Easter Day 2019
Kevin Gore, St. Andrew’s Mountain Home
Today we continue celebrating our Paschal Feast. We began last night when we kindled the new fire in the darkness, heard the story of God’s plan of salvation, and finally proclaimed the resurrection with a joyful voice.
There’s an old joke, that is not theologically accurate, but goes like this:
Three people die and meet St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.
He says, “I have one question, and if you get it right, I will let you into Heaven.”
He asks the first person, “What is Easter about?”
They answer, “That’s the time of the year when our whole family gets together and we eat turkey.”
St. Peter asks the person, “What is Easter about?”
They answer, “That’s the time of year when the jolly guy in the red suit comes down the chimney and our family gets together to open presents.”
St. Peter asks the third person, “What is the meaning of Easter?”
The third person says, “That’s when Christ died and they put him in a tomb behind a rock.”
“That’s right!” exclaims St. Peter.
“Then, once a year,” continues the third person, “we roll the stone away and he comes out, and if he sees his shadow, we have six more weeks of winter.”
We have been on a difficult journey. We have walked with Jesus through his last days, we have sorrowed at his death and burial, and now we rejoice at his rising. That joy comes with both admiration at the risen Christ but also a little levity.
In today’s reading we hear the account of disciples finding the tomb empty from the author of the Gospel of John. First Mary Magdalene finds the tomb empty, then rushes off to tell other disciples of this. When she tells Peter and John, they almost, like children, race to the tomb. They were running together it says, but John gets there first. But then! From behind comes Peter who doesn’t stop at the entrance and goes in! It may be there is some room for levity in how early audiences would have heard this story told.
But then there is Mary. There is no levity for her. She is bereft that someone has taken her Lord. She is weeping, she just wants to attend to Jesus’ body. The most violent end has happened, now she just wants to take care of her teacher. But when she turns, there Jesus is, standing there, asking her why she’s weeping. She does not recognize him at first. She cannot see Jesus, standing right in front of her, alive. Not until he calls her by name.
Jesus calls Mary by name and in that instance, as the gospel says, she ‘turns’ and recognizes him. This is not just a motion, but a revelation for her. In this way she is ‘turned’ in her understanding and belief in the resurrected Christ. Then Jesus sends her out, the first evangelist, to proclaim his resurrection to the other disciples.
How many times in our lives do we fail to recognize that movement of God with us? How many times are we standing there staring Jesus in the face and cannot recognize him? I think there are times where we God even calls us by name, and yet we fail to turn.
This is a task we are set to as followers of Jesus Christ. Our salvation is taken care of. That was sorted out two thousand years ago on a hill outside the walls of Jerusalem. God’s act of love conquered sin and death and we know that resurrection awaits us all. But our work until that day is our continual conversion towards God and the Kingdom. We must hear our name called, we must see Christ standing before us, and how then can we not be filled with such joy and desire to be, like Mary Magdalene, an evangelist of the Risen Christ?
Today is a day of celebration; a day of feasting, perhaps gathering with others, of celebrating our salvation as the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection is called out around the world. Today is our day to rejoice. There is always work to do in the fields of the Lord. For now, we can celebrate and shout from the rooftops.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen!