Easter Day 2018
Introduction and Call to Worship
Jesus is risen! Alleluia! The life he lives now will nourish all of us as we receive his risen presence in communion - his body and blood with us today.
First Reading Acts 10:34-43
Peter gives his testimony. He and the other disciples are called to be witnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and preachers of the good news of healing and forgiveness through Christ.
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Paul reminds the Corinthians of the good news that made them become Christians, the good news about Jesus Christ. He lists all the witnesses of the resurrection, so that the Corinthians can remember the firm foundation of their faith.
Gospel John 20:1-18
Mary Magdalene takes Peter and the beloved disciple to the tomb, so that they can back up her statement that the tomb is empty.
Or Mark 16:1-8
The women who had followed Jesus during his life go to pay their last respects to his body but are met by an angel and an empty tomb.
HOMILY “Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the
tomb.” (John 20:10-11)
When breaking news to someone, it isn’t always possible to predict how they will react. Some are just brilliant in the face of crisis while others fall to pieces! And there is a wealth of possible reactions in between. Some people cope philosophically with sadness, loss and bereavement but for some the loss is overwhelming. For others news can bring happiness – even in the face of loss. The truth is that we are all different. The various women who gathered at the tomb, including Mary Magdalene, had to face the loss of Jesus, each in her own individual way, and the news that his body was missing from the tomb could only mean one thing – someone had taken his body away.
The Gospels suggest that some of Jesus’ followers had clearly been expecting the worst for some time before the crucifixion. It sounds as though some of the women had expected his suffering and death; they had made preparations for his anointing, purchasing the necessary spices, and had detailed someone to watch out after the crucifixion to see where Jesus was to be buried. Perhaps these faithful people never really expected that Jesus would succeed and that everything he had promised would be fulfilled. Perhaps we too wonder about the resurrection and meaning of Easter? Do we really believe that Jesus was alive again on Easter Day? But they are thrown into disorder, fear and questioning when they find the empty tomb and the angel. Hope and new life were not part of their plan, surely? Could all that Jesus foretold have come true after all - it wasn’t possible, was it?
What is our response to the great Easter revelation that God has done yet again a new thing and that Jesus has overcome death with life? Like us, the disciples, ordinary women and men, reacted in different ways to the news that Jesus was no longer laying life-less in a cold dark tomb. Creation - light over darkness had triumphed. A new day had dawned. In today’s Gospel it is the women who were sent to tell the disciples that Jesus had risen.
Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome had come to the tomb with a task to perform. They had brought with them spices, so they could anoint the body, or at least leave them outside the tomb. But what did they find? It wasn’t the big stone they had anticipated, blocking their way, or a guard of soldiers. No, they found emptiness. For Mary, the black hole of the empty tomb was almost a metaphor for her deep sense of loss. The women were perplexed – where was Jesus? Perhaps there have been times in our own life journey when we have felt such loss, and when we have cried out, where is God in this situation? In this Gospel account the women encountered a young man, sitting on the right side where they should have found the body of Jesus – this picture of a person dressed in white is another way of describing an angel. Whoever they were, this angelic figure had a message for these faithful women. Jesus was alive, just as he had promised, and the Marys and Salome were to be the “apostles to the apostles” because they had to tell the other disciples what they had found and seen – that Jesus is alive!
We each have times in our own life journey when it can feel like we have entered a dark tomb, and we just don’t know how to exit. Depression, bereavement, financial worries, challenging relationships, hurts and so much more can leave us feeling like we want to shout out: ‘Where is God in all of this?’ Those women on Easter morning had a similar mix of emotions. They were gripped by grief, seized by fear. Yet they also discovered that from the darkest place of death can come the bright brilliance of creative light. They realised that God was doing a new thing and that their Lord, for whom they had grieved, was alive again, just as he had promised them. And that hope of new life is ours also.
What makes each one of us come to faith in Christ, and go on believing and trusting in his new life, will vary from person to person; and more than that, our Lord of Life can be encountered in many ways. This Easter Day and season, may we as individuals, and as the Church, discern what others in our daily life need to meet the risen Christ, and try to help them in that need. Some may encounter Jesus in times of grief, some in hope, some in human touch, some in rational argument, some in anger at the cruelty of the world. Jesus wants to meet everyone where they can find him, so that his risen presence may be shared with all, his life poured into the lives of everyone. Hence, we can sing: “Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son, endless is the victory Thou o'er death hast won. Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away, kept the folded grave-clothes where thy body lay. Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son; endless is the victory Thou o'er death hast won!”
1. We can’t always predict how people will react to strange events – we are all different. Therefore, Jesus’ followers have their own response to the news of his resurrection.
3. Mary Magdalene and the other women are the first to reach the tomb and encounter God’s messenger who reassures them. But they are still full of questions, doubt and fear.
4. To share the good news of Jesus with others, we need to be sensitive to what it is they need to believe.