- The Rev. Samuel Hartman
Why do we come here on this Easter morning?
Perhaps it is just out of habit, or family tradition, just a pleasant way to spend a Sunday morning.
We are celebrating an event which runs entirely counter to common sense; it is a challenge to our reason and our experience. In word and song, we proclaim that Jesus rose from the dead. Today, we claim the impossible.
So – obviously - we don’t come for logical, rational reasons. We could just as easily be at home, enjoying Easter breakfast, or chocolate eggs, planning a day in the sunshine. Or, since we live in a Good Friday world, filled with violence, anger, greed, betrayal, death – we could just give up on God and forget about Easter altogether.
But something brought us here. What is it about Easter that draws us? That is a question worth asking. We need to push beyond the superficial answers and ask ourselves – why are we really here, what are we looking for, what are we hoping for?
We just heard about Mary Magdalene, coming to the tomb on the Sunday morning after Jesus died. She was one of Jesus’ inner circle. She certainly knew that he spoke about God’s power, God’s promise. She had experienced his love. She even had heard him talk about rising from the dead on the third day.
But even she came to the tomb in sorrow, not believing.
When she arrived, she discovered that the stone at the tomb was gone. Had someone has stolen the body? She didn’t know what to make of it all.
She stood outside the tomb weeping in grief and despair. “Why are you crying?” those strangers in white asked her – angels it seems, but she hardly seemed to notice.
Even when the risen Lord spoke, her eyes were so filled with tears of grief that she didn’t recognize him.
Not until he spoke. Not until she heard that familiar voice, speaking her name. then she knew – Jesus was not dead, but risen.
Do you come here today, not believing? Do you come, like Mary Magdalene, in grief, or fear, or doubt -- hoping against hope to hear a voice that would give you a new life? Is that why you are here?
Are you looking for a sign, some proof that God is faithful, God has not abandoned us? A sign even that God exists? Is that what draws you here today?
Are you listening for someone who knows you, who loves you, to speak your name? Are you listening for a word of encouragement, of hope – a word, a promise, a word of life in the midst of a world filled with frustration and hopelessness and fear and death?
Are you are discouraged and afraid, disturbed by fears of terrorism or the chaos of politics, or just the troubles of life, and come looking for some work of hope?
Remember - we start in abandonment, emptiness, loss and fear, acknowledging the Cross, the tomb, admitting our sorrow and sin, our grief and death. We stumble around in the darkness, before we can understand Easter morning.
And then, suddenly, God gives us a miracle. The tomb is empty. In the shadow of death, in the shadow of the Cross, we find Good News. Jesus was crucified, he died, but now is alive. Jesus has risen from the dead.
Today, the resurrected Jesus comes to us, speaks to us. And with that miraculous gift of faith, with God’s abundant grace taking root in our hearts and minds, the world is changed. Everything that is important to us, the answers to our longing and hope and desire and dreams, all flow from this miracle, this good news, the gift of grace and faith – the resurrection.
The world remains what it is of course, filled with violence and anger and death. But we stand at the empty tomb. We know that this is the place where life begins. Here, today, by God’s gift of grace, we come alive.
Some of you have come here today carrying heavy crosses, difficult burdens. Some have been to the grave. Some are oppressed with sorrow. Some are plagued by fear and worry. Some have lost hope – or lost your way. And most of us are distracted by the busyness and troubles of the world and of our lives; our eyes are clouded when the risen Lord comes; our ears are closed when the risen Lord speaks.
But today, we hear, today we see. In Jesus’ Resurrection God finds us. When all seems lost, when it seems that this fear and destruction and death is all there is, when all hope and life seems to be gone - then, God rolls back the stone.
Death is not the last word. Sin does not win. Life is the original and eternal gift of God and life will not be taken away from us.
This morning: Take time to listen – Jesus speaks our name. Listen for that voice, speaking to us again as he did at our baptisms, calling us each by name, God’s beloved child.
Look up from your tears – Jesus is here. Look for Jesus, the risen Lord, in the faces and caring acts of those around us. See Jesus in the world as the blessed creation of God, in both its beauty and its sorrow.
Listen – look – and you will hear and see and find the blessing of resurrection life that God gives us in the risen Lord.
This is why we are here.
And now - go tell the world: “I have seen the Lord. Despite what it may seem, the Tomb is empty. Jesus has risen, he has renewed my heart, he has given me hope, he has promised me life – now and always.”