Sunday, April 16, 2017: Easter Day, Fr. Carey Stone


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 Easter Day A’17

16 April 2017
Matthew 28.1-10
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone
 
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and giving life to those in the tomb; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. – From the Burial Service BCP p.868
 
For Mary Magdalene the only plan she had for Sunday was to take a few women with her and some spices and to go see and properly embalm the body of Jesus. After all there had been a death and not just of Jesus but also the hope that he had talked so much about with her. She had had such high hopes, she had seen, heard, and experienced so much with Jesus, but now that all seemed a distant memory. But on her way to the tomb early that morning suddenly there was an earthquake. ‘Great, just one disaster after another,’ she must have thought, but this was no ordinary earthquake for it signaled that there was more than just a new day dawning there was a whole new way of life being born. She was about to find out that death was unable to hold Jesus in the tomb. 
 
On the cover of your service leaflet there is an image of the fresco of the resurrection by renaissance artist Fra Angelico. Here we see Mary Magdalene peering into the tomb in dismay straining to see Jesus’ body that is not there. An angel appeared that literally caused the guards to faint out of fear but not the women, they were still standing, they instead received reassurance from the angel who said, “Do not be afraid.” And then the astonishing announcement about Jesus, “He is not here; for he has been raised as he said.” “As he said,” those words would take on a whole new significance now that Jesus had been raised, many things that Jesus had said will now begin to make more sense to them. 
 
The angel instructed them to tell the disciples to go to Galilee and that Jesus would meet them there. This was to fulfill what Jesus had promised them earlier in Matthew’s gospel, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 
 
With an earthquake and an angel the God who had been painfully silent on Good Friday was now speaking and through the angel was telling Mary Magdalene and the other women to tell this wonderfully good news to the disciples who were in hiding out of fear and wondering if they would be next on Pilate’s hit list. But what an honor for these women to be the first evangelists of the gospel the good news that Jesus had defeated death by his dying and rising to life again!  
 
They quickly left the angel, feeling a mixture of fear and joy as we can well imagine. Their holy surprises were not through though, on their way to share the good news with the disciples they run right into the risen Christ whose greeting is lost on us in English “Greetings!” The Greek bears out that this ’greeting’ was an exuberant salutation of joy! 
 
Overcome by that strange mixture of joy and fear again, the women got down on their knees and grabbed Jesus by his feet, they didn’t want him going anywhere and they worshiped knowing that this was no mere man but God the Son. Jesus reiterated the message of the angel for them not to be afraid and to tell the disciples to meet him in Galilee. From this meeting in Galilee would go out shockwaves that I understand have been felt all the way to North Little Rock, Arkansas!
 
Jesus faced everything the world, the flesh, and the devil could throw at him and he faced the last enemy death, and death and darkness would not get the last word. An Asian proverb puts it this way: “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the Master calls a butterfly.” Out of his death would come eternal life
Life has been forever changed - we can all now sing that early Christian hymn:
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory.
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”