Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter 2008 Sermon: What Did You Come Here to "See?"

Sermon for Easter Sunday, March 23, 2008, by the Reverend Ernestein Flemister.

Our Gospel narrative begins after Jesus has been crucified. His disciples are terrorized, scattered and in hiding from both the religious and civil authorities. A day or so later, they are still shocked and horrified; trying to gather themselves and thinking, “What just happened here?”

The dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary seemingly are the only ones brave enough to venture out of hiding and go to the tomb of Jesus. They went to the tomb to mourn their teacher and friend, and probably to embalm his body.

The Gospel says that Mary Magdalene and Mary went to “see” Jesus’ tomb. The two Marys did not come just for a physical look at Jesus’ tomb. They were looking for much more than that. They came seeking a greater understanding of the events that just happened. They came to “see,” to discern, understand and perceive God’s greater plan and meaning in the crucifixion of Jesus. They also came to “see” for themselves if what Jesus had told them on the road to Jerusalem had actually happened.

Jesus had repeatedly told his disciples that he would be put to death, but they did not want to believe him. They probably though to themselves,”Yeah right.” They were always trying to change the course of God’s plan for Jesus. And why not? They had a leader who performed miracles, who healed the sick, fed them and drew large crowds. They had a good gig and didn’t really want to give it up. They wanted Jesus to fulfill their earthly dreams and desires.

The women, daring to be brave, arrived at the tomb at dawn. There was a great earthquake; and an angel descended from heaven. The temptation presents itself to bash men at this point, and I tried, really I did to resist but I had to get in a few digs. At the sight of the angel, the soldiers had fainted but the women did not. Where would we be if men were the first to arrive at the scene? The story might never have been told. Men did not want to be ridiculed when they told the story.

Anyway, the angel ignored the men and said to the women in usual angel speak, Do not be afraid.”

Oooh-kayyyy! So the next time someone tells you, “Do not be afraid,” it might be an angel!

The angel then tells them, “I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come; see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples.”

These women are the first to receive the news of Jesus’ resurrection. The angel instructed them to go quickly and tell his disciples. What an awesome responsibility for anyone, but especially for women in that time. The witness of women was not recognized as valid in Jesus’ time so what courage it took for them to obey the command of the angel. Jesus has been raised and Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, are charged with telling the disciples. They were probably scared and now they were directed to be the chief witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. Trustingly, they obeyed and told the disciples.

Last night we participated in the great Easter vigil at St. James, Westwood. The lessons for the Easter vigil as laid out in the book of common prayer tells the story of the God-human relationship from the creation going forward. It is the amazing story of a God who created us out of love and gave us free wills so that we might love and obey him and the laws and commandments that he established for our good, for the orderly governance of our relationships in the world.

This is a God who despite our constant disobedience and turning away from him loves us so much that he repeatedly sends messengers to us telling us of his love and showing us the way to mend our relationship with him and each other. This is a God who is merciful, forgiving and compassionate; a God who does not give us what we deserve. This is a God who welcomes us with open arms into an embrace that comforts us in our affliction, lifts us up when we are down and is merciful to us in our broken and sinful lives; who forgives us when we repent and ask for mercy and forgiveness.

This is what we flock to churches on Easter morning to “see.” That’s why this is one of the days whenm we see those we may not see the rest of the year in our pews.

So, for those of us who come regularly and those who come occasionally: What are we here to “see?” What did Mary Magdalene, the other Mary and millions of Christians around come to see this day?

They and we have come to see, comprehend and witness to God’s love for us through the life, death and resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ.

If you come seeking perfection, turn around and walk out the door. If you come seeking a community that is committed to following Jesus despite all the struggles of human relations, take a seat and struggle with us. Some of us come seeking shelter from the pain that life inflicts on us, comfort from our losses, from anxiety. Some come to out of habit or obligation and still others come out of curiosity. Some come to witness to their experience and presence of a loving and merciful God who sent his son to redeem us.

What do you seek this morning? What have you come to “see?” Well, I am here to tell you that the tomb is empty.

Alleluia, Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed.

Praise be to God who gives us the victory.


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