(watch here: https://youtu.be/s7rpbCPhmnc)
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.
“Christ is risen, he is risen indeed!” It’s hard to really rejoice over such a proclamation as we’re all nestled in our hidey-holes, away from the chaotic, viral world this morning. We want to proclaim the good news but everywhere we look we see nothing but fear and desolation. We want to scream out, “Good news?! Good news?! Jesus may have freed himself from the darkness but we’re still stuck in it! Good for him!” Well, believe it or not, a lot of people have been screaming that for the last 2,000 years. The darkness never left us with Jesus’ resurrection. We’ve remained in the darkness without the coronavirus threat looming over our lives. We just notice the darkness more now that many of our freedoms and privileges have been taken away. The darkness has always been there and will always be with us. But the difference between now and before Jesus’ resurrection is that we no longer have to dwell in the darkness. There is light in darkness…his light…and we can cling to it in our brief pilgrimage through this world. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” as John 1:5 tells us. That is the good news, my friends. Not that Jesus took away our darkness but that he overcame it, giving us a better way of living, a higher way. We can live life amidst the darkness because of his resurrection! What good news indeed!
I know, i know, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m diving right into the good stuff without giving you something funny to eeeease your way into the good stuff. Okay, well, I like the one about Jesus making his usual rounds in heaven when he notices a wizened, white-haired old man sitting in a corner looking very disconsolate. A week goes by and Jesus is disturbed to come across the old man again, looking equally miserable. Another week passes and he stops to talk to him. “See here, old fellow,” says Jesus kindly, “this is heaven. The sun is shining, you’ve got all you could want to eat, all the instruments you might want to play–you’re supposed to be blissfully happy! What’s wrong?” “Well,” says the old man, “you see, I was a carpenter on earth, and lost my only, dearly beloved son at an early age. And here in heaven I was hoping more than anything to find him.” Tears spring from Jesus’ eyes. “FATHER!” he cries. The old man jumps to his feet, bursting into tears, and sobs, “PINNOCHIO!”
What?! I can understand the mix-up between Joseph and Geppetto. After all, Geppetto is a Tuscan diminutive of the name Guiseppe, which is italian for Joseph. Coincidence?? Hmm, I wonder… But there, we’ve had our laugh, now let’s get back to the good stuff. If you can recall from my message on Thursday, it’s important to note how God gave us tools to instill hope before the tragedy that befell our Lord. God is very much in control of all things and He does not leave us without hope. He doesn’t abandon us to the darkness of this world without first giving us the means to instill hope. The Sacrament of Holy Communion is nothing more than a means of instilling hope. We take Jesus into our body so that we can endure the trials and temptations of life in this world. Hope and light and peace goes into us through the bread and the wine. And God gave these gifts to us before Jesus’ arrest and torture and execution. They help us endure witnessing such a tragedy.
Now this wasn’t the only instance in the whole Passion narrative when God went ahead of us to plant seeds of hope. Just look at our reading for this morning. The three women had gone to the tomb early on the first day of the week to anoint the body of Jesus. They expressed concern about the stone at the entrance of the tomb: “Who will roll away the stone for us at the entrance of the tomb?” They came upon the tomb and alas, the stone had been removed! And not only that but Jesus had been resurrected and gone on to Galilee at which Peter and his disciples were to meet him. Yet again, God in his infinite wisdom and compassion, went on before to plant seeds of hope, tools for instilling hope. Perhaps that is what we should be rejoicing over in this time of great uncertainty. God does not abandon us to the darkness. Sometimes He goes before us to plant seeds of hope to help us endure the darkness ahead. God is always with us and God is always at work in the world around us. And God is all about instilling hope. God wants us to live and live abundantly and He knows we can only live abundantly with hope. Well, hope and love and faith. But let’s just stick with the hope this morning.
It is true, Jesus’ resurrection is a great display of God’s love for us and it encourages and strengthens our faith but more importantly it gives us hope. It shows us that death is not the end but rather a new beginning…new life! And just as God planted seeds of hope, tools for instilling hope, in the Passion narrative, so, too, has He planted seeds in our own situation surrounding the global pandemic. Long before this whole pandemic began, God went before us to plant seeds of hope. It is our duty and responsibility to seek them out and unearth them for the sake of the world. We need hope to get us through this crisis. Yes, love and faith will help too but hope tells us there will be life at the end of the crisis. It won’t be the same life, it’ll be a new life. We’re going through a process, not unlike the process of death. We will be resurrected to new life, something we as Christians are familiar with through the waters of baptism. Baptism is just another process of dying and rising to new life, we know this. But getting back to hope found in the resurrection…
God wants us to have hope. He gave us Holy Communion, He rolled away the stone, He went ahead as means of instilling hope. We need hope if we’re going to get through. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” (12:12) We are to rejoice in the hope of the resurrection! 1 Peter says, “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1:3) We have been given ‘a new birth into a living hope’ in the resurrection! A living hope…a hope that gives life! Let us celebrate this living hope within us this Easter morning. God is with us! He has not and will not abandon us! As we hear in Deuteronomy, “be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” (31:6) I would add He not only goes with us but before us, lovingly planting seeds of hope alone the way. Let us seek those seeds out this day and all days. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.