A few of us, this past week, took pictures of the set-up for broadcasting our services over the internet. Comments were made about this being a time in history to remember – and it is. This is our fourth Sunday of virtual worship as our nation has sought shelter from a pandemic by “sheltering in place.” Nothing is as it was. And this Easter Sunday is nothing like any of us have experienced before and doubtfully, hopefully, nothing like one we will experience again.
We may not be gathered together in the same room, but we are together to celebrate what Mary Magdalene and the other Mary found at the tomb on the first Easter morning – the tomb is empty! An angel appears to them and says:
“Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”
At this point they have not seen Jesus, only the angel and the empty tomb. We are then told, “So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.”
They left with fear AND great joy. We have four gospels and each tell the Easter story differently. On this Easter morning, I am thankful we get to hear Matthew’s version, for “fear and great joy” might best describe our experience of today.
It is not only reasonable to be living in fear during a pandemic, it is healthy – provided that fear motivates us to be careful and minimize the rise of catching or spreading the COVID-19 virus. Fear need not, however, control our lives. And fear does not control our lives when we have faith.
In Colossians, Paul writes, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” To be “hidden with Christ is God” is a play on words for the members of the church in Colosse – a church consisting of mostly Greeks, not Jews. Hidden, for the ancient Greeks, meant dead and buried. Thus, Paul is speaking here of our baptism in which we die with Christ and are resurrected with Christ.
Paul is reminding them, and us, that what he refers to as our real life, is found in Christ and that this real life cannot be taken from us. This is the great joy of the resurrection! Jesus has conquered death for us all! When we live in Christ, our real life is revealed and the glory of Christ’s love is revealed.
What happens next in our gospel story is that Jesus meets the women as they are on their way back to share the good news with the disciples. Jesus says, “Greetings!” They fall down and worship him; Jesus then says, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” First, the angel reports the news that Jesus has risen, then they see him.
In John’s gospel, they find the tomb empty and report it to the disciples. “Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one who Jesus loved,” we are told, rush to the empty tomb, then leave. Mary Magdalene stands alone outside the tomb weeping, then looks into the tomb and sees two angels. Jesus appears to her and she does not recognize him. She assumes he is the gardener until he calls her by name.
What the women witness on that first Easter is beyond anyone’s ability to comprehend. So incredible that Mary, who meets the risen Christ, needs time for her mind to comprehend what has transpired. On this Easter morning, we too, may need time for our minds to comprehend that Christ is here with us – Christ is sheltering in place with us. Christ is our companion who offers us the real life Paul speaks of in Colossians.
As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord today, we can experience the fear and great joy of Mary and Mary. We can see hope for our future as we shelter in place! God’s love ma then be revealed through us God’s when we reach out to others. We may not be physically together today, but we are united in spirit. Phone calls and all the ways to make video calls are not the same as being together, but they are ways to share time with those who are alone today. These provide us the means of remembering our blessings and sharing our thanksgivings with them.
On this Easter when so many people are isolated, please share the love of the resurrected Christ with them, by calling them. Please call at least two people you know who are alone, just to let them know you are thinking about them. For “Christ, who is your life [will be] revealed,” when you do so.
Let us pray.
Lord Christ, you revealed yourself to Mary at the empty tomb when she was alone and weeping. Open our eyes, that we, too, might see you in your glory; that we might feel your presence and know that you are with us in the darkest of times, bringing new light into our lives. We offer our prayers this day in the name of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Alleluia! Christ has risen!