The Sunday of the Resurrection - Easter Day 2004
April 11, 2004
The Gospel: Luke 24:1-10
Sermon: "Easter 2004"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again." Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.
The Sunday of the Passion - Easter Day - April 11, 2004
Several years ago a series of children's books appeared on the shelves. They were entitled, "Where's Waldo?" The object of the books was to look for a character in funny clothes in a mob of people on each page of the book. We knew the character was on the page somewhere all one had to do was find him.
A spin-off of these books was a morning children's show. The show was called "Where in the world is Carmen San Diego ?" In this show the child was to follow the clues to try and find the character, Carmen. Along the way the child learned a great deal about the major attractions in a particular city or country. The spin-off was quite a way to teach geography.
In the show and the books one knew where to look. A person also knew for whom they were searching. The goal was to find them and find them quickly. Searching was turned into a game and made fun.
This morning we see something quite different in the Gospel of Luke. We read the story of a group of women. They are going to the tomb of Jesus. They are certain Jesus is in the tomb. They saw Jesus die on the cross. They watched Joseph of Arimathea take the body to the tomb. They watched him place the body inside. They knew the tomb was sealed with the stone. We know they were sure Jesus' body would be there because they brought spices for anointing. They were following the religious norms of the day. The body needed to be anointed. This was a necessary chore for the women. They came out of love for Jesus and respect for the dead to anoint him.
At the same time their hearts had to be heavy. Not only was someone they loved gone, but for them the dream of the coming of the kingdom was gone as well. They expected more from following Jesus. They were expecting God's reign to come and Israel to be restored. They did not know exactly what it would be like, but Jesus was promising the coming of the kingdom. It had to be better than life presently. Yet, now it was over. Jesus was dead. His body lay in the tomb. Now, they were coming to perform the last ministry they could do for him. There was no searching. There was no glory. There was no laughter. There was simply this last necessary task to perform. Then, they would go back to their respective homes. They would leave with their dreams unfulfilled.
Yet, even as they walk to the tomb God's plan of redemption is coming to fruition. For when they arrive the stone is rolled away. The tomb is empty. Two men appear and they ask the most important question of their lives. Why do you look for the living among the dead? They were so certain that Jesus was in that tomb. They knew he died on that cross. They were so sure the kingdom of God was not coming. These women were so distraught that they had forgotten the passion predictions of Jesus. They forgot that his death was necessary and that he would rise again. So, they forgot to expect the possibility that the tomb might be empty.
The first and greatest miracle of all has occurred. Sin is overcome. Death is conquered forever. Eternal life is open and possible for all. It is not only open for the women and the disciples of 2000 years ago. Eternal life is open for you and for me. We are the recipients of the wonderful news today of the glorious resurrection of Christ.
However, we do struggle with one aspect of God in our lives. We constantly search for God. Searching is not wrong. As a matter of fact searching can be very rewarding, even fun. Where do we go looking for God? Sometimes we might go looking for God in the wrong places. Have we ever felt like we can not find God because we are not worthy? We feel so sinful that we believe we can never find God? Or we believe God wouldn't let us find him? Sometimes we might feel like we are not holy enough to be in the presence of God. We have not studied enough scripture. We don't go to church enough. We don't help people as much as we should. The list is endless. We either don't search for these reason or we feel unworthy to be in God's presence. Sometimes we actually go the opposite extreme. We attend church every time the door is opened. We read the scripture almost to the exclusion of everything else. We attend conferences and retreats. We order books and movies on the Holy Land, the Holy Grail, the shroud of Turin, and anything else that has to do with Christianity. We search too hard and effectually place blinders on our eyes.
In both of these extremes and in everything in between we are like the women at the tomb. We have forgotten the Good News. We have forgotten that God comes to us. In the every day aspects of our lives the risen Lord comes to us. The women were coming to the tomb doing a typical task of the day, anointing the body of someone who had died. God comes to us right where we are. God is always closer to us than we can imagine. God uses ordinary ways to make God's presence known. The sacraments of the church bear witness to God's presence in the simple ways of life. Becoming a member of Christ's body is done with water in baptism. No great feats are required. Simply come forward and believe in Christ and be sprinkled with water or dunked in a stream or river. The simple symbol of water is all that is needed. To receive the body and blood of Christ as a symbol of our communion with Christ and one another we eat a piece of bread and sip a drink of wine. God through Christ used simple symbols to help us be aware of God's presence. The Good News of today is that God will always be with us. In every breath we take. In everything thought we have. In everything we do from the simple to the complex God is with us. We are called to live our lives in the every day details of life. In those details God is always present with us. We are called to do the daily things of our lives. As we do the tasks we look for God's presence. As our daily life unfolds we might have an opportunity. We might have the opportunity to bear the Good News of Christ to someone else. Jesus is not in the empty tomb. Jesus has risen. Jesus is with us today.
Alleluia! The Lord is Risen.
The Lord is Risen indeed. Alleluia!