Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019
“When hope meets hope.”
We have decorated this sanctuary with lilies, tulips and daffodils, but after hearing our scripture for this morning, I am wondering if perhaps it would have been better to have put caution tape out instead of flowers.
After hearing of an earthquake and a rolling stone, perhaps we should have handed out hard hats instead of bulletins.
For according to Matthew, there is something about this day that could — very well — shake us to the core.
But before we enter into what that may be, let us pray,
Holy One, — if it is true. If it is to be believed. Then that changes everything. So meet us, I pray, as you met them on that day so long ago. And may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, Our Rock and Our Redeemer. Amen
“After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,” the Gospel of Matthew tells us, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.” They went to see – the tomb.
The scripture does not say that they came with spices to anoint the body. Or that they came to weep in their grief. All that the scripture tells us is that they came, to see the tomb.
Why, I wonder?
It’s not like this would have been the first time that someone precious to them had been laid in a tomb. Especially in that time when child mortality rates were high and life expectancy low, these woman would have been all too acquainted with tombs.
Nor can I believe they come to see the tomb because they somehow needed to make real the nightmare that was Friday, when their beloved friend was crucified. I don’t think they came to see the tomb because they needed help in taking in the truth of what had happened. They had been there. They saw it all.
And it is not like what had happened to Jesus was something new. It was not an anomaly at all. There was nothing unbelievable about what had happened to Jesus. What had happened to Jesus was happening all of the time. Crucifixion was nothing new in Mary Magdalene and the other Mary’s time. (Nor, in our time as well).
So, why hadn’t the women moved on?
The other disciples had. They were across town strategizing about what to do now, now that their leader was dead. Should they return to Galilee and try to take up their old lives again? The disciples were moving on.
Why weren’t the women?
Why couldn’t they accept the fact, that death won yet again and that resistance to the death-dealing machinations of the powers of the day was futile? What was it that drew them to the tomb that first Easter morning?
At the University in Central America, in San Salvador, it is possible to walk through the residence and into the garden where in 1989, 6 Jesuit priests, their house keeper and her daughter were brutally killed by Salvadoran death squads. Whenever Mark and I would come into the city from our work in the countryside, we would go to see those rooms and that garden. We would go to see it, not because we needed to be reminded that such a horror had happened, but we would go to see it because somehow in doing so we would experience a deep connection with the spirit, energy and love that filled those priests who pushed back against the violence of their time and advocated tirelessly for the dignity of the poor who were being brutalized. It’s hard to put into words but there is a presence there, something that despite the violence that killed them, is still, very much alive. To stand in that garden, for me, was experience a deep connection with something powerfully good, something that filled me with strength, conviction and hope. To stand in that garden, for me, was an experience of the Christ.
I think that is why the women came to see the tomb, why they came to that garden that first Easter morning. I think it was hope. A conviction of Hope that would not die. A Hope to connect with the power of goodness they had with Jesus, and that even in his death, they hoped they would experience still.
And not just them, but it was as if all heaven and earth was holding its breath with hope as well. Hoping that those that loved and followed Jesus would fall into despair. Hoping that at least a remnant would still clung to hope.
For when Hope met Hope that morning, things started to happen. Hope brought the women to the tomb that morning and hope met them there and when it did, there was a seismic shift. When hope met hope, tectonic plates moved, a boulder rolled away, and a doorway into a new future was thrown open.
For the Angel, that heavenly messenger tells them: “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.”
Let the full import of this good news not be lost on us. What is proclaimed is that Christ is moving in the world. Jesus did not go from the empty tomb to the right hand God to settle a score or a debt that was owed. No, instead the angel proclaims that the love and power of God is on the move in the world, now. Resurrection means new life not just at the end of our lives but right now in the midst of whatever it is that we are facing. We live, right now, in now in a Christ soaked world, to quote Franciscan Priest, Richard Rohr. (p. 15).
This is the good news at the very heart of the resurrection. Could we start to trust in what all of creation is proclaiming this time of year? Could we start to trust that Easter is not a onetime event that happened long ago on the other side of the world? But that Easter is a unique revelation of an ongoing reality of resurrection that is our every present possibility, now?
Can we trust that the saving, living power of the Christ is moving in the world now, and even now is yearning to meet us, to heal us, and to invite us into itself so that we join the Christ in bringing forth new life?
Now here is where the caution tape comes in and where we may want to exchange Easter bonnets for hard hats, for to be Easter People, to be the ones that seek an encounter with the Christ, means that we too must be the people who see and help others to see, as Jesus did, the systems of domination that enslave God’s people. To be Easter people, people of the resurrection, means we too are to join the Christ in putting an end to violence as a tool of social control. We are to join the Christ in confronting the systems of oppression of our day and of their death dealing ways.
So on this day, and in the days that are to come, may we be as Mary and Mary Magdalene. May hope burn within us. May we be led by hope to the broken places in our world. May we encounter the Christ and the new life that is being called forth. And may we, in all we are, proclaim the power of God’s love alive in the world. A love that changes everything, this day and forever more. Amen