April 12th: Easter Day

The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews is the vicar of St. Hilda St. Patrick. The sermon for Sunday, April 12th, was preached using the below manuscript. The gospel text was  John 20.1-18.

The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews
12 April 2020
St. Hilda St. Patrick, Edmonds, Digital
Easter Sunday
John 20.1-18

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
[Chris is risen indeed! Alleluia!]
Happy Easter!
We made it!
In Seattle it’s a beautiful day,
birds are literally singing,
and tulips are blooming.
New life is bursting all around,
even as we’re sheltering in place
missing our friends and families,
and probably getting a little tired of cooking so much.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
[Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!]

In our gospel text today,
Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb.
She knows that her Lord and friend,
whom she loves,
has died.
That’s what she expects.
Even in the first century,
humans didn’t expect other humans
to come back from the dead,
not even after Jesus raised Lazarus.
She runs to tell Simon Peter and John,
“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,
and we do not know where they have laid him.”
They follow her back to the tomb,
everyone running!
and see that it’s empty too.
Peter stands outside,
John goes in,
and then they both go home.
“For as yet they did not understand the scripture,
that he must rise from the dead.”
They see that the tomb is empty..
Mary, though, sticks around.
She doesn’t seem to understand either,
but she knows she wanted
to tend to her friend’s dead body,
and that it’s gone.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
[Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!]

Even while birds are singing,
skies are clear,
and tulips are blooming,
there’s a lot of death around us.
New York has had to cut back
on how long people have
to claim the bodies of COVID19 deaths.
Alabama is expected to have the highest per capita deaths
of any state in the Union.
We’re flattening our curve,
and the US is expected to peak early next week.
We’re not out of the woods
as a region, state, or country.
The death count will go up,
and even after the curve flattens we’ll have to be careful
so there’s not a resurgence that’s even worse.
Yet even at the grave we make our song:
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia,
because Christ is risen.
[Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!]

As Mary stands weeping at the tomb today,
we grieve so much loss that we’re experiencing,
Rather than go home, though,
she looks in.
There are two men in white
who ask her why she’s weeping.
She turns around and Christ is risen,
but she doesn’t recognize him.
He too asks,
“Why are you weeping?
She just wants to take care of his body,
his body that was quickly put in a tomb
to avoid work on the sabbath.
When Jesus says her name,
she knows it’s him.
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
[Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia.]
Mary is just as surprised as any of us would be
if someone we loved had broken out of their grave
and were walking around like everything was normal.
She calls him teacher out of affection,
and he tells her not to cling to him.
There’s more work for him to do,
and he has some work for her, too.
Jesus sends Mary Magdalene,
ridiculed through history
because of bad reading of texts,
to be the apostle to the apostles,
the first to proclaim that
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
[Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!]

Mary goes back to the disciples,
who are sheltering in place,
and tells them that she has seen the Lord.
While we’re sheltering in place,
and grieving not being together,
grieving our Easter brunch together,
grieving delayed baptisms,
grieving ringing bells and singing alleluia,
if we look around
we can see the Lord.
We can know the Resurrected Christ.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
[Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!]

As we live through these times
of sheltering in place and social distancing,
Jesus offers us grace in that he has defeated death.
In his defeat of death,
he tells Mary not to cling to him,
because there’s more work to be done.
As we live through these times
of sheltering in place and social distancing,
Jesus invites us to notice what we have been clinging to
that we’ve had to let go of.
As we’ve become increasingly aware
of what is essential, and what is nonessential,
Jesus’ resurrection points us to life
that isn’t exhausting or draining,
but life that has conquered death
and conquered anxiety
and conquered busy-ness.

We will get through this.
We’re here today!
We aren’t together,
but Easter hasn’t been cancelled!
When we get through this, though,
will we have let coronatide change us?
Will we know that the resurrection
has changed us,
and keeps changing us?
Or will we try to grab back
those things we’ve had to let go of,
even if they don’t actually give us life,
even as we’re noticing now that they’re not essential?

Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death,
and to those in the tombs:
bestowing life.
It may feel like we’re living in tombs right now,
but this is not the end.
Death is not the end.
With the clear skies,
and singing birds
and blooming tulips,
let’s embrace the grace that is letting go
and celebrating the new life, the resurrection,
we’re finding.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
[Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!]

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