Easter Day A’20
12 April 2020
Ps. 118; Matt. 28.1-10
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
(“Live” on Facebook)
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone

“I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord; they that believe in me, though they were dead, yet shall they live; and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” Amen   -From the service for the Burial of the Dead (John 11.25)

If Jesus been crucified on Good Friday in 2020 how might the news headlines read on Sunday morning: “Jesus Is Alive and Spotted Outside the Gates of Jerusalem: The Love of God Goes Viral!” Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany go to the tomb early on Sunday morning to grieve, and to pay their respects but ended up being the first eyewitnesses on the scene of a spectacle that was the resurrection!

Shortly after their arrival on the scene, seismic activity began to occur as an angel descended from the sky, and rolled back the huge stone that was covering the entrance to the tomb where Jesus’s body had been placed. The angel, shrouded in an almost blinding light, comes to sit upon the top of the stone. The scene was so terrifying that the Imperial guards fainted and fell to the ground. Only a frightened, but resolute Mary Magdalene and Mary Bethany were left standing, and the angel said to them: “Do not be afraid, I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised, as he had said. Come see the place where he lay…”  They both look into the tomb and see for themselves – Jesus is gone, and he left his underwear in the floor! All they found were his crumpled-up graveclothes and the 100lbs of aloes and spices that he had been embalmed with, lying on the floor of the tomb. 

Propelled by the shockwaves of an earthquake, by their adrenaline-fueled fear and excitement, and with great joy, they rush to tell the other disciples about what they have seen and heard, and felt at the empty tomb. The resurrection was, and still is, an absolute reality that could not nor cannot be cancelled by any cosmic principalities or powers of government, nor any form of physical death, no matter how viral. 

Jesus immediately after the resurrection was on the move and headed to his next place of ministry – Galilee, a real place, in real time, where he would meet his disciples and commission them to take this message of Eternal Life to the four directions of the globe. Before his departure, he gave His followers a final commission – to be  his feet, and his hands, his body on earth.

In Part IV of the Star Wars movie saga, A New Hope, Obiwan Kenobi and Darth Vader are locked in an intense lightsaber duel. Toward the end of the battle, Obiwan tells Vader, “You can’t win Darth, if you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Vader strikes him with his saber, killing him. As his physical body dematerializes, Obiwan’s spiritual presence takes over, and he is able to do even more to further the Jedi mission, through all of his apprentices, especially Leia, and Luke.

The reality that is Jesus Christ could not be taken away by any force from the Dark Side, resurrection continues anywhere humans are willing to deny their selfish and

egocentric lives and turn their lives over to the care and love of God. If the resurrection, the embodied and spiritual rebirth that comes through death of the false self, had only happened to Jesus, the Christian faith would have died out many centuries ago. But the Truth is, resurrection is a clear and present reality that will never be stopped!

In this deadly season of COVID-19 that we are in, we have each been gripped by fear and touched by grief, but remarkably, and at the same time, we have witnessed the power of God working through people. We have witnessed the power of Love working through caregivers of all kinds, first responders, doctors, nurses, lab workers, vaccine researchers, hospice workers, and the last responders – the clergy, and the compassionate funeral home staffs who are faithfully serving bereaved families.

The Church during this strange time, the Universal Church, Christ’s Body, strangely, and quite separately from our buildings, are rediscovering or perhaps discovering for the first time that God doesn’t live in buildings made with hands. We are discovering that the Word of God has been true all along: We are all Christ’s temple and “temples of the Holy Spirit!” Lo and behold, New Life is flowing through Christ’s Body while by and large being absent from our buildings. I can feel the rumblings of new ‘Seismic activity’ as God is stirring through God’s people, as stated in the burial service from the Book of Common Prayer “in the midst of life we are in death,” and the opposite holds true as well ‘in the midst of death, we are in life.’

New ministry has begun to spring up all over the place. I have seen the signs of new life, moving through our congregation in the ways we are loving each other, and our neighbors. People are calling and caring for one another on a much deeper level. Ideas for new ministries for both in-reach, and outreach are popping into the minds and hearts of God’s people. During these days, a new website has been donated and folks are seeing it as a new opportunity to share our excitement by telling our world about the love of God that lives in the people of St. Luke’s! During this health crisis we are finding that we have extra time to reflect and to contemplate what’s most important, and we have more time to focus on family, and loved ones, and the needs of others.  In the midst of tragedy and loss, could the 17th cen. poet, and hymnwriter, William Cowper (Cooper) have been right when he wrote,” Behind a frowning providence, he hides a smiling face.” 

The seismic activity that was set in motion that Sunday Easter morning two thousand years ago continues to reverberate. For Jesus, the Son of God, Death was not permanently fatal, the tomb could not hold him! Resurrection continues to happen through the life of the risen Christ; that cannot be contained by church walls or shrines, or anything else created by the minds or made by the hands of humanity.

After the Corona virus has done its worst, and passed, I don’t think the Church will ever be quite the same again. When we do finally all return to our church buildings, I expect we will find that rather than business as usual, there will be a new normal, that’s ‘less ego and more ‘Christo’ – Christ-centered.

Today, let’s be like Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Bethany, – let us look for Jesus on this Sunday, Easter morning!  But where do we look for him? Where can we find Jesus? We’ll find Him outside!

He’s outside! He’s outside the walls of the temple, he’s outside the walls of the tomb, he’s outside the gates of Jerusalem! He’s outside the walls of St. Luke’s, he’s outside the walls of all the church buildings, in all the cities, in all the towns, and in all the villages across the globe, he’s outside the cemetery gates!

Have you heard the News – the Great and Glorious News?

Jesus is alive and on the loose – the Love of God has gone viral!