them, that they are going to be arrested and made an example of as well.
Or maybe the women run away because they actually do believe what they hear. Maybe they actually do believe that Jesus has been raised and is going ahead of them to Galilee and that they will see him there. Maybe they run away because that news scares them to death. It scares them to death because they cannot bear the thought of Jesus again after how they let him down so terribly in those days before his terrible death. How could they face him? How could they face his anger, his disappointment, his judgment and punishment.
We know the next chapter of this story, but the women that day do not. We know that what is awaiting them is forgiveness, love, and peace. But they do not yet know that. They run away because as the Rev. Mary Luti writes “in our human experience there is no such thing as a world free of revenge. Both our inner and outer worlds are structured for blame. Yet the Christian tradition claims that Easter inaugurates a world free of reprisal. Easter is the down payment on a world structured for mercy.
I love that “Easter is the down payment on a world structured for mercy.”
The women run from the tomb because they cannot yet believe that such a world, a world structured for mercy, exists.
And can we blame them? For don’t we too struggle with believing in such a world. Don’t we too have a hard time believing the words that young man, dressed in a white robe sitting in that tomb said that day? “He has been raised.” Don’t we too leave this place, emerging back out there in the world wondering about the veracity of the claims we make in here? Don’t we too tend to slip into silence?
But the good news is that Jesus goes before them not so that they will believe in this world structured on mercy but so that they will have an experience of it. I have said it before, that I believe that the whole point of Jesus coming back to the disciples instead of heading straight up to heaven, was so that they would experience what it is to be forgiven. Slowly through their encounters with the risen Christ and in their encounters with each other they could come to discover that the seed of forgiveness sown within them on that dark dawn of resurrection, had germinated, had begun to grow. They come to discover that a world structured on mercy is indeed possible because they are experiencing it. Peace I say to you, are the words the resurrected Christ will speak to them. Peace, not hate, love not condemnation.
In the story, Jesus goes on before them to Galilee but figuratively, Jesus goes on before us all. Jesus goes on before us and is there waiting for us within each interaction, within each encounter for us to experience the new live that emerges through seed of forgiveness sown in that those places of darkness where our pain and the pain of the world collides with the unflinching love of God.
So let the trumpet soar, let our halelujahs rise! For while much of what happened in that tomb remains a mystery, one thing is becoming increasingly clear. And that is that when we let the seed of forgiveness sown in the heart of the world that first Easter morn, germinate and take root in us, as we come to understand that we are a forgiven people called to forgive, as we learn that a world structured on mercy is not only possible but is coming into fruition in our living, then we become like those crocuses in my front yard, living witness to a resurrection that begins in the dark. Amen.
[i] Barbara Brown Taylor “Learning to Walk in the Dark.” Harper Collins: NYC, 2014. P. 129.