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Matthew 28:1-10 • April 24, 2011
Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our risen Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.
A Church School teacher asked his class of first graders during their small group time a couple weeks ago if they knew what happened on Easter and why it was so important. They had been working on this in church school.
One little girl spoke up first and said, “Easter is when the whole family gets together, and you eat turkey and sing about the pilgrims and all that.”
“No, that’s not it,” said the teacher.
“I know what Easter is,” another student offered. “Easter is when you get a tree and decorate it and give gifts to everybody and sing lots of songs.”
“Nope, that’s not it either,” said the teacher.
Finally, a third student spoke up, “Easter is when Jesus was killed, and put in a tomb and left for three days.”
“Whew, thank goodness somebody knows,” thought the teacher to himself.
But then the student continued, “Then everybody gathers at the tomb and waits to see if Jesus comes out, and if he sees his shadow he has to go back inside and we have six more weeks of winter.”
A cute story. Maybe even a little mean given the length of winter that we have experienced this year – but in many ways there is probably a great deal of truth that we can relate to in these first graders understanding of Easter. In fact, I would argue that there is not one person here today, myself included, who hasn’t felt just a little bit like these kids when trying to explain the resurrection to someone who doesn’t believe.
Author Flannery O’Connor once wrote, “Remember that these things are mysteries and if they are such that we could fully understand them, they wouldn’t be worth understanding. A God you can fully understand would be less than yourself.”
I’m not sure why you are here today. I’m guessing that there are some here who question how it was possible for Jesus to rise from the dead or if in fact an angel did roll the stone of the tomb away as an earthquake occurred on that first Easter morning.
I also guess that there are some sitting here who are more concerned about the ham baking in the oven at home right now than actually participating fully in worship.
Regardless of why you are here or how you are participating – I’m glad you are here. And I give thanks on this day for each person who gathers in worship in the name of the risen savior Jesus Christ to once again hear the story of God’s victory over death – a story heard not only in this place, but around the world on this day.
You see – I don’t know most of you. And I would bet that most of you don’t know many of the people you are sitting with today.
I can’t stand before you on this Easter morning and tell you that I know and understand everything that you are struggling with today, or every disappointment you have faced recently. I can’t tell you that I share in the joy that you have felt recently or how excited you are today because of the success you have achieved recently after working tirelessly toward a goal.
BUT – Even though you and I may never have met before this moment. Even though you and I don’t know or understand or feel or experience everything in exactly the same way. Even though all of that may be true, God’s saving act of life given to you and me in the resurrection, connects us together very deeply and intimately as brothers and sisters today and forever.
The good news of the resurrection is not in the pageantry of the angel’s entrance in front of the tomb in a way that resembles a royal wedding in Great Britain. The good news of the resurrection is God giving us new life – a new life that we share as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.
Believing in the resurrection isn’t just a matter of believing that a dead body came back to life.
Believing in the resurrection connects us together in the mystery and beauty of the most significant event in the entire history of the world that forever heals the relationships between you and I, and God. The transformation in the resurrection for each one of us who call the risen Jesus Christ our savior and lord, takes us from walking constantly in fear to walking boldly with Christ; away from any darkness we encounter toward light that restores hope; from pain and grief in suffering to joy and confidence that God is always with us; from apathy and complacency in our worship to passionate and spirit filled times where we kneel at the feet of the risen Jesus in worship and praise; from times of death where there seems to be no hope for tomorrow to life that is filled with God’s love that will never end.
Jesus may not have shown us his shadow on that first Easter morning, although who’s to say that the sun wasn’t shining enough for his shadow. What Jesus shows us and what Jesus extends to us is the gift of life. And life in Christ does not end.
We may never have met each other before today. That doesn’t matter in the resurrection. The stone has been rolled away. And because of that, we can confidently call each other sister or brother.
Jesus says to us today, “Do not be afraid; go and tell, … there they will see me.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, go and tell in Bismarck and throughout North Dakota. Go and tell around the United States and across North America. Go and tell in England, the Central African Republic, and Japan. We are connected with these first witnesses to the resurrection in Matthew’s gospel and are called to go and tell. I am filled with thanksgiving and joy today, because God unites us through a savior named Jesus who is walking with us every step of the way. The stone has rolled away…now what? Go and tell. Amen.