Easter Sermon: Does it Feel Like Easter?
Scripture: John 20:1-18
Notes from a message offered Easter Sunday, 4/12/2020, via Facebook Live for Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the contemporary worship service, including the message which starts around the 15-minute mark.
Does it feel like Easter?
I’ll be honest, it doesn’t feel so much like Easter. I think of special gatherings full of food, loved ones, and laughter. I think of special clothes, family pictures, baskets, bunnies, egg hunts, and chocolate.
I’ll be alone this Easter. Maybe you are, too.
I think of big church gatherings. Outdoor sunrise services, beautiful sanctuaries full of lilies and light streaming through stained glass windows.
I think of beautiful music. I’m so glad to have some of our musicians here today but I miss the rest of the praise band and the choir. Sometimes we even have trumpets.
I miss all of you. I miss us raising our voices to sing and celebrate Christ’s glorious victory. Christ is Risen! He’s Risen Indeed!
Here we are on Easter morning, and none of us expected this. None of us expected sanctuaries to still be closed, that we would be isolated from one another, that we would be watching worship from home because of a deadly global pandemic.
It doesn’t feel like Easter, it feels like Good Friday
Heavy. Overwhelming. This has been a pretty intense week. Everything is changing so fast and my heart, my mind, and my soul can’t keep up. This horror is unfolding and I feel helpless. There’s absolutely nothing I can do to stop it.
Some folks are making life-threatening sacrifices for our health and well being and protection. Where am I? Tucked away in my house. There are times where it feels like I’m hiding. Am I denying? Am I blaming? Sometimes I’m bargaining.
Everything is uncertain. What is going to happen? What is next for us? I wonder every time I head out to the grocery store if I’ve brought it back with me? Will I be next?
Maybe you’re like me and all you want to do is turn back the clock, but we know we can’t. We’re living a historic moment, this world-changing moment and nothing will ever be the same.
The one thing that’s for sure- grief is our constant companion.
It doesn’t feel like Easter. But, when I think about it a little more, maybe it does feel like Easter. It feels like the first Easter.
It’s Easter morning and Mary Magdalene heads to the tomb in John’s version of the story. Grief is her constant companion. Everything’s changed so fast and she can’t process it. One evening Jesus is celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples and less than 24 hours later he’s dead. Now they’re rushing around trying to get him buried before sundown.
I imagine Mary Magdalene continuing to relive the horror of watching Jesus being crucified. She witnessed it. She was helpless to stop it.
Now everyone’s scattered, everyone’s isolated. They’re locked in hoping death won’t come for them.
It’s Easter morning and Mary Magdalene heads to the tomb while it’s still dark. Don’t miss that detail! Mary goes to the tomb expecting to find death, Good Friday. Instead, she finds the stone removed and Jesus’ body missing. Horror on horror, pain on pain, where have they taken Jesus’ body?
2 So Mary ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.
The men get there, check out the situation and exit quickly, returning to the safety of their locked doors. Mary stays- isolated, overwhelmed, weeping outside the tomb.
11 … As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
Have you ever been in that much pain?
You can’t see the angels. You can’t see Jesus.
Jesus keeps working to break through. A third time, Mary is addressed.
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Beloved Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” and she told them that he had said these things to her.
What changes everything for Mary?
Jesus calls her by name. Jesus is calling you by name.
At the mention of her name, Mary’s weeping gives way to seeing. At the mention of her name, Mary’s grieving gives way to action. I have seen the Lord
Nothing could have prepared Mary for this possibility. The undoing of death itself. Jesus’ victory over injustice and violence and sin and shame and death.
Mary witnessed the most historic moment of moments- a moment that changes everything.
I have seen the Lord and the Romans are still in power
I have seen the Lord and the disciples are still in danger
I have seen the Lord and there’s still a deadly virus
I have seen the Lord and the church is still empty
But so is the tomb
It’s still Easter!
It’s still true!
It still changes everything!
Yes, it still feels uncertain but I have seen the Lord
Hear Christ calling your name
Let your weeping give way to seeing
Let your grieving give way to action
You have the message of hope we all need to hear
Christ is Risen! He’s Risen Indeed! Hallelujah!
Does it Feel Like Easter? © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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