Easter Sunday (Year B)
April 4, 2021
St. Anselm Church – Sudbury, MA
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4; Sequence Victimae paschali laudes; John 20:1-9
Greeting: Good morning! Happy Easter! Today is a joyful day! We gather to celebrate the very cornerstone of our faith: that Jesus Christ not only died for our sins out of love for us — he was not only a martyr — but that he rose from the grave, was resurrected to live again. For God’s power is greater than death. Amen? And that means you and I, whom he came to befriend and to save, will indeed take us with him to live forever. We won’t do it solely on our own power or efforts at perfection, but by grace that comes from our life with and in him who loved us first.
Sprinkling: To remind ourselves of the moment when we were claimed by Christ as his own, washed clean, and drawn into relationship with him — our baptism — we are blessed this day by the Easter Water.
We are here today because …
something very strange, yet wonderful has happened:
the fulfillment of our greatest hopes and desires…
God, himself, in fact surpassed our greatest hopes and desires!
You see a grieving bunch of friends and family–Jesus friends and family—had just seen him die a terrible death… they cried and wailed for sure…and they buried him…. They went into grief.
BUT THEN they find his tomb empty,
his body is nowhere to be seen!
This was strange indeed.
Maybe frightening, actually…
first their beloved was condemned and executed,
and now what have they done with his body??
Mary Magdalene says “They have taken the Lord from the tomb and we don’t know where they put him!”
They’re worried and wondering.
Peter and John run to the tomb and look and see for themselves. Mary of Magdala was right. His body is gone.
And yet they must have known….
They must have known…this wasn’t the work of grave robbers.
In the depths of their memory they must have remembered
what Jesus had said:
the Son of Man must suffer and be killed, but on the third day God would raise him up.
They must have known.
For we are told, John bent down into the empty tomb, “he saw and he believed“.
He believed, and he knew, that Jesus had been raised.
So we celebrate this Easter morning NOT just an empty tomb,
but a tomb emptied by God—
a God who could not countenance death having power
over his beloved anymore.
For that is why Jesus came!
to give us Life and life to the full, life eternal, life — to hold us in love.
So you and I, though we each will die, we will live in Him,
and with Him forever: We too shall rise!
We celebrate the empty tomb left behind by Jesus,
who rose from its grips,
by the shear power that belongs to God.
That is the cause of our joy!
It is strange and wonderful indeed!
But to celebrate as Mary, and Peter, and all the rest did, is not enough. Jesus tells them to
to go and announce the good news,
to go and do what he did.
As Peter puts it in Acts:
“doing good and healing all those oppressed by evil”
Or as Jesus himself said at the beginning of his public ministry, (quoting Isaiah 61):
“I’ve come to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor.”
And as Jesus later says to his disciples in his last resurrection appearance,
“Go and make disciples of all the nations”
Jesus wants US to announce the good news, TO LOVE AS HE LOVES and to widen his circle of friends.
For Resurrection is not just an end-of-our-lives reality;
it is a here-and-now reality,
that comes about when we make room
for God’s love to transform us and how we live. As Jesus was raised from the tomb, God’s love will
· Lift us OUT of the chains of selfishness, or addiction,
or dishonesty, or cold-heartedness.
· And lead us TO generosity, to compassion even for strangers, to forgiveness for those who have hurt us,
and to love even our enemies.
None of that makes sense, or is even possible, on our own power.
But it does make sense, and does really happen, in light of Christ’s Resurrection—for in his resurrection we see, and believe, and know that God’s love conquers even the apparent finality of death.
But those disciples did not immediately go out – as transformed human beings – to preach, teach, heal and share the good news. No!
Throughout the Easter Season we will hear the story of their tentativeness, and fear, and struggle to absorb what Jesus Resurrected really means, and what they should do.
We too struggle in our lives against the chains of sin or woundedness or doubt and fear that weigh us down. We may want to…love our enemies, show compassion to suffering strangers, and forgive those who hurt us. But it may be an unusual day when we actually do all those things!
How did Jesus’ disciples, or how can we, make room for God’s love to transform us?
Here is where the Easter Egg comes from. An egg is a symbol of new life waiting to be born into the world. It has all the potential but remains fragile. The egg must be kept warm by the parents, gestated for a period of time, and then eventually the baby chick inside has grown big enough and has the strength to peck through that shell and enter the real world. She or he HAS TO break through the shell! There’s no option. They can’t stay inside anymore, or they will die. Life lies outside the shell.
Let’s apply this image to ourselves and to Jesus’ disciples.
First, the disciples:
· It took time for them to get out from under their grief and fully accept that Jesus had in fact risen to life again. Like a baby chick in the egg, Jesus gestated those disciples like a mother hen sitting on the eggs. How?:
· He appeared to them over and over—12 times if we count up all those recorded in scripture: near the tomb, by a lake, to two walking on the road away from Jerusalem, in the upper room where they were locked away in fear, etc.
· He appeared to them to give assurances, to help their faith to deepen, to show them they could let go of their fears.
· Jesus nurtured them until they could peck through their shell, and emerge as persons transformed into something new and courageous, to BE ministers of Christ’s love for the world.
So as we begin this Easter, how is Jesus gestating US?
· What shell is Christ inviting me, helping me, to break through? What must I let go, to really live according with Resurrection hope and courage?
· What is God doing in my life that’s calling me beyond to something new, or deeper, or holier, and more loving?
· Am I ready to break through the shell?
Even if we still feel encumbered or hesitant, at least can we say, “Yes, Lord, I want to peck through that shell. Help me!”
It’s natural for a baby chick to be completely dependent on its mother — just think of how they’re fed with beaks wide open waiting to receive food from their mother’s beak. We weren’t that different at our birth!
So sometimes in life the courage we need comes only from trusting that the Lord will feed us like a baby chick fed by its mother. We can face the vulnerability of life outside the shell because we know there’s someone waiting to take care of us outside!
And not just take care of us, not just keep us alive, but make us a friend and call us to grow up to be more and more like him — Jesus.
Let us pray:
Free us, O God, from our fears. Free us from hiding. Give us hearts of mercy. So we can go where you go, love like you love, and rise to live our life in God who lives forever! Amen.