“The Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ”
Easter Sunday - April 16, 2017
The Rev. R. Allan McCaslin
Readings: Jeremiah 31:1-6; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 28:1-10
From Matthew’s gospel, “… Jesus said to (the women), ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’” I speak to you in the Name of God: Father, risen Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Ah, Easter Sunday! A day of feasting and great joy. A day that celebrates that world-changing and life-changing event of long ago when the shadow of death that hung over all creation on Good Friday, was forever shattered by the cry, “Christ is risen.” Jesus of Nazareth, at whose birth the angels of heaven burst forth into song and at whose death, took upon himself our sins and the sins of the whole world, is alive. He is risen. In the words of that great hymn, “love’s redeeming work is done!” Redemption and peace with God and neighbor is ours to embrace once more. This is the day. Our day. A day of great joy. Our day of hope.
Of the seven principal feast days of the Christian Church (BCP p 15), there are two that muster the highest attendance and greatest participation because they hold the deepest meaning for people of God. Those two feast days are Christmas and Easter. As I was saying my prayers and crafting today’s sermon, I was reminded of two important lessons stressed again and again at Seminary. The first? Well, when it comes to Christmas, keep the sermon short. People come not to hear the preacher, but rather, to enjoy the candles and decorations, listen to wonderful music and, most of all, sing their favorite carols. (Talk about a shot to a preacher’s ego!) The second lesson was with regard to Easter. On this day, again, keep the sermon short, but remember, aside from its glorious promise of redemption, forgiveness, and eternal life, people are hungry to understand how our Lord’s resurrection can and should make a difference in our lives today. You see, we all know that Jesus’s resurrection changed everything: death no longer has the final word. Life in the presence of God’s love and mercy has no ending. Our eternal future with God is secure.
Nevertheless, on this Easter Sunday, 2017, I find that the despair-filled shadows of Good Friday still linger among us and seem to hover over the whole world. News of churches, mosques and synagogues destroyed and innocents slaughtered; sacred burial places desecrated; threats of war; and communities torn apart by unrest and by fear, has created a sense of hopelessness. For many, that despair, those shadows, have become a way of daily life. What difference does this Easter message of resurrection offer when it seems the world is spinning out of control?
That answer is found in our reading from Matthew’s gospel. Jesus says to the women who visited his now empty tomb, “… tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” The women had seen Jesus and it changed their lives. Later in Matthew’s gospel we will learn how their own experience of meeting the resurrected Christ changed the lives of his disciples. The message of resurrection makes a difference when and where people see Jesus. And that begs the question, where and when do people see the risen Christ today? There is only one answer … and that answer is in each of us. The resurrection can and will make a difference – a life-transforming difference - in this world when people see the risen Christ in our lives, in our words, our values, our actions, in our willingness to forgive and be merciful, and when we love as Christ has loved us – love without condition and without exception .
Throughout the past few days, record numbers of persons gathered here to participate in the various liturgies of Holy Week. Together, we have heard once again, our Lord’s commandment to love as he has loved us, to be his presence, to truly serve both friend and stranger, to be as Christ and to see Christ in every person we meet.
“Jesus said, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’” Friends, where Christ is seen the resurrection still changes live. On this Easter Sunday, 2017, may the risen Christ be seen so clearly and compassionately in each of us, that the resurrection’s message, our message, of redemption drives away the shadows of despair and death, and brings new life and hope into this community, and the whole world, once more. For Christ is risen! Thanks be to God! Amen.