Easter Morning 2018
The Rev. Jennifer Adams
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
One of the strangest things about Easter morning for me is that what we are doing in here which is so very beautiful and joy filled – it doesn’t seem to resemble the gospel story hardly at all. On other Sundays we bear at least some resemblance to what we hear proclaimed from the aisle. We hear a story about healing, or teaching, or sharing a meal and there is usually something going on in here that very obviously looks like what the gospel story told us.
But this morning is different. There is actually more happening than usual in our space. The music is loud (a good loud) and filled with joy. We’re dressed up a bit. There are candles and flowers and bells. We’re nearly full, and even coffee hour has a wonderful sort of “festive” about it today.
Which is absolutely wonderful, but also so very different than what that first Easter morning looked like and sounded like and felt like.
Very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, the three women, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. And when they got there, they “looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.” They went expecting to care for their friend who had died. They were quiet. They were tired. There were only three of them. That first Easter morning, the women had essentially gone to the tomb to mourn.
But then as they entered the tomb, which was sort of a brave act really considering the unusual circumstances, “they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be afraid; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth. He has been raised; he is not here…Go and tell his disciples that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
And the women went out and fled from the tomb, “for terror and amazement had seized them;” the gospel said. “And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” And that was it. End of the Easter gospel. On that first Easter morning, according to Mark, there was just an empty tomb. No flowers. No bells. There was a man in a white robe (now we have those but I think Mark was probably talking about an angel). There was fear, terror actually, and amazement! And they were told that Jesus wasn’t in that place – he had been raised and was “out ahead of them.”
And so there are a couple of things for us to hear this morning. First, we have just been reminded about where and how Easter begins and we need to hear that. There is an invitation in this gospel story for each of us, and it’s an invitation to the tomb. What the women were doing that morning was a gentle and loving act. They had gotten up before dawn to visit a place in their own life, in their own world that had invited their tears and evoked their desire to “care for.” That’s all they were doing. But they were doing it.
And the invitation to the tomb is one we often avoid. But like the women that first Easter morning, we need to go to those places – we need to allow our tears and our desire to care for – we need to let those pieces of ourselves guide us. And if there is anything this world is not lacking it’s situations that are tear and care worthy. “Don’t be afraid” we hear in this story. Easter morning invites us to those places in ourselves and in our world where resurrection is happening but isn’t visible, tangible, understandable, explainable. Yet. Easter morning began in a very hard place because the tomb has something to tell us. It’s where resurrection begins.
Now what happened was that they found the place to be empty except for an angel, and that’s something for us to hear too. There are always angels in different shapes and sizes, speaking in different voices, and “Do not be afraid” is a common theme among them. Eventually the tombs themselves empty.
The tomb is an essential stop along the way, but that’s all it is, that’s all it ever is. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus was “out ahead of them,” we heard. And it’s true for us too. Our tears and our compassion will take us to places where resurrection isn’t visible, tangible, understandable or explainable but it is happening. Resurrection is always happening…for you for me, for this world which God so loves. The good news is that the way of new life, the way of resurrection is being forged for us before we can see it ourselves.
And so on Easter morning we visit the tomb, eyes and hearts open to grace. And we offer the best of ourselves in those places that long for our presence, our love, our care. We hear the words of the angels and we go forward, trusting that Christ is there too, bringing resurrection and new life. And as we go we make our song, Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!