Sunday, April 16, 2017

There You Will See Christ

Resurrection of our Lord: Easter Day
Matthew 28:1-11

There was an earthquake, there was an angel descending from the sky like lightening, he was dazzling. It was terrifying. So terrifying that the guards become totally immobilized by fear.

But not these women… their wonder keeps them standing up.
Just imagine your early morning self, your grief-filled body, trying to take all this in… I would need these words, “Don’t you be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see for yourself. (It’s then that we figure out… the stone has been rolled away not to let Jesus out, but to let the witnesses in.[1])…

The angel continues, “Then go quickly and tell the other disciples, he has been raised from the dead. He’s going ahead of you, back to Galilee, back to home base… there you will see him.”
And then we have a little Bob Marley moment… “This is my message to you…”

So, they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell the other disciples…
I’m just imagining what they might have been thinking, what they might have said while they ran…  “Death was so overwhelming, we couldn’t hear what Jesus said!” “But now I remember… he did say this, didn’t he?” “The others will never believe us... will they?”

Along the way, as they ran, there was the risen Christ. “Greetings!”
You know the only other place that word is used in Matthew? It was how Judas greeted Jesus in the garden as he identified him as the One to the guards. So here, that word is transformed from utter grief to joy, although there must have been a swirl of emotions too complicated to figure out as they recognized him along the way.
Jesus tells them again, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers and sisters to go to Galilee; there they will see me (like you see me right now).”

Stop being afraid, Jesus invites us—people who Jesus claims not only as disciples but as brothers and sisters, not just followers but family. No longer dependent on him, but those who will powerfully begin to share the message of God with others through their own stories and through their own lives.

Jesus is alive and present with us. Whatever the circumstances of our life, of community and global events, why should we fall prey to fear? God has defeated death, death has no power over us. In the presence of Jesus, along the way of life, why should we leave room for anything except worship and overwhelming joy?

Except we know, we do have lots of fear.  Just like Jesus’ disciples who were so afraid when Jesus talked about his death that they couldn’t even hear the words about resurrection, let alone remember them…

I imagine Jesus was afraid, too, as he prayed in a garden before his death that maybe it didn’t have to be this way, as he experienced people turning against him, as he felt physical violence, as he hung on a cross. Jesus was afraid, I imagine, because he was a real person.

But somehow, he trusted more than he was afraid. We are afraid…
For us, too, death and fear are so overwhelming, we can’t always sense God’s presence. Within us, there are parts of us that are dead... but God’s invitation is to trust in God more than we trust in death. Trust in God more than we trust in death.

I think that’s really possible but what it might take is imagining together… how we may see Christ in all kinds of ways that look like those first resurrection appearances…

We might see the risen Christ along the road, saying, “Greetings!”
We might see our beloved teacher and mistake him as the gardener, with dirt under his fingernails, pulling weeds in the green spaces where we go to weep…
Maybe we’ll see Christ in the places we’re hiding, with the doors locked… and Christ will walk right in and point out that he has scars, too… we’re not alone in that… but scars can heal and help us tell the stories of what we’ve survived, of where we’ve been resurrected.
Or maybe we’ll meet Jesus at the beach, over an open fire and a newly caught batch of fresh fish…
Or maybe, when we sit down for Easter meal across the table from another, maybe there in that person’s face, we’ll recognize Christ.

What does it take to be awake to these possibilities? “Like a shoot growing in the morning sun, you awake not by your plans or power, but by God’s Spirit.”[2]
So really, that’s my prayer on this Easter morning—that as the risen Christ shows up outside of these walls, at your tables, in your daily life, through your tears, in the week to come, that you, (that we) might be able to recognize Christ present. That we might be able to stand in wonder like those women at the tomb, and then go forward with awe and great joy ready to meet Christ, ready to be Christ in a world that deeply needs a taste of resurrection joy.

Risen– a blessing for Easter Day by Jan Richardson[3]

Alleluia, Christ has risen. Christ has risen indeed, Alleluia!

[1] Judith Jones, Commentary on Matthew 28, April 16, 2017,
[2] Jennifer Baker-Trinity, Free Indeed: Devotions for Lent, page 85.
[3] Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons by Jan Richardson, pages 151-153.

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