Year A, Easter April 16, 2017 The Reverend Dr. Brent Was
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!
Happy Easter everyone!
What a glorious day. It is beautiful here this morning. Helen and the Altar guild team, thank you! And the music! The choir, Peg, Lucy, thank you! Tim with the Solemn Collects and Exsultet, awesome. Today, the past three days, thank you to the Eucharistic Ministers, the Lectors, Debbie, Betsy and Windy on our hospitality team, to all of you who so faithfully have shown up for the turning of the prayer wheel: Thank you! It has been wonderful spending this time together here in this house of God. And for you whom today is the first time you’ve been here for a while, or ever. Welcome! Whether God in Christ has pulled you here to this table or your mother has, you and all are welcome here. Thanks for showing up.
Showing up. That does not sound like a very profound Easter message, it seems kind of like a low bar. You can’t buy “Thanks for Showing Up” cards. Do they still do perfect attendance awards at school? Showing up is not a glamorous charism, but that is one of the things that the resurrection story in St. Matthew’s gospel is about: Showing up.
“After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.” What they did was very simple. They didn’t bring spices to prepare the body, they didn’t bring a big wreath of flowers to lay before the tomb. They didn’t go to protest Jesus’ martyrdom or wail and make lamentation. No, they went to see. They showed up.
They had listened to Jesus. He told everyone that He would be crucified, would die and on the third day would rise again. He was very clear about that. The chief priests listened; that is why they set a guard on the tomb to make sure no one secreted away the body and claimed resurrection. (At least they were listening). The disciples? The male disciples? Remember Jesus quoting Zechariah, “I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.” That is precisely what happened. They were long gone. Judas suffering his fate, Peter suffering for his triple denial of his friend and rabbi, and the rest just gone, scattered. But those women, Mary and Mary, they had listened, and they showed up.
That is the whole of the Passion narrative, isn’t it. It begins and ends with the women showing up, doing what they needed to be doing and the men, well, not so much. The Passion starts with the woman anointing Jesus’ feet with the expensive perfume under the critical glares and comments of the apostles. On Golgotha, who was there when they crucified our Lord? “Many women were … there… They had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him.” And to the end, at the tomb, Mary and Mary were there, exactly where they were supposed to be.
Showing up. Jesus in His incarnation, in His earthly ministry, in His Passion and Resurrection, He offers us very few easy lessons, simple, but monumentally difficult. “Turn the other cheek.” “Forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven times.” “Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Less abstract and even more challenging to modern ears than “take up your cross and follow me”). These are heroically difficult lessons, real sainthood material. That does not absolve us from that expectation, Jesus tells us that with extreme clarity that we are supposed to do all these things, but that is reaching pretty high up in that holiness tree. For most of us, it is a lot more basic, the practice of Christianity. The practice of Resurrection begins with the lesson those women are teaching us across the centuries. It all starts with just showing up.
Showing up, you bring the most precious gift you have to offer: yourself. You are offering yourself at the foot of the cross, at the altar of God. It doesn’t matter if you are highly skilled, if you are remarkably proficient. It is your presence that matters. It is the earnestness, the intention of the offer that matters. Who was the Blessed Virgin Mary? A peasant girl from a backwater province of the Roman Empire. She became the mother of our Lord because she showed up. Who was Mary Magdalene? An outcast from society, uniformly shunned by “respectable” people. She and her friends tended to, cared for Jesus throughout His ministry, to the bitter end. And how? Just like Mary, by bringing the one thing she had most desperately valued by God: herself. You have that to offer. Not your wealth. Not your skills. Not your sparkly personality or your inner generosity… you don’t need to start with those things in place, you need to start with yourself in place, which is what happens when you show up for Jesus. You are the offering that He desires. You are the one He needs the most.
There is nothing passive in showing up. Now you don’t go to take charge (though that could be the result), rather you go and are. You assume a posture of receptivity. Again, not passively waiting, but actively watching, actively listening. Maybe consolation is offered like what Mary and Mary received from the angel, “Do not be afraid…” Maybe there is an invitation like they received, “Come, see…” Maybe you’ll get instructions, “Go and tell…” Showing up is being present. It is being open. It is being receptive to the Word and Work of God in the world and finding and taking your share in it. It is the starting point of all that we do or hope to do as followers of Jesus Christ. And it is what we need to do no matter what. No matter if it is in the garden during the agonizing wait, at the foot of the cross on Golgotha, at the empty tomb with its fear and great joy, on the road meeting the Risen Lord for the first time, or on any given Tuesday in your life, showing up for the trials and tribulations we all face (or should to face) in our families, in our community, in this tattered nation, in this broken world… The invitation stands and it is in the reach of everyone. Maybe being here today, here in this church on Easter morning is a first step for you. Maybe it is a thousandth step. But you showed up. You are on the Way.
The essence of Christianity is revealed in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lots of stories are told, great meaning is made through the Passion and Resurrection. Our sins are forgiven, atoned for by the sacrifice of God’s only Son. We are reconciled with God the creator of heaven and earth. All the way to “…rising from the grave, (He) destroyed death, and made the whole creation new.” In these and the many other lessons of the cross, the empty tomb, Christ risen and walking amongst us that have been learned over the centuries, they each pierce us in different ways and in different ways at various times in our lives. Sometimes we need to be forgiven. Sometimes we need to be forgiving. Sometimes we need to be rejoined with God. Sometimes death is all around us and we need the power and the glory of the Risen Lord so that we do not despair, that we rise another day to do the work that God has given us to do. Sometimes we just need to be reminded to be not afraid, but to take hold of His feet and worship Him.
Where ever you are on your journey to the loving arms of Jesus Christ, whether you believe a little or believe a lot; whether you have been at it for years or haven’t been in years; whether you have tried and failed or not tried at all, this is God’s house, this is God’s table: all are welcome here. The first step in that journey is simply showing up. Come… see.
May God’s blessings be upon you here this morning.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia! Happy Easter! AMEN.