Bishop Ordinary: Rt Rev Brian R Marsh

Sermon

Easter Day, 2012
All Saints, Concord, New Hampshire; Good Shepherd, Charlestown; Trinity Church, Lebanon

 

Let us pray: O God, who for our redemption didst give thine only-begotten Son to the death of the Cross, and by his glorious resurrection hast delivered us from the power of our enemy; Grant us so to die daily from sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through the same thy Son Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

 

"Alleluia. Alleluia. Christ is Risen. The Lord is Risen indeed. Alleluia. Alleluia."

 

On this particular night, we celebrate Easter; the central reality of our Christian faith. Easter is so essential to who we are as Christians, that we simply cannot live without it. We cannot live without the simple and abiding reality of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. We may take nearly everything else away, but this remains as a sign for all time. Jesus Christ is risen today. Alleluia.

 

We are often convinced that the "Alleluia's" that we proclaim with such joy every Easter Day have been heard since that first Easter Day so long ago. Except that they were not proclaimed on that Easter Day. The first Day of the Resurrection was a very quiet day, a day so seemingly ordinary that it could well have been forgotten; it could have been easily ignored historically as just another day on which nothing very special happened.

 

"The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark." John's gospel for Easter Day begins with these words. "When it was yet dark." Sunlight had not yet reached Mary Magdalene when she set out on her sad journey. And so, she walked in darkness. This was a dangerous thing to do, but somehow she made her way to the sepulchre.

 

But when she arrived at the tomb, there was enough light to see that something different had happened in that place. The stone had been rolled away. And she saw Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple and told them what she had seen. Then they ran to the tomb. They looked in and saw, with great detail, what was there in the tomb: the linen burial clothes and a napkin wrapped in a place by itself. John ends this particular passage with the simple phrase that, after they had seen these things, they "went away again unto their own home." There were no cries of "Alleluia" on that morning. What could have been in their hearts and minds. Perhaps only one of them grasped the true meaning of what they had seen. John tells us that the Beloved Disciple entered the tomb, saw and believed.

 

The disciples had followed Jesus. He called out to them and, without question, they put off their normal vocations and followed Him. They were with Him for years, learning from Him, watching as the miracles He accomplished were performed before their eyes. They watched as thousands were fed from His hands; they watched as sick were healed; and they watched as even the dead were raised to life once again. All these things were now part of their lives, part of their very being. And yet, in the hour of His greatest need, the disciples are nowhere to be found. They desert Jesus as if He were not worth defending, as if He had done nothing for them. Where were they on the journey to Calvary? Where were they at the foot of the cross? Where were they when the body was laid in the tomb? Where were they?

 

Perhaps, after all, they had come to believe that Jesus was nothing more than a clever teacher, a charismatic leader; but, after all, just a man. It is hard for human beings, even those closest to Jesus, to grasp the fullness of God's presence. It is sometimes easier to believe in the tricks of a good magician that to comprehend, even a little, the love that God gives to us all.

 

There is a delightful television commercial that I have seen a couple of times. In this commercial, we observe a famous magician, a young couple seeking to buy car insurance and insurance salesman. The famous magician displays his skill by levitating what appear to be several employees of the insurance company. We see them flailing about several feel above their office floor. While this magic trick is going on, the insurance salesman describes his best insurance policy. The couple look to the magician and his spectacular tricks. They look to the salesman, then back to the magician. The magician smiles his best smile while pointing to the levitating employees. Pretty spectacular, he seems to be saying. I'm a great guy. But the young couple look back to the insurance salesman. He offers something a bit more practical. "We'll take the deal," they tell the salesman. The famous magician frowns. He has received no applause for his efforts and, in his disappointment, drops the poor employees to the floor, where they no doubt bruise themselves.

 

The first Day of the Resurrection was far from spectacular. It was a simple and unremarkable day. God did not set out to create a moment of awe and wonder. God did not seek our applause or our amazement at His great rising from the dead. On the other hand, He did not offer us "one sweet deal" in which we could, by agreeing to sign on the dotted line, retain financial security in the event of an accident.

 

But He did give us this: all the gifts of God's love. He made these readily available to us for all time.

 

It took time for the disciples to know that the Resurrection happened. On the morning when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb it was still dark. But, gradually, as the light of day increased, the reality of the empty tomb was revealed. Nothing that had been feared was there. When the light shone into that place of death, there was nothing; nothing but the burial cloths. Most wondered about the empty tomb, that particular tomb where the dead had certainly been carried away.

 

But there was one who was there who saw clearly what the light revealed. The Beloved Disciple looked into the tomb; he saw and he believed. It was a moment of profound truth, a moment of faith. This disciple understood with perfect clarity the simple truth that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead.

 

And, perhaps, as he walked to him home later that morning, he called out from the fullness of his heart. He called out words of joy, just as we, in the growing awareness of our own moments of faith, call out this day:

 

"Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is Risen. The Lord is Risen indeed. Alleluia! Alleluia!"

 

Amen.