Easter Morning, 2003
St. David’s, Pepperell
Katherine Hancock Ragsdale
Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
The women went to the tomb on this, the 1st day of the week, many years ago, to mourn. It took courage to go there – to the tomb of a recently executed insurrectionist – for it would have been reasonable to assume that is was being watched. That the authorities were on the look-out for this man’s friends. That they would be, at the very least, taken in for questioning, held, perhaps tortured for information, branded as accomplices, and perhaps executed themselves. It’s not hard to imagine the possibilities. And, if your imagination fails, just open a newspaper. It’s not hard to see why they would be afraid. Peter understood; he denied having met Jesus – 3 times – while Jesus was still alive to be hurt by that betrayal.
But Mary and Mary and Salome went to the tomb anyway. They brought spices and went to the tomb to anoint him, to give him the last tender care the living can offer the dead.
They went grieving. Their best hope for a new and better world was shattered. Their hopes, dreams, and plans lay in ruins. And someone they loved was dead. So they gathered their apparently vast resources of courage, strength, compassion, and love and went to the tomb.
And they found it empty.
God had done it again. The God who had so often redeemed Israel from bondage, rebuilt it from dry bones and ashes, had done it again.
But this time was different. In the past God had, again and again, restored Israel – but over time and through the workings of history. This time, in one fell swoop all the loss and despair, all the evil intentions and vile acts, were turned on their head. Death was simply un-done. Jesus rose victorious.
Now, it well may be that some of you here are saying to yourselves – well, that’s a nice story, but ‘rose from the dead’? I have a hard time believing that. And, if you are saying that, let me just say that you’re in good company. There are lots of smart and good folks who just aren’t buying the story.
Scholars have long argued about whether Jesus literally rose from the dead – whether the Resurrection is literal fact. It’s an interesting and fair argument. But it’s also peripheral. Don’t let the facts distract you from the truth – for it’s the truth that counts. And here’s the truth –
Peter, who denied Jesus, became, indeed, a rock – immovable in his faith and commitment and an unwavering follower of his Lord. The disciples, who had been hiding in fear, came out and began to preach the Gospel. And it did cost some of them their lives. And they did it anyway. And the teachings of Jesus did not fade away but grew to fill the earth. And the ministry he began continues 2000 years later.
One way or another, Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus lives – in Jerusalem right after his death and in Pepperell in 2003.
Even death cannot stop God’s good work. There is no loss, no setback, no tragedy that marks an end to God’s grace and power. For in ways mysterious and wonderful our God resurrects hopes, dreams, even us from the dead.
And not only resurrects, but redeems. We survive and thrive, by God’s good grace, not in spite of the evils and losses that befall us, but through them. The pains and deaths we endure become the foundation of our new lives and new strengths and new hopes and new possibilities. Jesus Christ is not defeated by death, and, because he lives, so, too, does the rest of creation – so do we.
Our task now is to come out of our own small, dark rooms of fear and doubt – to claim the grace that has been given us and to join God in the share of God’s work that has been given us -- with courage and hope and joy.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen!