Life giving and surprising God, on this Easter Sunday, where we celebrate life breaking forth from the tomb of death, may we recognize, experience and know resurrection in our lives and our world. Amen.
Martha’s selection of an anthem for today made me stop and go, “Huh?” Mary, Did You Know is a song made popular by the Pentatonix (you can listen to it here) and has become a Christmas favourite for many people, myself included. So, I was perplexed…. Then I went and googled the words and discovered that it’s not really a Christmas song, but indeed one that can be sung at any time of the year.
That question, “Mary, did you know?” could be asked of each one of us.
Martha, did you know?
Michael, , did you know?
Vicki, did you know?
That the baby boy we celebrate at Christmas is the man whose life we try to emulate.
Did you know, that whether or not you believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus’ body, I think all of us believe that something so significant happened that transformed his followers from trembling, fearful deniers of their friend… to daring, faith filled women and men who couldn’t remain silent.
This is Easter Sunday. The most important day in the Christian church. Christ is risen. How do we know that? We know because of the faithful women who went to the tomb that morning 2000 years ago and told others.
It was dawn. According to Luke’s Gospel, it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. Can you picture it, the early morning chill… Their bodies tired, with that grief laden tiredness that is unlike any other… Their eyes swollen and red from sorrow.
They have come to perform this last ritual for Jesus and as they approach the tomb they find the stone rolled away! They enter the tomb, I don’t know about you but I would probably be afraid. We are more separated from the rituals of death than perhaps those women were. But they enter the tomb to find Jesus’ body is gone.
They are perplexed and then terrified at the appearance of two men in dazzling clothes. And in speaking with them, they realize that Jesus was not there, that he has risen. When they tell the other disciples about this, they are not believed. It isn’t until Peter goes to see for himself, that he realizes what has happened.
Can you imagine the women that morning telling of the Risen Christ?
Peter, do you know?
John, do you know?
James, do you know?
How do you know about the Jesus and his impact on the world? Who first told you? It may have been parents or grandparents bringing you to church or Sunday School. It may have been nativity plays in school. It may have been a yearning for something… and you found your way into a church. All of us are here because Jesus lives! All of us are here because we find meaning in this ancient story! All of us KNOW because of a long line of believes that stretches back over 2000 years shared their stories of resurrection with one another.
Despite their grief… despite their fear… despite the fact that they hadn’t actually seen Jesus… those women ran to tell the other disciples that Jesus wasn’t in the tomb.
The coming Sundays in worship are full of stories of the disciples meeting and interacting with Jesus… except that they usually don’t recognize him at first…Those encounters, more than anything else, tell me that the resurrection wasn’t a single event… that resurrection can happen in us and to us and with us even now.
How will others know if we do not tell them? How will they know of the life giving presence of Jesus in your life if we keep silent? How will they experience the sacred rising of hope if we are tongue tied by fear? What keeps us silent? Embarrassment at how Christianity is portrayed in the media? I don’t blame you, I feel the same way? Why on earth would anyone want to be associated with that kind of Christianity?
But what if we were to imagine and learn a different way of sharing our faith story? The kind that shares God’s love for the world. There was a time we didn’t need to do this. There was a time that for all intents and purposes, our society was a Christian country. We’ve lived with that image and memory for so long that we have forgotten that world in which Christianity was born was nothing like that and that there is no scriptural basis for that kind of world.
In fact, the world in which Christianity developed was more like our present world. It was a multi-cultured one and the spread of Christianity came about through a number of people, who experienced something profound in the person of Jesus, or who experienced something profound in the communities which arose after his death. They experienced something so profound that they couldn’t keep it to themselves. Paul and others, early evangelists, traveled extensively, proclaiming their faith, sometimes at great risk!
We don’t face that same risk… probably the greatest risk is embarrassment. I can appreciate that… Christianity is no longer popular… and I am not saying it is easy… we have our own baggage to overcome… Even I have my own baggage to overcome… but I have been convinced that those of us who believe in a God of love and compassion, of one of who accepts all … we must speak up… we must speak out… Otherwise, we let the narrow minded, exclusive, condemning rhetoric of some denominations be the public image of Christianity.
This Easter, let’s take our story to the world.
Let’s create the path where beauty and justice and love mingle with each other.
For Christ is Risen! Hallelujah!
(C) Catherine MacDonald
A sermon based on Luke 24: 1-12, you can read it here.