The resurrection of our Lord: March 27, 2005.
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43
T: After the silence of the grave, Easter Sunday begins with a bang. In liturgies and worship planning, this suddenness is mimicked by the surge of light during the Easter Vigil, but it can be incorporated on Sunday morning as well. Matthew's resurrection account begins with an earthquake, reminiscent of the earthquake on Good Friday. Maybe our pews should shake and move, too!
Matthew narrates two encounters in his resurrection account. Once again, an angel appears first to give a message. Just as in Matthew's birth account the angel spoke to Joseph before Jesus' arrival, telling him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, so here the angel appears to tell Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" not to be afraid. They are given explicit instructions of great joy: "Go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead'" (Matt 28:7).
Of course, faced with something so drastically unknown, the women can hardly help but fear. The second encounter is striking for its similarities with the angel and for one important difference. Jesus encounters them and gives them much the same message--except that this time it's backed up by all their senses: touch, sight, sound.
K: Angels and messages of great joy. As we write this, the church is preparing for the Advent and Christmas seasons. Christmas and Easter--the two greatest Christ days. We whisper the proclamation of Christmas with a lullaby sung to a sleeping baby. It is the warm glow of candles. Soft light, hushed whispers, innocence, nostalgia, hope.
Easter is the opposite. It is an assault to the senses. It is loud and blindingly bright. It is the cloying perfume of spring flowers. We don't whisper the proclamation of Easter; we should it. It is that assault to the senses that we try to capture on Easter morning. Easter is as much about what God has done for us as it is about what God can do.
T: Maybe that is why the women grab on to Jesus' feet. When confronted with God's power in an earthquake, an unsealed (and empty) grave, and an angel's speech, they are desperate for a handhold, for something to anchor them amidst God's glory. When Jesus appears, they recognize that he is part of this glory. But Jesus is also someone they've known as a fellow human, even friend. Just as you and I might hold on to friends in the midst of trouble or confusion, so do these two.
I was struck by Jesus repeating the angel's message. The messages are almost word-for-word, with one big difference: Jesus does not refer to his disciples as disciples. For the first time in Matthew, Jesus refers to them as "brothers." Back in chapter 12, we saw Jesus point to the disciples and say "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." But in all the exchanges since then, they have been "disciples." Except for now. In what ways, then, have they done the will of God in heaven, to become his brothers and sisters and mothers? They are now so in relationship with Jesus that they are family.
K: Is it something they have done? Or is it something that happened only through the cross and resurrection? Here is a little foretaste of the feast to come. All through this great fifty days of Easter we will hear stories of the intimate connection Jesus has with all of creation. Specifically, we will hear about our relationship with Jesus.
I noticed in this Gospel that the only dialogue that is recorded is from heaven's side. We know only what the angel and Jesus said. We know how the women feel when they ran off with the most important message of their lives. We know what the disciples did when Jesus made that message come alive right in front of them. It is the Word of God and our response. Who are the voiceless in our communities to whom Jesus' gives voice today?
T: It's too bad in some ways that our reading cuts off at verse 10. We're left a bit hanging: Mary and Joanna and the other women have the news about Jesus, but we cut off before the other disciples get to hear! And if we could continue, even before the news spreads beyond the scene of the tomb, already the naysayers step in to cast aspersions on the story. Verses 11-15 show the first anti-Christian "disinformation" campaign: the leaders and authorities conspire together, bribe the guards, and spread an alternative version of the resurrection. The resurrection event is only minutes old, and already explanations are offered to mitigate its power.
K: Still a bit like human nature today, isn't it? In the face of the impossible, the unexplained, or the unknown, we fill that void with all kinds of things!
T: But if we could continue, we'd see the culmination of the Easter story: when our stories become connected to the divine drama. Standing with Jesus on the mountain, the disciples are connected once again to Jesus' life and purpose. Finally their long trajectory from their call moments to this mountain fall into a complete whole, and their own lives' meaning and purpose becomes clear. We too will hear that meaning and purpose at Pentecost; but first, our church year allows us to bask in the aftershocks of Easter for a bit. TK/KH
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|Title Annotation:||Preaching Helps|
|Publication:||Currents in Theology and Mission|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2005|
|Previous Article:||Good Friday: March 25, 2005.|
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