The disciples didn’t stay at the tomb. On this first day of the week, the day of Easter, we celebrate that oppressive powers do not get the final say, but a loving God has the final say – and God’s reign is in full swing. Oh, this may not always be fully evident. There is still abusive power; there is still a huge gap between need and greed. Yet every time we gather to retell the story of that first Easter, where the women found more than they bargained for, and frightened shame- faced men become courageous witnesses to the living Christ, then the reign of God grows; for it grows in us.
Last Sunday we recalled the Palm parade, where Jesus rode into town on a donkey, and the crowds went wide for a new kind of leader. But they already had a leader. The Roman Empire was used to getting its way. It knew how to discourage those who objected to its rule. They killed the leaders and the followers scattered. So Jesus was crucified.
But they didn’t count on the courage of women, and the resilience of men who followed this one known as Jesus of Nazareth. On the first day of the week, at the first light of dawn, Mary of Magdela, Joanna, of unknown address, and Mary the mother of James went to the tomb. These women were determined that there would be dignity in death, that they would not be cheated out of offering their gifts to the one who had taught them that they were a part of the family of God. They do not find Jesus there of course, but are asked, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
None of the disciples, neither women nor men, stay at the tomb because it was Jesus’ last known location. They go back to where they connect with people’s lives and share how the life and spirit of Jesus had changed them. They grow in in courage, compassion and inclusivity.
We too are the faith carriers – Like those first disciples, we too are the faith carriers as we live out how the life of Jesus, the spirit of the risen Christ affects who we are. We pass it along – not as dogma, but as experience and hope. We pass it along not as an artifact to be put on a shelf and dusted periodically. We pass this faith from heart to heart, as a living evolving reality. We struggle with it, dance with it, fail in it, and try again, opening our hearts to the spirit of the living Christ. Sometimes this spirit seems fleeting, sometimes powerfully present, as a voice, a vision, a sensation of pulsing love, a courage to speak truth to power, to stand with our vulnerable brothers and sisters and the wounded earth itself.
Plotting resurrection – You will note that there is a fine array of butterflies in the building today. These are our prayers. They were made last week by those who attended worship.
For years I’ve resisted liturgies about bunnies and butterflies when it comes to the Easter story. It just seems too `light and fluffy’ for me – the story of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection is far too important to be reduced to these cutesy images.
But as I said last Sunday, if you are fortunate enough to have a butterfly land on you, you might say – `Oh, that’s so beautiful!’ And you open yourself to the wonder and mystery of it.
But if such a creature landed on you – without those beautiful luminous wings – you’d probably quickly brush it off, or maybe even squash it! Think of how we regard the lowly stink-bugs who love to seek refuge in our sanctuary.
When I think of how Jesus faced his suffering not resorting to violence, not seeking revenge – to me, he gave wings to what would otherwise be a stink-bug! He plotted resurrection. He taught that love was stronger than hate, and there is deep freedom in forgiveness.
So we plotted resurrection last week. As we painted these luminous wings we let it be an act of prayer; it was soul work – giving wings of light and freedom and joy where they are needed – in our own lives, in the lives of others who may be stuck in an unhappy or unhealthy situations. They were prayers for world situations that are so in need of healing, peace and justice.
Praying is important spiritual work. And, what we pray for needs to be enacted so far as we are able – otherwise, it is empty faith.
Risking resurrection – I love the image of the Risen Christ as painted in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. As Jesus rises on Easter morning, he is not alone, but stands with hands outstretched on either side – to grasp the hand of humanity symbolized by Adam & Eve.
Still they, and we, have the opportunity to risk resurrection or to stay entombed – where it is safe and quiet and dead perhaps, but no one has expectations of you. There is no more to do. No more that can be done.
So do we allow Jesus to waken us, to take us by the hand, and say, ‘Stand up now, come to life, there is more to do?’ We can refuse of course – we can stay entombed, but that would be like that Easter egg that is well hidden, and no one finds it, and then you forget about it until it starts to smell in an unpleasant sort of way… Or, to stay with the butterfly imagery – we can choose to stay cocooned, forever the chrysalis, never the butterfly. Let us risk being found and rising with Christ.
As I close with this prayer from Joyce Rupp, I invite you to listen – not just with your ears, but listen from your soul. Where will you risk resurrection? What needs to be awakened? What needs to be set free? What needs wings to fly? If it helps you to listen from the soul, I invite you to close your eyes, and sit or stand in a way that expresses openness.
Awaken Me – by Joyce Rupp
come, meet me in the garden of my life.
Lure me into elation. Revive my silent hope.
Coax my dormant dreams.
Raise up my neglected gratitude.
Entice my tired enthusiasm.
Give life to my faltering relationships.
Roll back the stone of my indifference.
Unwrap the deadness in my spiritual life.
Impart heartiness in my work.
send me forth as a disciple of your unwavering love,
a messenger of your unlimited joy.
Resurrected One, may I become ever more convinced
that your presence lives on, and on, and on, and on.
Awaken me! Awaken me!
Taken from Out of the Ordinary – 2000 by Joyce Rupp. Used by permission of Ave Maria Press. All rights reserved.