“The Essence of the Story of the Resurrection”
Sermon, Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019 by rev Gloria Christian
John 20: 1-18
“The Essence of the Story of the Resurrection”
Emily Dickinson once wrote a poem:
I measure every grief I meet I wonder if it hurts to live
With narrow, probing eyes And if they have to try
I wonder if it weighs like mine And whether if they could choose between
Or has an easier size. It would not be to die.
The truth must be confessed on Easter morning – it often does hurt to live, and there are times when some of us might choose to die. Over the years brave people have spoken to me of their pain and suffering, sorrow and grief, and have wondered aloud if they could go on living.
I have seen brave people in hospital beds, hoping against hope, fighting against all odds in their determination to live. Their courage and firm resolve were exemplary beyond comparison. On the other hand, I have known people whose pain has become untreatable and unbearable. There are times of great physical and mental anguish when many of us have thought favourably of death. Many of us have so much pain and anguish in this life we wonder if we ever could rise to the challenge to live again. Maybe these people can say to us; Excuse me, did you know him? Did Jesus have the profound wish to be done with the pain of living.
Today is Easter morning and Easter is just the opposite of what came before for Jesus. Easter is the bold proclamation of the life-wish, the startling announcement of victory over death in all its forms and the startling challenge to live again. As the angel said to the women on Easter morning long ago; Why seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen. He is living again. Therefore, when on Easter Christians are faced with the challenge to live again, it might be said that we stand with the majority to live anew. The resurrected Jesus challenges us to live for the causes he died for; peace and justice, hope and faith, compassion and to challenge all the forces of darkness.
Some see the Easter Resurrection as a challenge to look forward to the world yet to come as described in Isaiah this morning:
Watch! I am creating new skies and new earth!
Earlier things will not be remembered,
nor even rise into the mind!
But you must delight and be glad forever
about what I am creating:
Just watch! I am creating Jerusalem a joy,
its people a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem, delight in my people.
Never again will the sound of weeping or the cry of distress by heard! (Is. 65:17-19)
This is the essence of the story of resurrection. God is creating something new! Not only a resuscitated corpse, but a new way of seeing the world that God has given to us. The old ways we have followed will no longer work. Our important words for this world must now be joy and delight in the face of this fabulously creating God. No longer will we focus on weeping and distress, though all of us know too well that there are copious tears and loud wailing to be found in too many places. But rather than imagine that there are only tears and wailing to be heard, God urges us to face these monumental problems not with despair and hopelessness, but with the joy of hope and the delight of shared work.
When Isaiah mentions that “Jerusalem” will be God’s joy and delight, he does not mean only that physical location, since when he is writing that city is still a smoldering ruin, having been destroyed by the Babylonian aggressors some years before, and has yet to be rebuilt in any recognizable way. Jerusalem has become for him the focus of God’s concerted attempts to make new skies and earth. In other words, we, our world, have become God’s Jerusalem, the center of God’s new creation, the focus of God’s joy and delight. And then Isaiah gets more specific about God’s new creation.
No more will there be an infant living but a few days,
or an elderly one not living a full lifetime.
One who dies at a hundred will be thought a youth;
One falling short of a hundred will be thought cursed.
Obviously, infant mortality was a huge concern 2500 years ago; even in Elizabethan England 400 years ago, barely 50 percent of children survived past two years. One can only imagine in nightmares the figure during the time of Isaiah. I read just yesterday that there are now nearly 600,000 people living in our world who are 100 years old. This is, of course, in a world of over 8 billion! Our odds of achieving what has long been- seen as extreme old age remain low. But while God is creating a new earth, such a feat will not be difficult at all.
Mary Magdalene had good reason to be devoted to Jesus. Mary had been in a poor state of health, a broken person, and Jesus restored her to good health. Being a disciple of Jesus, Mary was able to live a happy life, an abundant life. Feeling all was gone, Mary with eyes full of tears and a mind on the brink of despair was the first witness to the resurrection of Jesus. The appearance of Jesus at her side is very mysterious. We don’t need a story that will hold up in a court of law. Mary’s testimony is just fine. The disciples came to believe and discovered later-on that Jesus did live on, among them, within them. The living presence of the risen Lord came to dwell in the community of faith of the early Christians and even to this day right here.
We have a secret kinship with Mary Magdalene and her love for the risen Christ. We too have been made more- healthy by our relationship with Jesus. Mary comes running back from the empty tomb with great excitement and into our thoughts saying, I have seen the Lord! Alleluia! May her good news is sufficient- for us. Amen.