Sermon – April 12, 2020 – Easter Sunday

Going before us

Welcome to all of you this Easter Sunday in the name of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

As you can see, you have caught me finishing up a project.  I’m writing place cards for our Easter Dinner.

For many of the past years we have held the family Easter Dinner at our house. Easter morning would begin by having Easter breakfast, often at church.  Then we would attend worship, which has always been very festive with great music and beautiful flowers and decorative banners.  After worship we would head to our home where we would have a large family gathering with relatives who have come from afar.  Ham and Easter potatoes made with hash browns and lots of cheese, and of course deviled eggs would be on the menu.

So today – on this Easter Sunday – my husband and I are once again honoring the tradition.

That’s what the place cards are for; our Easter dinner today. There are place cards here for Dan and I, our children and little grandson, my sister and brother and spouses, nieces and nephews, grand nieces and nephews.

So when the 2 of us sit down to eat in our home today, all these place cards will be filling our table.

In a few minutes I will be reading the Bible from the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus says to the disciples, “Do not be afraid! Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Galilee is where they lived.  So Jesus is telling them, “Go home to the places where you live, where you work, where you worship, where you play. That’s where you will see me.

Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, is telling his follower that wherever ‘Galilee’ may be for them, and for us, that’s where Jesus will be.  So that means Jesus is with us at our Easter dinner. Jesus is also with all the people on these cards, too.  Same thing happens with our worship; Jesus is with us this morning wherever we are.

During our coronavirus ‘sheltering’ this passage helps me to understand that through the risen Christ and the workings of the Holy Spirit we are all together, as close as the breath of God.

The Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, the 28th Chapter: Glory to you O Lord.

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And 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. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then 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.” 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.

The Gospel of our Lord: Praise to you O Christ. 

Let us pray: We ask O Lord – on this Festival Day – this Easter Sunday – that the words we speak – the actions we take – the meditations within our minds – the prayers whispered in our hearts – and the offerings we give for the sake of others – may be pleasing to you, O Risen Lord and Savior.  Amen.

He is Risen – Alleluia!  sign

The week of Passover in Jerusalem was now over and the world was left shuddering. Could it have been just a week ago that Jesus had ridden into the city so humbly on a donkey? People had lined the streets that day to greet him, throwing palm branches before him and shouting: Hosanna – Save us Lord.  sign

Then 5 days after that, Jesus and his disciples had met for a Passover meal together.  It was their Last Supper together, here to find out.  Jesus had totally surprised them that night by washing their feet and then telling them to do likewise. Before that meal was over Jesus commanded them: Love one another as I have loved you.  sign

So much had happened since then – and so quickly – how could they have seen this coming? Jesus was betrayed by a close follower, arrested for treason, put on trial, and lost.  He suffered abuse and was crucified; dying upon a cross. sign   It was all so horrible that his followers were devastated! They ran away and were scattered.

Now it was the third day after his death.  And just as the morning was dawning two of Jesus’ faithful followers, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, went to visit his tomb. From a distance they could see that the guards were still there protecting the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake! Now in the Bible, whenever there is an earthquake, an underlying message exists telling the reader that something of great significance is happening.  The world is changing and will never be the same again.  In our Bible passage today there is also the underlying message that God is present during these life altering earthquakes and at work in the midst of the chaos, bringing about something new.

On that first Easter morning WHEN there was a great earthquake something of great significance WAS happening, and things WOULD never be the same. An angel of the Lord had rolled back the stone and opened the tomb.  “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.”

Alleluia – Christ is Risen.  sign

More times that I can count, I have read this Easter story from Matthew’s Gospel, and each time I have read about the earthquake. But it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I learned about the significance of an earthquake as understood in the Bible.  However, it hasn’t been until these past few weeks that I’ve come to ponder in a new way the concept of an earthquake and its significance. You see, it would appear there is an ‘earthquake’ happening around us right now; this seismic shift throughout our world because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Daily we are confronted by fears.  Poor decisions – selfish decisions – self-serving decisions – uninformed decisions – if they are made by the world’s leaders and scientists, medical specialists and even each one of us, are not merely inconvenient or frustrating.  Poor decisions and dangerous actions can be damaging and deadly.

In light of all that, I have also begun to wonder; If the Easter Story from Matthew pushes us to understand, and to trust, that God, through Jesus Christ, is at work bringing about resurrection and new life in the midst of the chaos and destruction created by an earthquake – is that happening now, too, in the upheaval and chaos of our times? In other words, do we believe and have we witnessed God at work bringing new life to our world during this present pandemic earthquake? I would love to sit down with you to hear what you have witnessed.  (Be sure to share with each other.)

Here are some places I think I’ve noticed God at work bringing new life out of chaos. I think of: 

  • How our entire society is working together and taking precautions for our own health certainly, but mostly for the sake of those around us who may be vulnerable, and for the essential workers who are risking and sacrificing by taking care of those who are ill.
  • How we have been told not to meet for worship because of the safety issues surrounding large crowds. But since worship is central to our life as Christians, most congregations, including here at St. Matthew’s, are broadcasting worship and potentially reaching more people than ever before as we proclaim the message of God’s love for all people through Christ Jesus.
  • How an emphasis has been placed upon feeding the hungry. Those who work in food related professions, and who are often at the bottom of the pay scales are now at work feeding our society.
  • How often has God’s life-saving work being done through the loving hands and hearts and voices of people? Maybe even through us?

The angel said to the women at the tomb, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for he has been raised…and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’  This is my message for you.

Christ is alive! We Sing…

No longer bound to distant years in Palestine,

But saving, healing, here and now, and touching every place and time.

Through Jesus Christ, who promises to go ahead of us into all the places where we go, we are invited into the mystery of the resurrection – of love beyond hate – of hope beyond despair – of life beyond death!

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!

 May the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our risen Lord.  Amen.