Easter Sunday, Yr A –The Rev. Karen C. Barfield

Matthew 28:1-10

In the name of the one, holy and living God:
who was, and is, and is to come. Amen.

“After the sabbath,
as the first day of the week was dawning,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.”

Friday had been horrific.

Jesus had talked about his impending death, but it just wasn’t real…
at least
not until his arrest.
What a travesty –
a mockery –
of justice.

Sure, Jesus got angry every now and then
but for good reason.
Most of the time he was gentle.

There was a power
a strong, inviting yet gentle power that came from within him.

Why did he need to be derided
and stripped
and beaten until his flesh was raw
and hung on a cross in such a shameful way?

Jesus was a man of love and grace and forgiveness…
and now, he was dead.

Today a large stone and guards stood between the world and his body,
but the Marys came nevertheless, just to be close to Jesus again,
seeking some solace, some understanding of the last days’ events.

It had only been two days,
but they had already begun to experience that hole inside…
that emptiness.

When they heard a noise, they glanced up, hoping to see Jesus coming around the corner,
but it wasn’t…it was just a stray dog or a neighbor coming to check on them.

So, this morning, after a fitful night’s sleep,
they came to the tomb hoping to find some solace.

When they arrived, the earth shook,
and an angel of the Lord appeared, all dazzling white.

And that angel, with no effort at all, rolled back that stone,
and the guards were petrified with fear…and rightly so!

This first day of the week, filled with death,
was about to be accompanied by Life!

“Do not be afraid,” the angel said.

“You are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.”
Come and see.

Come and see.

Could it be?!

Jesus had told them all that he was going to die and that he would rise again.

He had died…
They had witnessed that horror.
So, had he really risen from the dead, too?!

After gazing into the tomb and seeing that Jesus’ body was gone, the two Marys left the tomb quickly.

They were filled “with fear and great joy.”

Their deep, deep sorrow had suddenly been lightened by a glimmer of hope,
but despite the angel’s words, fear lingered.

As they were running to tell the other disciples what they had seen and heard,
Jesus himself appeared to them.
Suddenly filled with new life, they took hold of his feet and worshiped him.
And then for the second time that morning, the two Marys heard the words:
“Do not be afraid.”

Do not be afraid.
I imagine they feared for their own lives!

If Jesus had been killed, they could be as well…
they better watch what they said and did.

What a week it had been for Jesus’ disciples.
What a week it has been for us.

Last Sunday we received news that Egyptian Coptic Christians were killed during Palm Sunday services…
War continues to rage in Syria… and Afghanistan…
Some of us have received news of challenging health issues or the death of a family member.

Life and death.
Fear and joy.
Our lives are intermingled with both, sometimes in the same day, or even, as for the two Marys….just moments apart.

Today, after a long week, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
Let us remember that the resurrection is not about human actions or possibilities but wholly about God’s capacity and determination to draw us closer….
God acts at that boundary of life that we call death and does something altogether new! (Cameron Murchison in Feasting on the Word, Yr A, Vol 2, p. 348)
Within these words: “He is not here” lies deep hope for the world,
deep hope for us…even in the midst of deep sorrow.
Do not be afraid.
God has overcome death,
and God sustains us in this life.

In the words of Ernest Hemingway: “Life breaks everyone.”
– as life broke for the disciples on that Good Friday so long ago.

Those words, “Do not be afraid,” do not mean that nothing will go wrong…it often does. Nor does it mean that everything will turn out for the best…frequently it doesn’t.

Those words, “Do not be afraid,” are the words of assurance that in the valleys of our lives God is with us. Nothing we can encounter is stronger than God’s love.

These words are words that engender courage…
words that help us to act even in the face of fear
or pain
or disappointment
or deep, deep sorrow.

In the words of David Lose:

“You see, in the resurrection we have God’s promise that life is stronger than death, that love is greater than hate, that mercy overcomes judgment, and that all the sufferings and difficulties of this life are transient — real and palpable and sometimes painful, for sure, but they do not have the last word and do not represent the final reality.

Fear and joy,
despair and hope,
doubt and faith,
these are the two sides of our lives in this world.

But in the end we have heard the resurrection promise that joy, hope, and faith will ultimately prevail.” David Lose (https://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=3174)

Christ’s resurrection signals above and beyond all else that our God is a God of new life and never-ending possibility.

“The good news of Christ’s resurrection does not take away our fear — though sometimes we wish desperately that it would — but it does offer us courage and hope by anchoring us in the sure promise that God will have the last word, and that that word is one of light and life and grace and mercy and love and peace. (David Lose, ibid.)

And for this we say:

Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen.
Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia! Alleluia!