Christ is risen! Alleluia!
I have been waiting so long to say that! I’ve always loved Easter. I know that’s a very pastor-y thing to say, but it’s true. Easter has always been one of those perfect kind of days, where all the gloom and sadness of Lent gets thrown off all at once, and we have the big pipe organ hymns with the brass, there are Easter lilies and white paraments, everyone gathers with their families for traditions like Easter egg hunts or a ham dinner. And it feels a lot different this year.
We can’t meet in person, and so much of what makes Easter such a holy day feels like it doesn’t get to happen. We’re social distancing so all those wonderful traditions we have as a family are going to be put on hold. Even the way we get dressed up in our Easter best is being disrupted—I’m pretty sure most of y’all are watching this in your pajamas. And I think it can be tempting to think Easter is somehow less than because we don’t get all those things.
But in the end, it’s not the brass or the organ that we need for Easter to be Easter. It’s not Easter egg hunts or five different kinds of egg bake. It’s not new Easter dresses and ties we break out once a year. It’s this story we heard. It’s this amazing, wonderful, impossible story of how God took the disaster of Good Friday and made the whole world change.
In fact, maybe it’s good that this year is so different. We know this story so well that maybe it’s gotten just a little too familiar. Wonderful as it is, maybe we don’t get surprised by it anymore. Maybe we don’t capture the wonder of it quite as much. Because it’s hard to have your imagination captured by a story you know the ending to. But this year is different, I think, because we’re in a story where we don’t know the ending.
Like how we don’t know how long we’ll need to socially distance ourselves, the women went to the tomb that morning not knowing exactly what they’d find. There was the heavy weight of the unknown around them. Would Jesus’ body be there? What would they do about the guards? What would they do about the stone? How were they going to react to what they found? With so much not known, the women were stepping into their fear not because they knew what waited for them in the garden that morning, but because they knew who Jesus was.
Aren’t we invited to do the same? The world is so different from what we thought it would be six weeks ago, with so many twists and turns and all the anxiety of a world grappling with a pandemic. But Jesus is the same. Jesus is the same one who left an empty tomb behind when the world, thinking it knew how every story ended, assumed he would stay dead! Jesus is the same one who completely flipped the world over by doing what he said he would do: rise again. And he’s the same one who met the women on the road, proof that they weren’t crazy for seeing the angel!
And this is one of the things I came to love about Matthew’s retelling of this story of stories. Jesus is portrayed different ways in each gospel, but for some reason I read Matthew and was struck by just how happy Jesus was. Joyful! He greets the women so simply that I can’t believe it wasn’t with a huge smile and a hug. And isn’t that exactly what we look for on this Easter day? Joy? We come to worship today, the world being what it is, to find joy. Hope. Happiness, even.
Today is God’s answer to the pain of the world. Today is God’s answer to the suffering, the brokenness, the sin, the sadness of the world. An angel is sent to roll away the stone and tell the women that Jesus is risen. The women hearing this message go and are filled with awe and great joy, knowing that if this is God’s answer to death, then nothing in the world will ever be the same again. And in this beaming smile and simple greeting, Jesus shows us exactly how God intends to answer everything from the reality of death to the pandemic that keeps us isolated.
God will overcome it, and bring life out of it.
So even though the world is very different, and we can’t have the brass, or the egg bakes, or the Easter dresses this year—in the words of the angel and Jesus—“don’t be afraid.” Don’t be afraid, because there is nothing scary enough to overcome Jesus. Not a pandemic, not a faltering economy, not an uncertain future, not even death. Jesus brings us joy with the news of the resurrection, because if even the cold grip of death has no power over him, then we’ve got a Savior worth trusting. Because Jesus is risen, because he lives even now, then even not knowing what the future will bring is okay, because Jesus holds the future.
Have joy this Easter, remembering the women who went from the empty tomb to tell the good news to the disciples. Know the wonder of the resurrection, feel the hope of God’s promise of eternal life, and share the love of Christ that we are all called to share because he lives.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Amen.