Easter Sunday Communion: Love Builds Up – Celebration and Commitment

Readings from Scripture (NRSV) Mark 16:1-8

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.

They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Love Builds Up – Celebration and Commitment

As this sermon is being written, people across Ontario are awaiting the announcement of whether or not we return to lockdown (which looks like a ‘when’ rather than an ‘if.’)  And while much has changed, the disciples experienced their own lockdown not unlike our own.  There’s fear beyond our walls.  That fear has managed to creep in through the cracks of the windows and the spaces in the door frames and has made itself comfortable in the corners of our mind.  Fear has become our constant companion. 

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 

When the sabbath was over, the women fight through their own fears to emerge from their lockdown after what transpired at Passover.  As one commentator said, with Jesus’ execution, we see brilliant plans played out as Jesus was arrested when the crowds were sleepily going to bed.  His trial occurred midway through a good night’s sleep, and his crucifixion came with the crowing of a rooster.  The crowds were just as astonished as the disciples at the swiftness of this kangaroo court.  Because of that, the women were terrified of what lay on the other side of their door. 

And very early on the first day of the week,
when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.

As they peered into the morning, the women were surprised there were no guards outside.  They fully expected police presence to scoop them up just the same as their beloved friend and Saviour, if only because of the company they kept.  But the women were “just” “extras” to the story.  The male disciples were the target.  The men were the ones capable of riling up the people just like their teacher – but no one expected the women.  What a fortuitous understatement of the women’s gifts, allowing them to move freely, to love without restriction, and to preach the freedom of the empty tomb.  There’s something subversive about yet-one-more-group of forgotten people remembered by God.  Everybody is God’s somebody.  Everybody has a part to play.  Everyone carries their own liberating Gospel hope. 

They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.

How many times have you anticipated stumbling blocks been rolled away for you? There’s a extraordinary relief that comes when one expects a struggle but finds grace instead.  There’s a reassurance that it’s never as bad as we dream it might be.  There have been awful, horrible horrific moments over this last year (reflecting from one pandemic Easter to yet another).  But it feels wrong to say but there have been profoundly beautiful moments too.  In the way that our community has put encouraging notes on windows, or lawns, or in mailboxes.  Or how many prayer shawls have managed to be knit in this time, and just the same, how many of them have found homes.  How people have been deliberate about showing their love – there’s a part of the pandemic that has forced us to consider all in our life that we take for granted, and this has become our opportunity to bring our liberating love to light.  This time isn’t just marked with death, for life lingers in unexpected ways. 

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed;

Their fear was written on their faces – that the women greeted were by anyone, let alone a man, or an angel, or a God – their fear didn’t dispel with a simple reassurance of Don’t be afraid…

you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 

Had I been to the tomb, I’m not sure I would believe.  But then again, it’s just as miraculous when people get to go home after extended periods in the hospital…it’s just as miraculous to watch crocuses push up through winter frost… it’s just as miraculous for the sun to rise each day to wake us from the death-expectations of night, as childhood prayers of Now I lay me down to sleep still linger in the corners of our minds.  We face the tomb of fear and death with each new day, rising with the hope that God’s miraculous new life has gone ahead of us.  Waiting for us to catch up. 

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

If Mark’s Gospel gets anything right, it’s our humanity. Gripped by terror and amazement seems all too familiar.  The women say nothing to anyone because who would believe them? They were “just” “extras” in our Biblical stories made to wait by those who were too terrified to hear what they had to say.  They had become convinced that their voices didn’t matter.  They were afraid that no one would believe them.  That their story was too outlandish.  It’s a miracle we’re able to celebrate today.  Many corners of Christianity continue to tell women that their story of faith doesn’t matter.  Yet thank God for the persistence of those silenced.  Thank God for their faith.  For just as new life confronts age old expectations in Biblical Palestine, so too does it open the doors and tombs and hearts of all who hear it today.  This is not going away just because you don’t want to hear it.

For we sing Jesus Christ is Risen Today to a locked down world. We sing, in the bulb there is a flower knowing the growth and greening of God happens when we’re not looking.  Jesus Christ, the unbelievable gift of new life, has gone ahead of us, waiting for us to catch up, commanded us to ensure there’s no one left behind, creating a new Way of being in the world.

For we God’s message of new life is persistent, daring, and challenging, even today.  It rises in us to hold onto that faith until God’s kin-dom come.  And maybe you’re like me, facing another Easter locked away, afraid, but thanks be to God I can sing with words that aren’t mine.

For Jesus Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed.

2 Comments

  1. Hallelujah
    Thank you for this Easter service. A special thank you to Alison at the organ. It was a joy to see and hear Alison at the organ, playing so beautifully, Christ is Risen Today. Watching the foot work as she played the postlude was amazing.
    Thanks to everyone who contributed in the preparation and delivery of today’s service.

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