The Same Old Story

Resurrection of the Lord / Easter Sunday
Acts 10:34–43
Psalm 118:1–2, 14–24
John 20:1–18
The Rev. Dr. Stephen Caine

20: 1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes. 11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:1–18, NRSV)

Let us pray: Glory to you, O God: on this day you won victory over death, raising your son, Jesus from the grave and giving us eternal life. Glory to you, O Christ: for us and for our salvation you overcame death and opened the gate to everlasting life. Glory to you, O Holy Spirit: you lead us into the truth. Glory to you, O Blessed Trinity, now and forever. Amen.

I read a story this week about a young mother and her son who live near a cemetery and over the years she has taken him in the stroller for walks in the cemetery. So, as he has grown to the point that he can know walk and talk they continue their walks in the nearby cemetery. One day he pointed a marble mausoleum shaped like a house and proclaimed to his mother that must be where Jesus lives, mommy that is his house. His mother paused, amazed at his profound statement. He didn’t realize how right he was in that deeply theological statement for a three year old. Her story got me thinking about children and their ability to grasp things in simple yet profound ways. Here is a young boy who has grown up next to a cemetery, has taken countless walks through the quiet green fields, the gardens of stone and along the paths unware of his surroundings. He has no fear of the place and what it means.

Children’s games often take serious and scary things and offer words and actions to make them less scary as kids play them.
London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.
It’s a song and a game about starving children to death.

Ring-a-round the Rosie,
A pocket full of posies,
Ashes! Ashes!
We all fall down
It’s a song and a game about the Bubonic Plague or Black Death

Another game that children play is Ghost in the Graveyard. It is much like hide and seek and we can play it in an actual graveyard at night and in the dark. The object of the game is to find the ghost – a player who is hiding. The player who finds the ghost’s hiding spot, yells “Ghost in the Graveyard” to alert the other players. The player who finds the ghost is safe. All the other players must race back to base. The ghost tries to tag someone before they do and that player is IT for the next game. The game is not intended to show any disrespect. Again it is children and adolescents unware of their surroundings.

At some point in life we begin to think about what the cemetery means and we learn what loss and death mean on a gut wrenching level. We stop playing the games because it just hurts too much. We tend to stay away from graveyards except to go and pay our respects or to place flowers on the grave of a loved one. Otherwise we do everything in our power to keep away from the quiet green fields, the gardens of stone and because we are fully aware of our surroundings.

It is something about Easter Sunday that we talk about death and graves and tombs. But it is what makes Easter so glorious and world changing.

Ask Mary Magdalene. After surviving the unthinkable horror of watching her beloved teacher and friend die on a cross. She does what many of us do in the days following the burial of a loved one. She goes to visit the tomb. It is in the early morning darkness that she goes to visit the tomb just like many of us go to the graveyard to visit the site of our buried loved ones. Full of sadness and despair, Mary went to prepare Jesus body for burial, and she went to put Jesus in his grave. As Mary Magdalene approached she had one more unfathomable event in the long string of atrocities in the death of her friend Jesus. The stone was rolled away; the tomb was empty; the body was gone.

In shock and disbelief she runs back with the news: They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have laid him. Her helplessness and astonishment gave way to sorrow and tears. There was nothing she could do. They have taken him away, and I don’t know where they have taken him. It was more than she could bear. They— whoever they were— had won. The powers of evil were too great. Mary felt helpless, hopeless, the tomb was empty, the body was missing, and angels were lurking about.

“Why are you weeping?” the angel asked. Mary could have answered, “Don’t you know, haven’t you been paying attention. Don’t you read the papers, listen to the radio, watched the evening news, checked Facebook or Twitter? Haven’t you noticed?” The principalities and powers of evil are taking over. What Mary didn’t realize in that moment was that this was the greatest God moment of them all. In the church we call this event Easter and the promise of Easter reminds us that the church has an answer to life, death and everything in between and that answer is God.
God’s love,
God’s forgiveness,
God’s power,
God’s calling,
God’s actions and activity in the world and
God’s saving grace.

In our lives we will come face to face with disappointment, difficulties and defeats. Natural disaster hit, friends die, relatives get sick, jobs don’t pan out, leaders, politicians, heroes and teachers and yes, even preachers, turn out to be less than they seem or should be. Terrorism and violence seem to rule the day. Many aspects of life are subject to the painful realities of sin and brokenness. We can so easily become jaded and cynical. What has happened to the innocence and joy of the youngsters who played games and sang songs unaware of their purpose or meaning?

Maybe that is why Jesus told his disciples that a little child shall lead them. That our wonder and excitement and joy are so easily lost in our world. It is beaten out of us in one way or another. So, may be just, maybe we need to take more walks in cemeteries to see the world in which Jesus lives. Maybe that will awaken in us the reality of the promise of Easter.

We go to cemeteries to pay respects and “visit” our loved ones but just like Mary was told by the angels what are you looking for for he is not here he is risen…that is the promise of Easter.

But the promise of Easter is more than a promise of life beyond the grave, of happiness in heaven with our loved ones. The promise of Easter is a promise that life is good now, that God’s power is active in this moment, in this place, in our lives. The promise of Easter tells us that our eternal life begins now and goes with us through death into God’s future. The promise of Easter is that this world is not just where Jesus died — this world is where Jesus lives! Just like the three year old boy who made the profound statement

Easter tells us that whatever may happen to us in this world there is an answer, and the answer is God. The promise of Easter is Christ the Lord is risen today. Alleluia. Alleluia.

Let us pray:

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