April 16, 2017, 8 AM Easter Day Year A The Rev. Anne Abdy
Today, this Easter resurrection, upsets the apple cart. What should be logical is no longer. An earthquake, the ground shakes and the tomb is opened as the stone rolls away. The angel assures the women that all is well and invites them to see the empty tomb saying, “He is not here, for he has been raised as he said. Come and see where place where he lay.” The body is not there and the linen shroud lies limply discarded off to the side. This should not be.
When I was living in the south, at Easter time I attended many dramatic productions of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ offered by Baptist churches in the area. The Passion or passio (the word “sufferings” in Latin) of Jesus are thought to be recorded in Latin translations of the Bible that appeared in the second century. However, these dramatic productions always started with the Nativity and in a short two hours the audience would live the life of Jesus through to the sufferings on the cross and to the resurrection. These plays always made Easter very real for me. But there was something that always bothered me. Why did they always start with the nativity yet it was an Easter production? Should it not have started with the resurrection?
I think Mary, Mary Magdalene, and the women at the tomb, plus the early Christians got it right. If we are to be Easter people then the conversation needs to begin with the resurrection. We need to talk about today. In fact, some theologians say Mary Magdalene delivered the first sermon as an evangelist with her words “I have seen the Lord” which we hear from the story as it is written in the Gospel of John as she tells the disciples of her visit at the tomb. We need to talk of Jesus’ resurrection.
When we think about the story of the empty tomb, Easter can easily become an advance course in religious studies. In one moment of time, there is eschatology, the study of last things as human beings long for something else beyond their earthly lives. In other words, there is hope in the everlasting. But the resurrection also relates to atonement theology, missology, and has connotations for pneumatology or the study of the Holy Spirit to name a few disciplines of study. The resurrection is not for beginners. It is complicated.
What helps me understand the resurrection, is not the academics and head knowledge although that information is important, but it is this simple interaction that Mary has with the disciples. Matthew tells us that the women left the tomb and “ran to tell the disciples.” (v. 8) I like to think of the scene unfolding as written in the icon titled Mary Magdalene telling the Disciples. This icon depicts Mary revealing this news to the eleven disciples. Remember Judas is not around. The eleven stand upright grouped together in two rows. Mary is clothed in a red dress with a red head covering. She stands in front of them separated by a classic tall thin Roman pillar. Her left hand rests on this single column as if to brace herself. It is as if this structure gives her the strength to announce the impossible and the viewer is drawn to her right hand raised with her pointing finger gesturing emphasizing a point. Breathlessly, and with bewilderment, she announces, “Jesus is risen! He is risen! Just like he said he would!” Incredulously the disciples peer back at her. Her finger, the focal point of the scene, emphasizes the importance of her statement as she recounts the encounter at the tomb. I envision her saying, “No, truly, He is alive. Honest!” as she refutes their doubt as all know the Son of God died a ghastly death two days earlier. Then just as the angel invited her into the tomb, she extends the same invitation for the disciples to come and see for themselves. She provides the seed of hope from which their faith and our faith will deepen as we move from doubt to belief. We believe that the impossible is possible.
I remember in February 2012 I boarded a plane to fly to Sewanee to attend their Come and See Weekend for prospective students. It was while I was there, that I realized that what felt impossible months earlier could indeed be possible. I became convicted that I would do anything it took to make my attendance at this seminary happen. That sense of urgency, the sense of rightness, the knowing that the impossible was possible gave me hope.
That Easter morning so long ago, Mary gave us hope too. She proclaimed the good news of the empty tomb and the disciples go out and they proclaim the news to the world starting with the brothers in Galilee. With her simple words “He is risen. He is alive!” she helps us claim the promise of Easter as she helps us move through the helplessness felt on Good Friday, the despair of Holy Saturday, from the doubt experienced at the tomb to hope and a larger faith.
The Easter hope and deeper faith given in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ turns the lives of all disciples of Christ, upside down. We are not the same. We are changed. We are a witness to the fact that God lives and gives us life. Had Jesus not been risen from the dead, this “living faith” would be a very different kind of living. With the living Christ in us, we are fill with a bigger faith and we all become part of the Jesus movement. Our faith is a “He is risen” faith because of the resurrection.
Our faith lives and breaths as we grow that relationship with God. It becomes a living conversation.
The resurrection of our Lord is the ultimate breakthrough of God into our world. For “without the resurrection, there would have been no Christianity, no Christendom, no hymns, no seminaries, no churches, and no nativity scenes.” Easter is the fulfillment of a long relationship with God. Today, God reaches into our world and destroys evil. Death is not the last word. Love overcomes death.
The Easter resurrection is the story of a living God who sent his Son to be the ultimate sacrifice and to die upon the cross so we would know God’s love. As Walter Brueggemann, a noted Old Testament scholar wrote: “Easter is the primal enactment of Yahweh’s responding steadfast love.”
Love is the last word and it all started with the words, “He is risen!” Alleluia! The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Happy Easter everyone.
 Sam Schechner, “Why Is It Called The Passion? How Jesus’ suffering got its name.,” Slate, Feb. 24 2004, 1, accessed April 10, 2017, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2004/02/why_is_it_called_the_passion.html.
 Glenn B Siniscalchi, “Christ’s Resurrection and Theological Relevance,” Homelitical and Pastoral Review, April 7, 2012, 1, accessed April 10, 2017, http://www.hprweb.com/2012/04/christs-resurrection-and-theological-relevance/.
 William J Carl III, “Without The Resurrection, There Is No Christianity,” in “The Theme Of This Issue Is Easter,” The Living Pulpit 7, no. 1 (January-March 1998): 6.luia
 Walter Brueggemann, “Easter: Answer To Prayer,” in “The Theme Of This Issue Is Easter,” The Living Pulpit 7, no. 1 (January-March 1998): 37.