Acts 10:34-43 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 Luke 24:1-12
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! And Lent is over! One of the reasons I love the Episcopal Church is because our observance of the church seasons helps keep us grounded in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. But Lent can be difficult – especially during Holy Week when we remember Christ’s arrest, torture, and crucifixion. It hurts to read the passion narrative, to hear of Christ’s betrayal and the people in positions of trust in the church calling for his death. It hurts to hear of Jesus carrying his own cross, being nailed to the cross, and his death. Yet, reliving these experiences makes the joy of today all the more special.
Each of the gospels tell the story of the resurrection differently, but Mary Magdalene is the one who goes to the tomb in each of them. Sometimes, other women are with her, but none of the apostles there are among those first to visit the tomb. Only after the women report seeing Jesus – or that the tomb is empty is there mention of an apostle going to the place where the body of Jesus had been laid.
In Luke, Mary Magdalene and the other women do not see Jesus as they do in Matthew and John’s gospels, but they do see two angels who ask, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Then they say, “He is not here, but has risen.”
Each of the gospel accounts of the resurrection are of women finding the tomb empty, but this is just beginning of the true story of his resurrection. The story of Christ’s resurrection continues to unfold in this season of Easter in the scriptures, as Jesus appears to his disciples and then to Saul. Saul, a Jewish Pharisee, persecutes Christ’s follower until Jesus appears to him on the road to Damascus. Saul changes his name to Paul and becomes one of history’s greatest evangelist.
What we read in the New Testament about the Resurrected Christ is also just the beginning of the story. How Christ appears to us may not be like the stories we read in the New Testament, but throughout history Christ has appeared to people, often changing their lives in profound ways.
I know my life has been changed, and is still changing. The resurrected Christ has appeared to me more times than I can count – but often fail to see him when he is standing right in front of me. I am not talking about having visions, I am talking about seeing the Christ in others – which is what we say will each time we renew our baptismal vows.
In the baptismal covenant, we promise “to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as
.” This is more than a promise; it is a statement of faith. Some Christians believe that God is separate from humanity, that God created us and choses to be a part of our lives – if we will allow Christ into our hearts. Seeking Christ is all persons says all of creation exists within God, and that God is within each of us. It may be more difficult to see God in some people, but Christ is there. So, living into our baptismal covenant means the Christ in me seeks the Christ is you.
In order for this to happen, we must turn to Jesus, we must put our trust in his grace and love, we must follow the way of love which he taught us on the cross – self-sacrificing love for others. The evil powers we renounce in baptism are our own selfish tendencies to put ourselves first in life. Jesus calls us to follow him by loving our neighbor as ourselves.
I believe that when we approach the world in this matter, we begin to see the face of the risen Christ in the people we met throughout the course of our daily lives. It also means, that we can be Christ for others. Since coming to Batesville, I have seen members of our parish be Christ to others, over and over again. I have seen you caring for people in community – feeding the hungry, giving scholarships to students for class trips, and I have seen you caring for one another in times of trouble such as an illness or grief.
In today’s gospel, the apostles are grieving and they are frightened when the women return from the tomb and tell them what the angels has said. The apostles consider it “an idle tell.” As a group they were dismissive. At times we feel we will be overcome by the darkness, but then, something happens that offers us hope.
For Peter, it was hearing what the women said, that offered him hope. Peter runs to the tomb, looks in, sees the linens and returns home “amazed at what had happened.”
This story of the resurrection in still being told today, because it is a story I suspect we have all experienced at some point in our lives. Filled with despair we may or may not bet the first to respond to good news as Peter was. We may be as skeptical as the other apostles. But eventually, someone enters into our sadness and lifts our spirit, breaking through the darkness, shining the light of Christ back into our world. That is when we can say.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, we give thanks to you for teaching us the way of love. Help us to share your love with others, to be the light in their darkness that all may come to know and love you as you love us. We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.