SERMON ~ 04/17/2022 ~ Easter Sunday ~ “The Women”

04/17/2022 ~ 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] ~ This was offered at two services. 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. From service to service there may be minor differences in the text. Below are the URLs for the full videos of both services. There was a Sunrise service at the town dock with a different meditation. There was no video for that service.
9:00 a.m.:
11:00 a.m.:

The Women

“Terrified, the women bowed to the ground. One of the two said, “Why do you look for the Living One among the dead? Jesus is not here; Christ has risen. ’” — Luke 24:5.

She had been running a long time. Mary wasn’t quite sure how long, but she knew the muscles in her legs were beginning to scream in pain.

Behind her, she could hear her friend shouting— to wait, to stop. Mary was tall, lean and athletic but she was no longer young.

She knew it was time to slow down, time to stop. Besides, the dusty road was mostly uphill in this section. It made running harder.

They had asked Joanna and the other women to stay behind at the tomb. She was not even sure why. Perhaps it was just to ensure that someone stood there just to be with the reality of what they had just witnessed— an empty tomb.

She came to a halt near a boulder just the right size to sit on. So she sat and waited there for the other Mary.

She fondly called the other Mary Mags, even though her real name was also Mary. In fact, everyone she knew called the other Mary “Mags,” because she was from the town of Magdala. [1]

It did not take long before Mags approached. She came at a sure, steady pace, her face flushed, eyes intent; she was breathing heavily. Mags was shorter, squatter than Mary. She was also more emotionally volatile, more intense than her companion.

“I shouted! I told you to stop! Didn’t you hear me?” Mags glowered at her friend.

Mary simply nodded. “We need to recover,” she said, her own breathing still a bit labored. “So I stopped.” (Slight pause.) “Sit,” she said, taping the top of the bolder with her palm.

Mags sat down on the rock next to her friend. “Yes, I’ll sit for a little. But we also need to find the others.”

“I don’t think they will be hard to find, Mags. My guess is they still haven’t left the upper room.”

Magdala turned toward Mary, a quizzical look on her face. “What should we say to them? How can we explain this?” At that point she suddenly realized where they were and pointed to the hill across the valley from where they sat. “Look!”

Mary looked up and realized they were directly opposite the place called Golgotha, the skull. On that hill there were several dozen crosses.

The cross was, of course, the method of execution employed by the Romans. Those in the know, those with political savvy, knew the occupying army from Rome killed, executed at least several thousand men and women each year.

It had now been many years since the hoards of infantry from Rome had invaded. Only a relatively small contingent remained. Their numbers were large enough to keep the peace, not large enough to provide security. Roadside robbery was a fact of life.

The limited number of Romans was able to maintain the balance between peace and security by deftly collaborating with the local government run by King Herod. Herod, himself, was a Jew, but was held in contempt by most.

The Roman crosses on the far hill reminded the women what they had seen just three days ago. They saw their friend die. They watched while others had fled. They were there with the Rabbi until the end.

His name was Yeshuah, Jesus in the Greek. The name means ‘God saves.’ And that is what they thought every time they saw him–– ‘God saves.’

Because of Jesus they had confidence— hope— that the dominion of God could be and was present, real— that the justice and equity of God might have a place in society. (Slight pause.) Then they watched… as Jesus died. (Slight pause.)

The reality of the death, the murder, the reality of the execution of Jesus by the Romans was still present with them on this morning as they made their way to the tomb. (Slight pause.) Magdala started to cry.

“Mags! Mags! Are you all right?”

“Oh, yes. I’m fine. It’s just, you know, I get emotional. It’s what we heard this morning. ‘Jesus is not here; Christ has risen.’ I am frightened, happy, confused.”

“I really don’t know what to do or how to explain what’s happened or what to say. What are we to tell our friends?”

Mary turned toward Magdala and hugged her tightly. She felt tears dripping down her own cheeks and whispered, “Maybe we should just say what we felt, our experience. We can try to say what it meant for us, what it meant to us. ”

Her voice got stronger. “The truth is Jesus was not there; the tomb is empty; Jesus is risen. No matter what we saw over there with those crosses, we know the Rabbi lives.”

“We know the hope God promised is reality. Faith, trust, love matters. And yes, we knew the truth of this all along, that the promises of God were real. But it’s as if right now everything has changed. Nothing is the way it was before. Somehow we can touch it, see it, feel it.” (Slight pause.)

They both stood. Then there on the road they held one another, hugged one another and they both cried. (Pause.) Finally, they let go. Mags reached up and wiped the tears off Mary’s face. Mary reached down and wiped the tears off Mags’ face.

“Well,” said Mary, “what should we do?”

“I think we had better go find the others.” (Slight pause.) “But I think you’d better go at my pace,” said Mags. “We need to do this together.”

“I think maybe that’s part of what this is about— being together,” said Mary. “God is with us, all of us, together.” (Pause.) Amen.

04/17/2022 ~ 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. 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!

[1] The Inclusive Language Version of the Gospel by Priests for Equality was used in the service. That translation says “Mary of Magdala” which is more accurate than the traditional Mary Magdalene.

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