SERMON ~ 04/17/2022 ~ Easter Sunday ~ “Peter and the Women”

04/17/2022 ~ Sunrise Service ~ Easter Sunday, More Appropriately Known as The Feast of the Resurrection *Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 65:17-25; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Luke 24:1-12; Note— Used: 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 [ILV].

Peter and the Women

“Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Upon getting there this apostle stooped and looked in but could see nothing but the linen cloths, the wrappings, on the ground. Then Peter left, amazed at what had occurred.” — Luke 24:12.

The disciple headed back down the road, exhausted. Peter had been running. Despite his age he was not in bad shape. He was a little older than the others in the group so they looked to him for leadership.

It may not have simply been running which led to the exhaustion. There were other reasons. First, he expected to see the remains of his friend, the Rabbi, in that tomb.

But his friend, Jesus, kept saying, “Wait three days. Just wait three days.” And somehow, some way Jesus was no longer there, no longer in the tomb where Peter knew the earthly remains of the Rabbi had been placed.

So at least in part, the exhaustion was not from running. It had to have come from the recognition that there was nothing in the tomb except wrappings on the ground. That reality left Peter emotionally exhausted.

After all, when Jesus preached all over Galilee, Peter was there. When Jesus healed the sick, fed five thousand, recited parables, Peter was there.

Peter was the one who had the answer to the pivotal question, “Who do you say that I am?”— the Messiah, the Christ. And when Jesus was transfigured Peter heard that voice which insisted Jesus was the Chosen One. Peter… was… there. (Slight pause.)

And yes, when Jesus was taken as a prisoner of the state, Peter… was… there. (Slight pause.) Then Peter’s friend, Peter’s teacher, Peter’s guide, Peter’s companion— Jesus— was murdered by the state, crucified by the Romans. Peter watched from afar as his friend died. Peter… was… there.

But now, now this… this… empty tomb— the wrappings… so yes— Peter was… exhausted. This was emotional exhaustion. Peter was spent. (Slight pause.)

Peter trod toward Jerusalem, toward the house where the other disciples waited, knowing there was yet another emotional hill to climb. He needed to face the women who all the others had doubted.

It was the women who, on the first day of the week, at dawn, went to the tomb and found the tomb… empty. It was the women who were told “Why do you look for the Living One among the dead? Jesus is not here; Christ has risen.”

It was the women who told everyone about the empty tomb, about what they heard, saw, felt. It was the women who no… one… believed. It was the women who were told their tale was… idle, nonsensical.

Peter was the only one who even went to the tomb, the only one willing to face the reality of the empty tomb. Why? Peter realized if what the women said was true he needed to affirm them. He wondered if they would, in turn, ridicule him because of how the others had ridiculed them.

When Peter burst through the door into the large room where the whole group was gathered there was a cacophony of chatter. Peter raised a hand. What had been a wall of noise turned into immediate silence.

“It’s true,” he said, gesturing toward the women who were gathered together. “They spoke truth. The tomb is empty.” (Slight pause.) “I’m exhausted. Let me sit.”

And so he sat on a bench. Perhaps the flood of emotions had finally caught up with him. It suddenly felt like the weight of the world was pressing down on his back.

The women were the first to notice his distress. From the corner of the room, this question was asked: “Peter, are you all right?”

Peter knew that voice. It was Mary of Magdala. She was perceptive. She knew when something was amiss before anyone else knew.

Peter, his eyes closed, responded. “Yes. I’m all right. I’ll be fine.”

That’s when his body began to quake. Peter sobbed. Tears streamed down his face, his beard. He wept and wept and wept.

“Peter? Peter?” It was Mary’s voice. He was sure it was Mary’s voice.

The disciple felt a hand softly touch his shoulder. The touch was tender, healing. “Mary is offering solace in my time of need,” thought Peter.

After a bit the crying began to cease. He tried to force a sense of logic, order on the multiple emotions.

Slowly Peter wiped the tears away. The hand resting on his shoulder patted three times and then lifted away. He opened his eyes.

Across the room he saw Mary of Magdala and the other women. Quickly he looked around. No one was behind him, near him. No one had dared come near him.

“Mary! Were you just near me? Behind me?”

She offered a quizzical look. “No.”

“Someone was behind me. Someone was touching me.”

Everyone in the room stared at him not knowing what to say. This was, after all, Peter, the first one to see Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ. Peter saw everything clearly.

He pointed toward the women. He shouted as loud as he could. “You have given us the greatest gift imaginable!” he shouted. “Yes! Jesus is risen and you were the first to be told and so you told us.”

In unison the women smiled. It was a knowing smile. But they said nothing.

Peter was emotionally drained but at the same time somehow filled with joy. Softly, Peter said it again: “Jesus is risen!” (Long pause.) Amen.

04/17/2022 ~ Sunrise Service
South Freeport Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, South Freeport, Maine
ENDPIECE: It is the practice of the Pastor to speak after the Closing Hymn, but before the Choral Response and Benediction. This is a précis of what was said: “I need to say two things: first, in Aramaic, which would have been spoken in Roman Judea in New Testament times, to be saved meant to be made alive. We moderns do not seem to understand that. Second, I want to suggest to merely say ‘Happy Easter’ is not a Christian sentiment. So, let me make a suggestion: if someone walks up to you today and says, ‘Happy Easter’ smile and say, ‘Christ is risen.’ Why? ‘Christ is risen’ is the Christian sentiment. And Pastor Jeremy will offer the Benediction and the Easter Acclamation.”

ONE: May the love of God, the power of the resurrection in Christ, Jesus and the presence of the Spirit be with us always.
MANY: And the blessing of God surround us this day and forevermore.
ONE: So, indeed, rejoice! Rejoice people of God! Christ is risen!
ALL: Christ is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

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