Sermon for Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018 – “We Can Be Present”

Easter Sunday
April 1, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Decorah, Iowa
Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

Click here to read scripture passages for the day.

Beloved of God, grace to you and peace in the name of the Risen Christ. Amen.

What are Easter egg hunts like in your family? Anyone treat them like an Olympic medal race? I have some very athletic cousins, so my childhood Easter egg hunts were quite intimidating. The eggs would be spread all over my grandma’s big backyard and my cousins would race each other from one hiding spot to the next. I was all about the candy and could never keep up anyway; but my cousins were so intent on winning, they’d sometimes leave candy on the ground in their haste to beat the others to the next spot.

There’s some racing in our Gospel story today as well. Mary tells Peter and another disciple, “They have taken the Lord”, and they set out running for the tomb. At first, we’re told they’re running together, neck and neck, then the other disciple pulls ahead. He outruns Peter; he makes it to the tomb first. Victory!

Yet, once the disciples make it to the tomb, they don’t stick around long. Something has clearly happened, something quite strange and disturbing has happened. The stone is rolled away, grave wrappings are lying there without a body, the tomb is empty. Mary is certain Jesus’ body has been stolen. But the disciples don’t investigate, they don’t search for answers. They just take a quick look and head home. Maybe they’re afraid, maybe the sorrow is too much; they don’t stay. They race on to the next thing. This reminds me of my cousins racing around the yard. It reminds me of how we hurry through our lives. We want to rush grief, we’re impatient with our own and others pain, we careen from one news story, one crisis, to the next at breakneck speed. We don’t take time to reflect, to ask the hard questions about what it all means.

Mary, on the other hand, stays at the tomb. She stays in this place of death that seems to be vandalized. She peers into the emptiness. She stays with the tension and unknowing, the loneliness and loss. She asks the hard questions. She stays. There – in all that is hard. And there she meets Jesus. There, Jesus calls her name and brings her back to life. There she experiences resurrection. She is given reason to hope again.

It is hard to stay present, like Mary does. It is so tempting to hurry past all that is uncertain, frightening, painful. It’s so tempting to rush to the comforts of home, the quick fixes, the easy answers. But when we do, we’re like people trapped on a perpetual Easter egg hunt – racing from one thing to the next, searching for the next sugar high, pursuing pleasure, but never being changed, never experiencing resurrection and new life.

Resurrection happens at the tomb, at the place where things are hard. There Jesus meets us. There Jesus meets you to call your name, to bring you back to life, to give you real hope. Jesus meets you there; Jesus meets you here in his body and blood, signs of his death. In this place where we mark Jesus’ death, the Risen Christ meets us today.

We all come, racing through life yet knowing the places where we struggle, where we grieve, where we feel alone. The good news of Easter is that those are the very places where Jesus meets you. You are not alone. God, in Jesus, has entered into all the pain and sorrow to work new life from the midst of it – for you. And now the Risen Christ is present to you in all things, most especially the hard things.

This means that we can stay present to all that is painful in our own lives, in our world; we don’t have to run away from it all. We can be with uncertainty and hard questions. We can remain engaged past the breaking news cycle, the issue of the hour. We can address difficult topics in our life together here at Good Shepherd. We can stay engaged in the hard work of accompanying migrant minors and immigrants and advocating for just legislation. We can care for people over the long haul of grief, chronic illness and dis- aster recovery – long after others move on. That’s what the Lutheran Disaster Response work we do as part of the ELCA is all about. We stay well past the headlines to accompany people in the long-term work of rebuilding their lives and communities.

We can stay present in all these hard places, like Mary, because the risen Jesus meets us there. He meets us at the graveside, the hospital, the ICE detention center. He meets us in difficult conversations and in the broken, beloved community that is the church.

The risen Jesus meets us in all these places and calls us back to life again. Resurrection happens at the tomb. Jesus meets you there. Jesus meets you here in his body and blood to wipe away your tears, to be present for you and for the whole world.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!