Sunday, April 4, 2021
Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day, Year B

Prayer of the Day

God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings and Psalm

Isaiah 25:6-9  The feast of Victory
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Acts 10:34-43   God raised Jesus on the third day
John 20:1-18    Seeing the risen Christ

Sermon
Title:  Dead with Mary, Alive with Christ

Alleluia!  Christ is risen.  The Lord has risen indeed.  Alleluia!

Yes, that is our shout this morning. On this glorious morning of life, new life in Christ.  But it certainly is not Mary’s shout.  Mary Magdalene, a follower of Jesus as loyal as they come.  Dedicating time and treasure.  Traveling and listening. A model disciple she was – even though she was never listed among the names of those 12 men.  But here she is, filled with sorrow, confusion, despair.  She is in a dead place – literally, figuratively, and spiritually.  She probably couldn’t sleep, that’s why she is going to the cemetery while it is still dark. So many in John’s gospel start in the dark, Nicodemus comes to Jesus with his questions in the dark of night.  In that beautiful poem that begins John’s gospel the whole world is in the dark.  One of the signs Jesus uses to teach the people of his identity is naming himself the light of the world.  But now, for Mary, it is still dark.  And all she can think to do is go to the tomb and shed some more tears for the one in whom she had such hope, such faith, and such love.  Oh, Mary is in such a dead place.  And there is no one there to say to her…

Alleluia! Christ is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

Perhaps you are finding yourself with Mary this morning.  Perhaps you are connecting with where she is at.  In such a dead place. Oh, you are very much alive, but all around there is death. So many tombs and headstones in the cemeteries we are finding ourselves in.  What are you seeing?  What is dead around you?  Lost loved ones who are literally among the dead?  Maybe it is more about lost opportunities and unrealized dreams. Then there is that public part of the cemetery, the grave sites we communally see and grieve over.   There is that grave for a justice system that was supposed to serve all equally.  And there’s the one for economic possibilities that were supposed to be available to all.  Or, systems that were to treat all fairly regardless of race, gender, identity, creed.  All dead, right?  Any hope for them and in them, gone.  Only despair.  Maybe you are mourning the death of a society in which neighbors watch out for neighbors.  Where people, regardless of tribe or country-of-origin can at least walk safely down city streets.  Where mutual respect is a minimum.  Oh, Mary, we are with you. With you in the darkness of death and disappointment, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.  We are in no place to be able to even whisper…

Alleluia! Christ is risen.  The Lord is risen, indeed, alleluia!

Mary just wants to look on the corpse, to shower it and her memories with tears of loss, just as we shower with tears our visions of a peaceful and just society that die with each newscast, each heartbreaking story where racism, sexism, elitism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and just plain old home-grown hate seem to be winning the day, day after day; as they torture our faith, crucify another hope, bury another dream.  Perhaps, like Mary, we invite others to come and see, demand that they look and see what we are seeing, or, better put, what we are not seeking. But like Peter and John, others are grieving their own losses, experiencing their own despair.  They offer little comfort, and everyone is left to sit in their own space, with their own tears.  Even if you can muster it, it seems to be lacking a certain level of joy to say to yourself…

Alleluia! Christ is risen.  The Lord is risen, indeed, alleluia!

And yet, with Mary and the witnesses of the resurrection, we are here.  Standing at the empty tomb of Jesus, not just holding on to hope, but holding on to life.  The life that Jesus brings, and brings again.  The life that God in Christ recreates, restores, renews, re-animates, resurrects even when all we see is death.  Jesus the risen Christ meets us in our dead places, comes to where we are no matter how dark the shadows in the valley of death through which we are walking.  In the miracle and the mercy, the glory and the grace of the incarnation – the word made flesh; God in Christ entered the graveyard that humankind turned creation into.  Jesus faced the oppressive powers that heartlessly sacrifice others for their own gain. He lived in an unjust system of occupation and tyranny.  He knew the betrayal, denial, and abandonment of his closest friends. His heart broke at the thought of losing his own beloved friend.  He knew well the abandonment of his own family and his people.  He suffered the pain and agony of torture and death. In every way through his life, Jesus joined us in our dead places, in our cemeteries, at our gravesides, in our despair and disappointment, so that our joy might be closer to complete when we say…

Alleluia! Christ is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

And to add to this joy, this proclamation bears witness to the fact that Jesus did not just join humanity in his earthly life. No, even now, this day, every day, Jesus continues to meet us in our dead places, Jesus invites us to resurrection and renewal, to new life that is first ours in the waters of baptism and in the promise and work of the Holy Spirit.  Yes, death is powerful.  It not only stops the heart, but shrouds the vision, grounds the spirit, stills the voice, prevents the hearing.  Go back to poor Mary.  She who knew Jesus so well, was standing there, so deep in her dead place that she did not recognize the very one that she loved and that she was looking for.  It was not until Jesus called her by name that she herself could final be resurrected from the dead place that she was in.  And with that calling of her name, she could finally find the breath of new life with which to say…

Alleluia! Christ is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

Wherever you are today.  Whatever dead place you find yourself, whatever grave stone or stones you are looking at, however dark the shadows that are hanging over you, however deep your despair, come to the garden, with Mary, with Peter and John, and the witnesses of the resurrection, those who believed immediately and those who doubted. Join with the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us, who lived in faith and struggled with the faith. Come to the garden with me and the members of this diverse faith community, with those who are joining together this day in this liturgy through the wonder of technology, come with all those around the world who are being lifted out of their dead places not because they believe enough, but because God has acted enough that new life is ours. In baptism God called us by name, making us a child of God and a citizen of God’s realm.  Isaiah gives us a tiny thumbnail sketch of just a portion of the gift that is God’s reign.  A feast – the best beverages, the richest delicacies – for ancient people who didn’t have the abundance of Trader Joe’s, Brooklyn Fare, or Gristede’s, this was the food and drink that only the rich and favored in the land got to eat.  But more important than the menu, is the guest list.  All people.  All people.  Everyone is invited to the safety and majesty and awesomeness of this mighty mountain.  The only thing not there, is death.  There are no dead places on the mountain of God.  There is life. Only life.  The life that God shares with who?  All people.  Peter affirms this in his sermon given in the home of the Roman centurion Cornelius.  Yes, the home of one who commands the occupying forces.  One who is a part of those who have brought death to Jesus and so many more. Peter is standing in what he and some of those early believers insisted was a dead and godless place.  But the Spirit has declared differently.  And Peter is stirred to proclaim life even to Cornelius and his household.  The one who must have felt himself die when he denied Jesus, now boldly declares God’s life made known in Jesus the risen one, the forgiving one, the patient one.  And it is a life given to all because it knows no partiality.  All these resurrections that have come before us is why we can and do shout…

Alleluia! Christ is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

And we shout because the God of love and life is coming to us in our dead places even today.  Our mothering God is calling us by name to renew ourselves in the refreshing waters of baptism. Our saving God is calling us by name to come to the feasting table that knows no limitations and knows no end. Our With-us God is calling us by name to find hope and courage and strength in the unity that binds us all together for the sake of the world.  A world that is much too much steeped and stalled in death. A world that needs to hear us say, but more importantly to live the truth that…

Alleluia! Christ is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

And because Christ has been raised from the dead, so are we. Alleluia! Amen.

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