Rev. Pamela Shepherd
Easter Sunday 2014
Resurrection begins with death. In our own lives we must not forget that. Ours is not a story about how things went fine and well and then much better. Easter smells like a corpse as much as flowers. It always begins in a tomb.
In the gospel of Matthew, when God responds to Jesus’ death by raising him up, the entire world begins to act strangely. The earth quakes, the tombstone rolls back, an angel appears to explain the story, and the soldiers who guard the tomb are so immobilized by fear that they themselves become like the dead.
The women look up and see the angel on the stone. Don’t be afraid, the angel says, and these women who have nothing to lose, they believe that. It’s not Jesus that they see at first; at first it’s just a promise: He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him. Then the angel says something that is translated here as, This is my message for you. But in the original Greek it says more bluntly, Look! I have said it.
And the women believe. Maybe they believe because dead is so dead and so why not? They leave the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and go to tell the other disciples what happened to them.
You might say they got Eastered, there in that tomb. They went into the tomb certain that dead always means dead, but they came out of that tomb Easter People.
Easter People always carry the message. They become the next ones to proclaim, Look! I’ve said it! Death does not have the last word, suffering does not have the last word, the ones who rule the world do not have the last word. God has the last word—Look! I’ve said it.
As soon as these women hear the word and set out, Jesus meets them on the road and says, Do not be afraid. Go and tell my sisters and brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.
Galilee, for the writer Matthew, is not just geographical. Galilee for him is all about theology. Galilee of the Gentiles, he calls it, and it stands for all the places people haven’t heard a word of hope yet.
You are looking for Jesus but he is not here, the angel tells the frightened women, and what he tells those women is also true for us. We are looking for Jesus, we want to see Jesus, but we’re looking in the wrong places. We study our scriptures as if they’re a crime scene, and we too are left looking where Jesus is not.
Where did Jesus tell us he would certainly be found? In Galilee of the Gentiles. In the places hope is needed.
Wherever people gather to tell resurrection stories—where two or three are gathered he is there. And when we serve those he called the least of these, his sisters and his brothers, when we serve them with love, he is there.
Resurrection is not something you just look at. You have to choose Easter. We have to choose to be Easter People. Resurrection is not some past event that we have to decide if it happened or not. Resurrected is what Jesus lived to become, and as Christ-followers so must we.
Walter Brueggemann, in our second reading, is clear that Easter is not a day. Easter is an event that can happen to anyone. He writes:
Deliver us from our bafflement and our many explanations.
Push us over into stunned need and show yourself to us lively.
Easter in us honesty;
Easter in us fear;
Easter in us joy,
And let us be Eastered. Amen
What does it mean to be Eastered? To be Easter People? It means that we live lives that proclaim that loss and hurt and fear, brokenness, illness, or even death—those things do not define us. They do not have the last word in our lives. God has the last word, and God remains Lord of Life.
When you don’t let your past have the last word,
Christ is Risen.
When you don’t let those who seek to define you or demean you have the last word, Christ is Risen.
When you choose hope over despair
Christ is Risen.
When you choose to love in spite of fear
Christ is Risen.
When not even death has the last word,
Then you know Christ is Risen.
Christ is Risen indeed.