Sermon for Easter Sunday
April 16, 2017
Jeremiah 31:1-6 Psalm 118:12,14-24 Acts: 10:34-43 John 20:1-18
In our presiding bishop’s Easter message, Michael Curry speaks of a realization he had that Jesus carefully timed his final entrance into Jerusalem. Scholars, he says, suggest that as Jesus enters one gate on a donkey, Pilot enters another on a war horse. Pilot comes with soldiers and controls the people with brute force and violence. Curry says:
Jesus entered the city at the same time as Pilate to show them, and to show us, that God has another way. That violence is not the way. That hatred is not the way. That brute force and brutality are not the way.
Jesus came to show us there is another way. The way of unselfish, sacrificial love. That’s why he entered Jerusalem. That’s why he went to the cross. It was the power of that love poured out from the throne of God, that even after the horror of the crucifixion would raise him from death to life.
Jesus went to the cross, Curry says, to make a point, to send a message, Jesus went “to proclaim that love wins.”
That is the point of the resurrection, nothing is greater than the love of God – not even death. In John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene discovers the power of God’s love when she is outside the tomb weeping. She is overcome with grief and does not even recognized Jesus when he first appears to her. She assumes Jesus is the gardener until he calls her by name.
Grief, depression, and even fear, can do this to us. These emotions can cause us to withdraw into ourselves to the point that we are unaware of what is happening all around us. We see only shadows and darkness. Mary, as she is weeping, looks into the tomb and sees two angels, they ask her why she is weeping, and she says only, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” That is when she first sees Jesus and does not recognize him.
I know there have been times in my life when I, too, have been so grieved that I have failed to see the gifts God offers to me. Many of us tend to push away others who want to help and support us. We find ourselves alone simply because we don’t look up. Jesus has to call Mary by name to get her attention. What does it take to get our attention?
In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter is invited to the home of a Gentile and asked to tell them about Jesus. Peter, a Jew, goes despite the fact that Jews are not to associate with Gentiles. Peter says, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” As Peter is talking with Cornelius and his household, he witnesses the Holy Spirit descending upon them just the Spirit had descended upon the apostles on Pentecost. Peter is shown a new way that day – he is shown that God’s love extends to the Gentiles in a way he had not understood before. Even after Peter sees the resurrected Christ, he continues to learn that God’s love is greater than he could imagine.
The presence of terrorism, violence, and hatred is still among us, executions are still carried out as punishment for crimes – but none of these have or will overcome the love of God. Christ’s resurrecting power of love can be seen all around us – but we have to look up to see it. His message that death cannot stop the love of God is still true. The question is, are we ready to look into the eyes of gardener to see that it is really Christ who is with us in the midst of our grief or fear or whatever it is that holds us back from seeing him.
It is faith, not fear, that enables us to live in the hope of the resurrection. I can picture the expression on Mary’s face when she looks up and sees that it is none other than Jesus who is standing with her. In Matthew’s Gospel, he says she is filled with fear and great joy as she goes to tell the disciples that she has seen the resurrected Christ.
The world is every bit as dangerous as it was before the resurrection, but with the resurrection she has a new hope for a future that she could never have imagined. The resurrected Christ offers us this hope as well. That which was old is being made new through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
Let us pray.
Fill our hearts, O Lord, with faith and hope that we might face our fears with the knowledge that nothing can overcome your love for us. Help us, we pray, to carry your love with us and share it with the same conviction that your Son shared his love for us. We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.