John in his Gospel tells us that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome come to the tomb of Jesus covered in black, prepared to see a corpse. Instead, they find the stone rolled back and see an angel, who smells sweeter than all their perfumed oils. The angel is God’s messenger – not an angel of death but an angel of life.
These women come to the tomb looking for Jesus of Nazareth and leave with the story of the risen Lord for all the world to hear. They come in their traditional role of anointing women and leave the tomb in the radical role of apostles to the apostles. They come to the tomb slowly, cautiously, filled with troublesome thoughts, like, “Who will roll back the stone for us?” And they leave the tomb running, casting all caution to the wind, proclaiming the good news that Jesus has been raised from the dead.
All the resurrection stories are like this, my friends. They are stories of believers who at first want to hold tightly to the empty tomb, to the old yeast that never rises. But in the biblical stories of this Easter season, God tells us not to stay at the tomb with an old dreary way of looking at life with sighs and fears. For Jesus is not among the dead, neither he belongs to the past.
The Easter messenger, if you remember, tells the women not to cry at the tomb because Jesus isn’t there — he is already on his way to Galilee. In other words, Jesus invites his followers to find him in the world, in our families, in our neighborhoods, even in our churches, in every place where people gather, for the risen Lord is there.
Many, many years ago, one of my youth leaders told us that what the messenger meant was this – “Jesus was unleashed as the wind.” And this brings me to a powerful play, The Trial of Jesus, by the British poet and writer John Masefield. Towards the end of the play, centurion Longinus, in charge of Jesus’s execution, reports to Pilate after the crucifixion is done.
Somehow Pilate’s wife, who has anxiously followed all that has happened, overheard the news. Visibly shaken, she asks the centurion, “Do you think he is dead?” “No, lady, I don’t,” Longinus responds. “Then where is he?” asks Pilate’s wife. Longinus replies, “Let loose in the world, lady, where neither Roman nor Jew can stop his truth.”
Friends, that sunrise was no ordinary sunrise –it was extraordinary! Why, then, this sunrise should be less than extraordinary? This, our own sunrise, this morning, hosted by such a welcoming farm family, with beautiful hills all around our eyes, our own chapel’s magnificent steeple within reach, such a peaceful morning and lovely faces . . . should be no less extraordinary than the sunrise that changed Mary Magdalene’s life and vocation forever.
No less extraordinary than the one that changed disciples’ life and vocation forever. No less extraordinary than the one that changed so many folks’ life and vocation forever. The moment we welcome the Risen Christ into our lives, we too are resurrected with Christ as we welcome and embrace megatons and megabits of unleashed spiritual energy.
Now we can see people and things from a different perspective. We can see ourselves from a different perspective. Once again, we believe in new beginnings. Even the way we face living, and even suffering and dying changes.
Let me close with another inspiring story.
This one is about the famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson when he was seven or eight-years old. He loved to watch the lamplighter at work evening after evening, how the man moved down the street lightning the street lamps one by one. One evening, the Stevenson child stood silently at his window longer than he used to. His mother read that sudden, prolonged silence as evidence of mischief, so she called out from her kitchen and asked Stevenson what he was doing.
Young Stevenson replied, “Mom, I’m watching someone punch holes in the darkness.” Punching holes in the darkness – that’s what God did that first sunrise in Palestine. Punching holes in the darkness — that’s what God is doing this morning here in our own sunrise in this welcoming Buckeystown farm. Punching holes in the darkness of a Good Friday world so divided, so conflicted, so stressed out — such is our call today and every day, my friends.
Living like Easter people usually do in a Good Friday world.