Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

today's Gospel reading from the RCL is Matthew 28.1-10

    Easter Eve
     ~long grass
      on preacher's lawn

Sermon 4.24.2011 Easter Sunday

May my words be in the of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Amen.

Lent is over … and thank goodness says I and no doubt many of you! I wonder now if I were to ask for a show of hands to see how many had kept up with their Lenten promises, how many hands would go up … and how many family members sitting near those people might snort and smile and whisper 'Oh no you didn't' to them! … well, I'm not going to ask … Lent is over, and the joys of Easter are here … and no doubt all over the world Easter Eggs and all kinds of treats are being consumed with gusto, even from those who didn't give up chocolate for Lent … and indeed by those who are quite hazy on what Lent and Easter are all about!

Lent of course used to be the preparation for baptism for those who were to be baptised on Easter morning … and it was full of rich symbolism … the soon-to-be-Christians strengthened themselves for their new way of life through the disciplines of fasting and prayer as they journeyed with Christ in his time in the desert … on Good Friday they relived his passion and death … on Easter Eve they kept vigil with Christ as he lay in the tomb … and then on Easter morning they died to sin and were born to new life in the waters of baptism as they joined themselves to Christ's breaking the bonds of death as he rose from the grave …

[parish X: It is a particular pleasure therefore that we have a Baptism here in this parish this morning … not only does it help us get back to our roots as it were as a Christian people, but it also allows those who might wish, as they follow along in the service, to silently renew their own baptismal vows as the parents and godparents of young ___________ make those promises on his/her behalf …]
[parish Y: to bring that baptismal spirit to this Easter morning, when we come to the Creed, we are going to do it in the same question and answer form that baptismal promises are asked and made … ]

So what did happen that morning in the Garden that is so central to our faith? In many ways we don't know. In our reading from Matthew this morning we hear how there was an earthquake, how an angel appeared and the stone was rolled back, how the guards were terrified at what was happening and fell to the earth like dead men, how an angel appeared to the women and told them not to be afraid … but notice what we are not told … we are not told that anyone saw Jesus stepping out of the tomb … the stone was rolled back, not to let Jesus out … but to show the world that he is not there … in fact this is what the angel tells the women: he is not here; he is risen; come and see the place where he lay … but how he was raised from the dead and how he escaped from the tomb we do not know … indeed, we know from elsewhere in scripture that when his disciples, not believing what the women had told them, came to see for themselves & found the linen cloths he had been wrapped in for burial left behind in the tomb … if this were a mystery story, then indeed the mystery would be complete … a man is executed on the cross … to be doubly sure his killers drive a spear through his heart … he is laid in a tomb, hewn from the rock … a great stone is rolled across the entrance, so large it would take several men to move it … the tomb is sealed … guards are set … days pass … the events we spoke of earlier happen … the tomb is opened, but the dead man is gone … and there is nothing to explain the mystery but something that is a greater mystery itself … an angel tells them that he is risen … he also tells them not to be afraid … but of course, they are afraid … what is happening here would make anyone afraid … their very understanding of the fabric of the universe is being challenged … I'm sure the women didn't know what to believe … but then Jesus comes to them … they see him … they run to him … they still do not understand … but they know what they see …

This is the mystery that lies at the heart of our faith … the empty tomb … the fact that a man who said that he would suffer and die and rise again on the third did exactly that … it is this central fact which gives all our faith meaning … because knowing this proves that Jesus was exactly who he said he was, the Son of God who had come into the world for us … and it also tells us now that all the other things he said to his disciples, the promises he made to us through them, that these are also true … we may or may not keep our Lenten promises but he is always faithful to his … this is why we re-live this day … and this is why we rejoice … because through our baptisms we are in Christ and he in us … the victory that Christ won that day was not just for himself alone … it is for us … from his resurrection we know we have the promise of Eternal Life … amen.

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