Christ is Risen! We each can now face
the future with the assurance that Jesus Christ is in fact
alive and well to guide us, to heal us, and to give us hope
for tomorrow. What a great promise, what a great gift!
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we
gather this early Easter morning to celebrate the risen
Christ. And in response to this eternal joy we boldly
proclaim: "The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!"
We know that this is a special day, a
day to rise early, a day to greet the new day sun, a day to
put on our best clothes, a day to plan a special meal, a day
to come to church with the whole family, a day to sing glad
Easter and Spring, a season we
associate with new beginnings, renewal, and hope. Easter
celebrates God's unconditional love for each and every person,
even in the midst of our sins and failures.
And during this Easter season we are
reminded of God's promise of mercy, salvation, second chances,
and the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
This is a gift we know about through our reading and
understanding of the Gospel.
But the people we encounter at the
tomb in today's Gospel reading didn't know that. The story was
just unfolding, the truth was being revealed.
They weren't having spring time
thoughts about flowers sprouting from the sleeping earth,
caterpillars turning into butterflies, little bunnies hopping
around, or thoughts of eggshells cracking open with baby
chicks. That's because they were still in the middle of the
story, the Easter Story as we know it today.
Mary Magdalene was the first one at
the tomb that Sunday morning, according to the Gospel. It was
dark when she arrived. But she didn't come to check to see if
Jesus' body was still there. She came, we can surmise, to
She probably wasn't sleeping well that
night before, and was probably filled with emotions of
sadness, anger, and uncertainty. Isn't this how we feel when
we've lost someone very close to us. We are restless, sad, and
full of grief. And if you have lost a loved one, you know
first hand what Mary must have been feeling like, as she
walked down that path to Jesus grave.
The whole world as she knew it and
accepted had come crashing down around her. After all she had
centered all her hope, trust, and love in Jesus Christ, and
now he had been cruelly executed.
She could have gone anywhere that
morning, but she decided she needed to walk down the path to
the tomb where Jesus was buried.
When she arrived at the place where
Jesus was laid, she found that the stone that sealed the tomb
had been rolled away. Running to two of her friends, she said,
"They've taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know
where they've laid him."
Now Peter and "the other disciple"
enter the story. Most people think that the other disciple
referred to is John, and I tend to agree with that.
So Peter and John ran to the tomb.
They saw the linens, and apparently had some notion about what
had gone on, but all they did, at least according to John's
Gospel, was go back home.
We still don't know a great deal about
what their thoughts were, except that John, at least, "saw and
Now Peter and John seem to have "cameo
roles" in the story. It tells us so much more about Mary
Magdalene than about these two disciples.
But after Peter and John had gone
home, Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. She still thought
that someone had taken away the body, and she didn't know
where to find it. No wonder when the angels appeared they
asked, "Woman, why are you crying?"
She was asked the same question by
Jesus just minutes later, when at first she didn't recognize
him and took him to be the gardener.
Mary didn't recognize Jesus; the very
one she was looking for, why is this? Perhaps it's because her
mind was fixed on finding a dead body. Not until Jesus spoke
to her, called her by name, did she know him.
At last she had found her Lord. She
had walked down the path to the tomb with grief in her heart,
but her weeping had turned into joy when she recognized the
glory of the Lord.
And now here we are, nearly 2,000
years later. We come this morning to celebrate the
Resurrection. We too could have gone somewhere else this
morning, but we find ourselves drawn here to this place. And,
yes, we are dressed up and we are singing those joyful hymns,
and most likely we'll have a good meal later on today.
But really, aren't we like Mary
Magdalene in many ways? Don't we, too, carry around a lifetime
of grief in our souls?
Perhaps it's the loss of a loved one
that causes us grief. Perhaps it's the frustrations and
disappointments we have suffered in our lives.
Perhaps it's the weight of our own
sins, the bad choices we've made. Perhaps we bear the wounds
of pain inflicted by others. Or, perhaps physical ailments
weigh us down.
Yes, we believe that Christ is risen.
We know we have cause for great joy this Easter Day. But the
grief is there too, lurking in the shadow of our hearts.
In a newspaper article I read sometime
ago it was talking about how the media and the retail industry
were hoping in the future to turn Easter into another
In other words make Easter all about
buying gifts and candy. Again infecting with a cancer the true
meaning of a holy day. Offering all of us a way to relieve
ourselves from the heavy souls we may carry.
The path being offered by these folks
is the road to the local stuff_mart. They proclaim that the
way to rid ourselves of all the things that weigh us down,
those things that burden us, is to gorge ourselves on more
stuff and to get more toys.
But the truth is, over time, after
buying and playing, we become very disappointed and
disillusioned as we hit a dead end, or worse yet we go so far
that we fall off a cliff into a deep, dark abyss.
And we return again to feeling a sense
of emptiness and abandonment. And we realize that having
things doesn't heal the hurting soul. You can't buy happiness,
joy, peace, and love despite what others want us to believe.
But, like Mary, we have a Friend who
understands our circumstances, a Friend who lived among us and
knows what it's like to live in this world, a Friend who was
willing to die for us, a Friend who now calls each of us by
Today, we celebrate the Resurrection
of our Friend Jesus. And as we do, we can put down our grief
at his feet, and when he calls our name, we can answer, "Rabbouni!
(ra_boo_ni) which means Teacher!"
And we can follow him from the grave
to glory. A path that's not free of potholes or obstacles, but
a path that does lead us to wholeness, joy, peace, and eternal
life. All the things you can't buy, but all the things our
souls so desperately need.
And as our story continues look at
what Mary did next. Following the Lord's command, she went to
the disciples and said: "I have seen the Lord." And she told
them everything that Jesus had said to her.
We who gather in this place also see
the Lord today. Do we recognize him? Can we hear him calling
us by name? Do we follow his voice, or do we ignore him
preferring instead the alluring call of the television
commercial or magazine ads.
We all have a choice of which path
we'll take. The path that leads right to the local stuff_mart.
Or a path, which leads us from the grave to glory with Jesus
Christ our friend and savior. This path doesn't require us to
buy anything or to physically do anything. This path requires
us to place our whole trust and faith in Jesus, dismissing the
distractions of all the stuff of this world.
Once again this is not an easy task,
and to accomplish it we need to get to know our friend Jesus
better. He's made known to us as we read and study the Holy
Scriptures, as we share in the Lord's Supper, and by enjoying
the presence of our brothers and sisters in Christ as we
worship and fellowship together.
And, like Mary, we are called to share
the Good News of God in Jesus Christ with everyone we meet,
knowing that eternal life begins now for all who believe. It's
not something that happens after we die.
Now that Christ has been resurrected,
we are also being resurrected. This is the message of Easter
hope that we proclaim today. You see, Easter was not just
something that happened to Jesus. It's a shaking and
transformation of the whole world. It's something that happens
to each and every one of us who believe.
And as Easter people we are
commissioned to create beauty out of ugliness, to bring order
out of chaos, to bring hope out of despair, to bring peace out
of violence, and to bring love where there is hatred.
Just as the risen Christ came back and
transformed skeptics to believers, so Christ can change us. We
can be new. We can start over. We can have life, abundant
life, by the power of the risen Christ.
I pray that you experience Christ
today in a way that you never have before, and that you will
go in peace and tell the world that Jesus lives. Christ Jesus
Let us pray. Lord Jesus Christ, on
this day you were raised from the dead, death was defeated,
and we saw the full triumph of God.
Help us to live in the light of that
triumph, in expectant hope of the resurrection, in confidence
that death and sin shall be defeated and God's way will be the
Lift us up from grave to glory so that
we might experience the hope of salvation in this world today.
Fill now our hearts with the assurance of eternal life. In the
name of the risen Christ we pray.
Read other messages by Pastor Wade