Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Sunday

Luke 24
1On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' " 8Then they remembered his words.
9When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Christ is Risen!

This morning we walk with the women to the tomb. Imagine their uncertainty, the despair that surrounded them as they prepared for a life without Jesus. For months and years he was their teacher, their companion, their friend. Now, early in the morning, they walked to the tomb.

The ritual of applying spices was an important part of grieving. Unlike today, the task of preparing the body fell to those closest to the one who died. The act of washing the body and applying spices was one more way to say ‘goodbye:’ one more way to begin the transition to a life without the one lost.

They walked to the tomb not knowing what to expect. Would they be able to manage the stone themselves? Would someone be nearby to help? How would they manage in the face of his broken body? Was this ritual sufficient for the one they came to regard as the very presence of God in their midst?

They react to the state of the tomb with wonder and confusion. This turns to fear, as men appear, soon followed by a question and a message: “Why seek the living among the dead?” they ask, and say: “he is risen.” Finally, a challenge: “Can you not remember all that he shared with you, the journey to Jerusalem, an inevitable death and then freedom on the third day?”

They remembered. They remembered and they shared a message that has been conveyed to us today, passed from believer to believer through time and in every imaginable circumstance to this place.

Christ is Risen!

Today is one of the rare times that we celebrate Easter on the same day as our Orthodox cousins. Aside from being a nice bit of Christian unity, it also means I get to celebrate with my Greek neighbours a week earlier than usual.

How it happened that Easter fell on the same day, and the calculation of the day itself, would require much of the afternoon to explain. I would also need the assistance of historians, theologians, astronomers and one or more mathematicians. The simplest calculation I could find involved 11 steps and more mathematics than a grade ten math graduate like me could manage.

The idea of a simplified date has been floated many times. We can pinpoint Mother’s Day without a calculator, much to the relief of flower and card vendors worldwide. Easter could be set in the same way, say the second Sunday in April—but something would be lost. The inscrutable calculation points to something different: timelessness, and a celebration that exists outside of time.

I’m certain the early church could see this. Just as every Sunday is a smaller version of Easter Sunday, a hard-to-find date for Easter suggests that this is not really a celebration that exists on a single day year by year. Even the exact date of the first Easter is easy enough to deduce (it was most likely April 3rd) but it’s not something that really matters. Even the word Easter is non-specific: Easter can mean either the first Easter long ago or refer to this morning, the same word applies to both.

Being timeless, and defined by the absence of a body, we find ourselves in the midst of Easter Sunday. We are so surrounded by resurrection (then as now) that the meaning is as vivid as the morning that began it all.


A collective of writers described resurrection this way:

Resurrection is always a mystery, always a miracle, but often we do not recognize resurrection when it comes to us. When all that separates and injures and destroys is overcome by what unites, heals and creates in the ordinary routine of our daily lives, resurrection has taken place (Resources, Year A, p. 130).

Again, with the timelessness. Resurrection is not an event, rather resurrection is a worldview: a frame-work for understanding the world. It is also a challenge: the challenge to see resurrection around us, and the ways in which despair and brokenness have been overcome.

We participate in resurrection whenever we care for those in need or speak a word of hope. We participate in resurrection whenever we look beyond our own needs to imagine the needs of others. We participate in resurrection whenever we find the best in the people around us and let them know. God surrounds us with resurrection and invites us to see it for ourselves. We choose whether to remain in the uncertainty of the tomb or embrace the light of new life.


My preferred date for baptism is Easter Sunday. Short of making more babies myself, I rely on you people to make them for me. All is not lost, however, because baptism, like Easter, is not really tied to time. When we speak of a “baptized and baptizing church” we are really speaking about the ongoing work of baptism. It is an invisible sign of God’s visible grace, and it is most visible in the work of the church and in the lives of baptized believers.

You each carry the sign of baptism, each of you is marked as belonging to Christ, each of you is a visible sign of resurrection hope. May God bless you this day, and help you as you live out your baptism. Amen.


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