Easter Sunday Morning
April 5, 2015
The Rev. Adam S. Linton
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
Every Easter I like to underscore just what it is that gathers the Church together on this beautiful day. What draws us to this celebration?
Maybe I need to begin by saying what doesn’t gather us here. We’re not here merely because we have certain ideas about Jesus. We’re not here only because we tell stories about Jesus.
We are here because Jesus—who was crucified and died—was raised from death. We are here because Jesus is alive. That’s why we think about him—and why we tell the Great Story. Resurrection, itself, is not a matter of our ideas, our story telling, our agendas. Resurrection is not merely a matter of legacy; memories among those who are left behind. Resurrection is also not an overwrought metaphor for Spring coming every year; the return of green. Lilies and Daffodils and such don’t need to be symbolized by something else. They speak adequately enough on their own behalf; in their beauty and fragrance—and the abundance of their pollen!
Resurrection is new and indestructible Life raised from death. Christ is risen. And he is the enduring Subject of the theological sentence. He is alive; he is acting. I can’t prove that to you. (That’s not my job.) But I can bid you to open hearts. Even more, I can pray the Spirit of God to open all our hearts that we may receive this wonderful and great truth.
Jesus is not the metaphor. He’s the reality. And his Resurrection is the in-breaking of the most real—the most real that ever could or ever will be. Jesus isn’t the metaphor—we are. And Jesus is drawing us ever more perfectly into his new and indestructible reality. It goes beyond death but it starts right here, right now and it makes the essential difference. Everything else; all our symbols, all our metaphors—and our own selves—make sense when drawn into his Reality; the new grounding of our life: Jesus is alive.
This year, in the Gospel reading, we hear Mark’s account of the Resurrection.
“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. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But 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. 7But 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.’ 8So 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.” (16:1-8)*
That’s it. As odd as it may seem, that’s most likely how Mark’s Gospel originally ended. Strange; abrupt. Not much of an ending at all—but that’s the point. Maybe Mark is saying, “Now it all begins.”
O.K. But it still seems somewhat disquieting, doesn’t it? “Amazement had seized them.” I think that I get that. Of course they would be amazed. Who wouldn’t be? But the part about being afraid; perhaps—at least initially—that may be harder to get our minds around. But this isn’t a mere “happy ending” before the credits roll. Fear isn’t only a response to bad things; the destructive and the injurious. We can have a holy and wondrous fear in the face of an overwhelming good.
Perhaps some more everyday examples might help us with the concept:
Suppose there is an eight year old girl who’s deeply drawn to music. Suppose it’s her birthday—and her parents give her, at long last, the violin for which she’s been pleading. She opens up the case and sees it in its beauty. She delights in it; but maybe also she’s a little afraid because it’s suddenly also become serious. This is going to change who she is and what she does.
Now suppose there is a young man who has his life’s plans all figured out—on his own—who then faces the possibility that he just might be falling in love. That’s going to stir things up isn’t it? Wonderful, but maybe also a little fearful.
A more difficult example: Suppose there’s someone who comes to realize that his life has been filled with anger and resentment, and dominated by the delusional pursuit of control. He knows that all this is a dead end road—and has recognized it for the addiction that it is. He’s even stepping into a recovery journey, relying on Grace, day by day, and doing the work that Grace then gives him to do. But he’s afraid, sometimes, even overwhelmed, about the long process of rebuilding his way of relating to the world.
So fearful things don’t have to be bad. Maybe we do understand why the women who heard the first Resurrection message were afraid. Maybe we’d be more afraid, too, if we really heard that message more deeply.
But the text also says that the women at the tomb were terrified.
“So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them.”
This is even harder to get our minds around than fear. The word “terror,” in our modern setting, brings images of the intentionally destructive, the intentionally brutal, to mind. All that which is terrifying disrupts a life that we had known before. And if it’s intentional terrifying, harder yet to bear. We don’t like our lives messed with. We don’t like our sense of stability compromised.
But—again—we’re not only “threatened” by the evil and the brutal and the destructive. The in-breaking of life—new life, redefining life; the in-breaking of truth, the in-breaking of justice, the in-breaking of ultimate beauty—this also threatens the life that we had known before. But God does not disrupt our prior existence, the status quo to which we had grown to accustomed, merely to make us feel bad. God breaks in because God wishes to share himself in abundance. We’re not talking about a “pat on the back.” We’re talking about life from death, beginning right now in the crucified and risen Jesus. Beginning right now—and welling up to eternity.
“On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, BCP)
The believing life is risky business. It’s certainly a life in which we have to relinquish our notions of control. We will feel overwhelmed and maybe even threatened, sometimes, by the in-breaking of indestructible Life and ultimate beauty and truth in Jesus. But to the extent that we have begun to know him—to the extent that we are beginning to love and cherish our Risen Christ—we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!