I write this at a time when here in Maine we have been blessed with a number of springtime days with abundant sun, warm temperatures and blooming crocuses. After a cold and snowy winter the joy of these days is palpable and can be seen on the smiles of people I meet as I go throughout my day.
Of course one only has to turn on the television or read a newspaper to have that joy dashed and turned to fear. These are dangerous days around the world as bombs are dropped, threats are made, and military resources are moved to within striking distance of enemy’s borders. Regardless of one’s political affiliation there is no denying that these are fearful times.
How appropriate that Matthew’s account of the resurrection speaks to this mixture of joy and fear.
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “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 said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:1-10)
On the one hand, the message delivered by the angels is clear and compelling. Their message -“do not be afraid” – is in many ways the hallmark of good news that is announced throughout Scripture by angels and messengers at key moments of tension and drama in the biblical story. But on the other hand these women have just been witnesses to the crucifixion of their beloved teacher and now, as they go to perform the prescribed rituals for his burial, the earth literally shakes and they see an apparition speaking to them. Surely any joy they felt at the reassuring words of this angel saying “do not be afraid” had to have been tinged with great fear and misgiving. And yet, it was here, scripture tells us – in this place of mixed feelings – that they have an encounter with the risen Christ and told to go and share this ultimate good new with others.
Like them, in the midst of life’s joys and fears, Christ is waiting to meet us. Our Presiding Bishop, +Michael Curry, in his Easter message speaks about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as an intentional act to contrast God’s way with that of the Roman Empire whose troops were entering the city through another gate. He writes: “Jesus entered the city at the same time as Pilate to show them, and to show us, that God has another way….The way of unselfish, sacrificial love. That’s why he went to the cross. It was the power of that love poured out from the throne of God that even after the horror of the crucifixion would raise him from death to life.
God came among us in the person of Jesus to start a movement. A movement to change the face of the earth. A movement to change us who dwell upon the earth. A movement to change the creation from the nightmare that is often made of it into the dream that God intends for it.” [watch the Presiding Bishop’s message at the link below]
So in the season of Easter, as we celebrate that “Christ is Risen,” even as we experience fear over the state of our world; may we allow ourselves to deeply consider that Christ’s resurrection truly means. In the words of our Presiding Bishop, it tells us “That not even the titanic powers of death can stop the love of God. On that Easter morning, he rose from the dead, and proclaimed love wins.
So you have a blessed Easter. Go forth to be people of the Resurrection. Follow in the way of Jesus. Don’t be ashamed to love. Don’t be ashamed to follow Jesus.
Have a blessed Easter. And bless the world. Amen.”