April 21, 2019: Easter Sunday
Reading: Luke 24:1-12
(Reading from Easter Vigil)
At daybreak on the first day of the week, the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground.They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.”
And they remembered his words. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others.
The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them.
But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened.
This year the Gospel of the Easter Vigil is taken from Luke. Easter Sunday’s Gospel is always from John.
One important piece of information surrounding the reports of Jesus’ death is that there is great fear among his followers. His death has justified the Roman and Jewish leader’s decision to crucify him (the usual means of killing criminals). Jesus had presented a grave concern to many in power as the crowds coming to listen to him grew larger and more militant. He was preaching justice for all, not just the upper class; demanding honesty from government and religious leaders; and giving hope to those who were struggling with unjust laws and treatment. He was increasingly viewed as a threatening rabble rouser.
His death seemed the end of his promises for his followers. Surely they would not continue—they did! Jesus’ death put all his followers in grave danger. They knew they could face the same fate as Jesus if rounded up and charged with crimes against the state. Most were in hiding. Most were terrified. Then came the dawn — and then came the women. In most accounts, the women — notably Jesus’ close friend Mary Magdalen — came to anoint his body as was the custom to care for loved ones.
Their grief and love for Jesus overcame their fear. Mary, often referred to as the “Apostle to the Apostles” ran to tell the others what she had seen. They didn’t believe her. Peter was curious enough to check it out. Perhaps he had heard some of the deeper meanings in Jesus’ teaching —perhaps he was just curious. He saw the empty tomb and went home amazed.
During his lifetime, Jesus prepared his Apostles (those sent forth) to continue his ministry — to heal the sick, announce the coming of God’s kingdom, and offer a new vision of justice and hope. We can trace their teaching, their ministry, and their bold proclamation of Christ’s death and Resurrection to these witnesses. But more was to come-— the realization and vision of the Risen Christ.
So, what does it mean when Lent is over? The candy is back in the dish, our Lenten resolutions are assessed, (I didn’t lose those stubborn pounds,) and the ham is in the oven as we prepare to head back to our daily routines. But not so fast!
I’m not sure when Lent became so trivialized. Lent at its beginning was often linked to the emerging of new life as the Vernal Equinox announced the celebration of equal hours of darkness and light. Powerful transformations are happening inside and out. So, what might Lent really ask of us to prepare our hearts for Easter?
Lent has called us to “the heart of the matter.” It calls us to the center, our heart — the core of who we are. It is about giving up for Lent all that keeps us from having peace in our hearts: jealousy — judgements — resentments — anger — pain — and allowing us to open our hearts to genuine peace — happiness — gratitude and love. As we now lean into spring celebrating the joy of the Resurrection and new life around us, we recognize that it is what lies deep inside that matters most. It cannot end with Easter! Lent and Easter continue asking us to deepen our faith in the promise of new life through the Risen Christ we celebrate on Easter. It is the “heart of the matter.”
Eat a few chocolate bunnies, too!