Monday, April 1, 2013

Sermon: C Easter Day 31 March 2013

Is 65: 17-25; Ps 118; 1 Cor 15:19-26; LUKE 24: 1-12

Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

“Welcome happy morning age to age shall say.” And so we arrive at the real 
Easter Morning, the 4th day of a three-day sequence. Parishes that do glorious Vigils, as we do, have some inclination to skip Easter morning, because it has already become Easter; they’ve sung “Jesus Christ is risen today;” and what more is there to do to welcome the risen Lord. We began this service with a Procession for this reason. While the parishes that do Vigils have done processions, and readings, and drama, and darkness and light, and more, Easter morning is still Easter morning, and Easter cannot be observed with less moment than the other two major Church festivals of Christmas and Pentecost. Whether or not a Vigil was held doesn’t impact those people for whom Easter happens in the early part of Sunday morning. The great Triduum, the great Three Days don’t include Sunday, because Sunday is always Sunday and always a feast to remember and relive Easter, especially on …Easter. Easter morning can never be an afterthought to the Vigil, nor simply zipped through. Easter is at least Easter, especially on—Easter.

The readings illustrate various concepts of what a new heaven might be like, could be. …No more shall the sound of weeping be heard in Jerusalem; no more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime… they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit..” These are such real and simple goals and gentle possible lives, and yet these are still not the norm, or even the earthly expectations for all God’s people, and certainly not for those in Jerusalem. (I digress, but in today’s Anglican Cycle of Prayer the Psalmist’s line: “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem: [they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be in your walls.]” is the prayer for the week of Easter. Would it not be an achievement of humankind for that not to be the obvious and still necessary prayer for this week, whether about actual war, or simply enmities.) That aside, Isaiah’s vision of the time of God’s reign is neither out of date nor achieved, and would still be a heavenly achievement.

Today’s Psalm’s refrain is “On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Surely that can describe our understanding of Easter, and it is also so much more. For Israel it has been a hope, a prayer, and an affirmation of all that God has been doing for it, since the promise sealed with a rainbow. It is an acknowledgement to G*d for all G*d’s glorious acts, and makes a fine daily salute of thanks. It does also serve as a fine introduction to the Easter story, although one other suggestion is shorter, more pithy, and as clear a summary of all we do and understand today: “Yay Easter!”

Luke’s account of the early Easter morning events moves at racing speed. The women came, found the stone gone, didn’t find the body, were perplexed, terrified, and bowed. Then they remembered, returned, and told, and told again. What fills out these energetic verbs is when, where, and who. It was the first day of the week, at early dawn, when they came to the tomb. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who went to the tomb and encountered two men in dazzling clothes. Each and every detail makes this a vivid living tableau, clear for all to see and understand in all times.

The two dazzling men are easy to picture, but unknowable. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” These men cannot be identified, and yet they appear in this almost news clip video, easily described. Their message is as clear as can be. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” The great Jewish mystic, Martin Buber denied being a prophet or a philosopher or a theologian, He said simply, ‘I am only someone who has seen something and who goes to the window and points.” Those dazzling two men alerted the women about what had happened. They pointed.

Then these women remembered what Jesus had said. They’d found him to be a reliable prophet so they’d trusted what he said, even when they didn’t like it. They hadn’t liked or been comfortable with his speaking of his death to come. He had said that he would be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and on the third day he’d rise again. On this the third day, Jesus—his body—was missing, and these unrecognizable men said he had risen. The women had believed Jesus when he was alive, because they’d experienced that what he was saying was true; they’d remembered what he’d said and could still believe him. Unlike my computer, which cannot accept “He is risen,” preferring, “He is raised,” the dazzling men and these women accepted that observed fact, that Jesus was risen. The computer wants at least an implied raiser, a person to do the raising, but these tombside observers didn’t know who or how the raising had occurred. They believed and experienced that Jesus was risen.

The women went to the apostles and told what they’d done and seen. They went to their friends and pointed and kept pointing, and still are pointers for us. Peter was amazed and came to believe later, but he was at least willing to go to look, and become one who points. Few people experience knowing such big, or astonishing or amazing things alone. The two were together; the women were in a group, and later Jesus appeared to all these men together, and then they understood and could believe. Peter, by himself, didn’t know what he was seeing, and couldn’t yet believe. He was amazed and excited, but not yet a solid believer.

It’s a reason we say our baptismal vows and the Creed together. It’s easier to trust our own experience when others are with us. We hear these women come, see, report, and know, and we can follow along in their footsteps or even more closely in their sandals. We can share details, facts, emotions, questions, doubts, and can encourage others and be reassured. Witnesses are more believable when not solo, and witnesses trust their experience together more easily too. It’s a reason at the end of the Vigil we go out to the street and proclaim aloud to our city, that Christ is risen with as much noisy joy as we can produce. I remember going to a Greek Orthodox Church in Montreal, filled to overflowing, and huge numbers of people filled the whole street outside waiting for the final acclamation, which ends their service. Candles were given out, and we saw the light begin to flicker through the church’s windows and gradually get brighter, until the light spread out the door and spread into the crowd and both ways along the block and across the wide street where we waited. Xpistos Avesti. Alhthws avesti. Xpistos Avesti.

However the word gets out, is spread—and we are charged to help the news get out—we shout together with joy. Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed Alleluia. Yay Easter! Alleluia Christ is risen. The Lord is risen in truth. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. It’s the Good News. Amen.

© Katharine C. Black C Easter 31 March 2013 St. John’s Boston