04/09/2023 ~ Resurrection of the Christ ~ Easter Day ~ *Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10 ~ VIDEO OF FULL SERVICE: https://vimeo.com/showcase/7960701
Everything Has Changed
“…Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go— and tell the disciples to go to Galilee where they will see me.’” — Matthew 28:10.
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. Each breath she took seared her lungs.
Behind her, she could hear her friend shouting at her to wait, to stop. Even though she was tall, lean and athletic, her nineteen year old body had limits.
She knew it was time to slow down. She had to stop. Besides, the dusty road was mostly uphill in this section. It made running harder.
She came to a halt near a boulder which was just the right size to sit on. So she sat on it, deciding she would wait there for the other Mary. She gazed down at the valley below. The very height of the road meant she could see its whole expanse.
She let her mind wander a little as she reflected on what she had seen, heard and felt this early spring morning. This filled her innermost reaches with confusion, amazement, pain, joy and fear simultaneously. So she sat still, silent, on the rock gasping for air, waiting for the woman she fondly called Mags, even though her real name was Mary.
Everyone she knew called the other Mary — “Mags,” because she was from the town of Magdala. Besides, even though the two Marys were very close friends, when they gathered with a group it made things much easier if one of them was called Mags and the other Mary.
It did not take long before Mags approached. She came at a sure, steady pace, her face flushed, her eyes intent, breathing heavily. She would not win a foot race between the two. She was shorter, squatter, older than Mary. She was also more emotionally volatile, more intense, more given to grand gestures than her younger companion.
“I shouted! I told you to stop! Did you not hear me?” Mags glowered at her younger friend.
Mary simply nodded. “We needed to recover,” she said, her own breathing still labored, intense, “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 younger friend. “Yes, I’ll sit for a little.” The face of relief Mags presented told Mary she welcomed the respite. Still, she insisted, “But we also need to find the others as quickly as possible.”
“I don’t think they will be hard to find, Mags. My guess is they still haven’t left the upper room.”
Mags turned toward Mary with a quizzical look on her face. “What should we say to them? How can we explain this?” Then she suddenly realized where they were and pointed to the hill across the valley. “Look!”
Mary looked up. They were directly across the valley from the place called Golgotha, the skull and many crosses were visible. The cross was, of course, the method of execution employed by the Romans.
The Romans probably killed several dozen Jews with this method every week. Those in the know, those with political savvy sometimes said it had been a slow year when it came to executions. It was not the kind of thing often mentioned out loud, but the reality was the occupying army from Rome was responsible for killing, executing at least several thousand men and women each year.
It had been many years since the hoards of infantry from the far off land called Rome had invaded. Only a relatively small contingent of the army remained. Their numbers were large enough to keep the peace, not large enough to provide real security for the people.
Looting of neighborhoods by marauding gangs was commonplace. It was unwise to travel any major thoroughfare after dusk. Roadside robbery was a fact of life.
The limited number of Romans was able to maintain this balance between peace and security by deftly collaborating with the local government run by Herod. Herod was a Jew, but held in contempt by most of the people.
The Roman crosses on the far side of the hill reminded the women what they had seen just three days ago. (Slight pause.) They saw their friend… die. They watched while others had fled. They were with him till the end.
His name was Yeshuah, Jesus in the Greek. The name means ‘God saves.’ And that’s what they thought every time they saw him–– ‘God saves.’ That’s what they thought they saw in him–– ‘God saves.’
Because of Jesus they had confidence— hope— that the dominion of God could be and was present, real— that the peace, justice and equity of God might have a place in society. (Pause.) Then… they watched… as Jesus… died. (Slight pause.)
The reality of the death, the murder, the execution of Jesus by the Romans was still present with them this very 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 so emotional. It’s what the rabbi said to us this morning. ‘Do not be afraid.’ But I am afraid. And I am happy.”
“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.
She whispered, “Maybe we should just say what we felt, our experience. We can try to say what it meant for us. We can try to say what it meant to us. ”
Her voice got stronger. “The truth is Yeshuah was there, was with us, spoke to us. It wasn’t a dream. No matter what we saw on that hill over there with those crosses, we know Yeshuah is alive.” (Slight pause.)
“We know the hope God promised is reality. Faith, trust, love matters. We knew the truth of this all along. We knew the promises of God were real. And yet, it’s as if right now everything has changed. It’s not what it was before. Somehow we can touch, taste, see, smell, feel it.” (Slight pause.)
They stood. And there on the road and held one another and 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 and find the others.” (Slight pause.) “But I think you’d better go at my pace,” said Mags. “We need to do this together.”
They started down the road toward the town. “I could be wrong,” said Mary “but I think maybe that’s part of what this is about. We are all, indeed, together. God is with us… all.” (Pause.) Amen.
04/09/2023 ~ 10:00 a.m. Easter Sunday, the Feast of the Resurrection
Elijah Kellogg Church, Harpswell, Maine
ENDPIECE: It is the practice of the Pastor to speak after the Closing Hymn, but before the 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. Second, I want to suggest to merely say ‘Happy Easter’ is not a Christian sentiment. So, let me propose this: if someone walks up to you today and says, ‘Happy Easter’ smile and say, ‘Christ is risen.’ That is, you see, the Christian sentiment.”
BENEDICTION AND EASTER ACCLAMATION
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the love of Christ, Jesus, and in the knowledge of the Holy Spirit this day and forever. And please join with me in the Easter Acclamation.
ONE: Rejoice, people of God! Christ is risen from the dead! Go in peace to love and serve God. Christ is with you always. Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
MANY: Christ is risen, indeed. Alleluia!