Christ died. Christ arose. Christ wasn't just some political victim executed for expediency, profiled and
This sermon is quite a bit different from how it was written, therefore, please listen to the sermon rather than read it. The sermon notes which are included for convenience.
Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley.
April 16 - Sunday of the Resurrection
"For all". Text is from Matthew 28:1-10
Good morning to you my sisters and brothers in Christ, saints and sinners, children of God. Good morning to you my sisters and brothers in Christ, saints and sinners, children of God.
This is indeed the day that our God has made! This day, more than any other, is one of praise and joy. The light has finally conquered darkness and overcome it. No longer is the body of Christ hidden away in a lonesome tomb but he is with us, alive and glorious.
Today's Easter reading comes from the book of Matthew and is so full of wonderful imagery that we can so easily imagine that we were right there with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, who scholars generally agree is the mother of Jesus.
They alone sat vigil outside of the lonely tomb, along with soldiers standing watch, lest someone come and take the body from the tomb, or worse yet, rob the body of Jesus of some relic. This was a man executed by the state and reputedly performed miracles, and the word was most definitively out there, it was certainly within the realm of possibility that someone would seek to profit off of that fact, and the state did not want anything like that to happen. So guards were positioned outside.
And yet, Matthew, unlike all the other gospels, has the great stone sealing the tomb move in front of the gaze of these women, as the earth shook and at the hands of a single angel. And Matthew tells us the soldiers themselves turn to dread fear, their prone, deathlike bodies reminding us of the proximity between fear and awe.
This angel who tells the women to not fear, and to see that Jesus was no longer in the tomb but had been raised anew. This angel, shining brightly as lightning and clothed in the purest white, gave these women instructions to tell the disciples that Jesus would meet the disciples in Galilee.
Mary and Mary, for their part, ran immediately to seek the disciples out, and along the way, encounter Jesus himself, who repeated the same thing, to tell his brothers and sisters that he would be in Galilee and there they would meet again.
And it is perhaps why Matthew doesn't emphasize Mary's role as Jesus' mother that we are able to see her in a different role, that she and Mary Magdalene are the first of the post-resurrection disciples, the first to steward the message of Jesus and bring the good news to others.
And this account that begins with fear, not only on the part of these soldiers who are just there doing their job but also on the two women who had been morning ends with an overwhelming joy, one that could not be surpassed. Mourning to Fear to Joy.
And in some ways this is a perfect ending to the gospel of Matthew, which began with a man, Joseph, who was afraid to marry his disgraced fiancé, wishing to put her away quietly until an angel told him differently, should end with a moment of high joy. Jesus Christ, who was thought to be dead, was now risen anew. God is alive.
I'm left wondering what happened with these soldiers? To have this duty, watching over the grave of a political prisoner, only to be forced to tell their commanders that they failed in their duties. Would they tell the truth? That a being of light and energy moved the stone out of the way and there was no body to be found? The disciples were blessed to believe the words of the two Mary's, but what about the Romans in command? Would they be branded as lunatics or liars? And how could these men do anything but believe beyond that point, after witnessing the miracles surrounding the disappearance of this man executed for political reasons. After hearing the good news proclaimed right from the top of the tomb.
This is the glorious culmination of the long season we have been traveling, fasting, praying, giving alms, contemplating where we are going. It is this moment, more than any other that gives reason to life. There were a few of us who attended the joint Good Friday worship, where our confirmation students read the passion from the Gospel of John. Interspersed between the readings was Taizé music and instrumentals, and the entire service was touching and moving to everyone who attended. And one cannot help but feel a sense of tragedy in living in the mood, knowing the nature of the death of Jesus, knowing that all of the people were at fault and understanding that we, even though we didn't live at the time, would have been included in "all the people". And the Good Friday service ends there, in quiet.
What a tragedy would this be if it ended there.
I have seen this one post that has been floating around Facebook, which described Jesus as if he were a criminal, charged with a crime, explaining him as consorting with undesirables, stirring up a political storm, using a particular media spin. I understand the desire to point it out that way, because it is there to make us think, if the Romans viewed Jesus in this light, then certainly the way that we can change the way we view people who are held as criminals, or people who are protesting or people who are profiled. But for me, the failure of that forgets the fact that Jesus died for all.
Breakers of the law and keepers of the law.
Protestors and the status quo.
The poor and the rich.
The hungry and the well fed.
The angry and the content.
And not only did he die for all, he was raised up because of who he was. Not an ordinary man, not a simple victim of a political stand-off between the people of Israel and their Roman overlords, but because he was the Son of God the Creator. The prophesied Son of Man.
This morning, another pastor posted the following on Facebook: "In Roman times, empty crosses littered the landscape. Empty tombs, not so much." While there continue to be people executed unjustly, both here in the United States as well as abroad, that there continue to be governments who treat their citizens unfairly, there was only one Jesus Christ, only son of God, one savior who died and in dying abolished death for all who believed, and in his blood cleansing all of us from sin, and in God's raising him up, gave for us a king, not of earth, but over earth.
And while we may have tragedies in our lives, we have this one joy that overcomes all, that no matter what the circumstances, no matter what may befall us, and what may transpire against us, that we too can glorify God, through the incredible story of how his son, Jesus, born of the betrothed of a humble tradesman, raised in the sticks, baptized in the Jordan, taught others to love God, and made himself known through miraculous feats of healing, who died because of the world's sin but did not stay dead, but defeated death, the devil and the power of the grave, to cleanse all sin and raised in order that we that believe may share his everlasting life.
This, my sisters and brothers, is the heart of the good news. This is the glory of our God.