St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Easter 2011 Sermon
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Corby Varness

Is anybody here today for the Easter Egg hunt?  I wonder why we have so many eggs on Easter Sunday.  Well, most of you remember how we started Lent on Pancake Day.  We made and ate a ton of pancakes on that day.  My special job was to crack eggs all day long--I think this year we used almost 200 eggs!  The idea is that we eat all the rich, fattening food on that day, and that includes eggs, then we don’t eat those foods for the 40 days of Lent.  We spent that time getting ready for the great miracle of today, Easter Sunday.  

Many years ago, people had hens who kept laying eggs, even though they weren’t eaten during Lent, so they hard boiled the eggs to preserve them.  Right before Easter, they dyed the eggs red to remember Christ dying on the cross then they got to eat lots of hard boiled eggs on Easter Sunday! 

Some people also think that breaking the hard shell of the egg reminds them of the opening of the tomb where Jesus laid.  Does this make sense to you?  Well, let me try to explain it.  Let’s go back in time to the first Easter Sunday:

Just as the sun is rising on Sunday morning we find Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb to care for the body of her Lord, Jesus Christ.  She comes to the tomb full of sadness and incredible grief.  She comes to the tomb expecting to find it sealed with a huge stone, she comes worried about how she will move that stone so that she can do her sad work.  She approaches the tomb as some of us approach life, filled with dreadful expectations of the worst possible outcome.  What does she find?

Surprise! The heavy stone is rolled away.  She is shocked!  What has happened here?  Who has been here?  She is so frightened by this sight that she runs breathlessly back to where the other disciples are hiding and cries, “They have taken the Master from his tomb.  I don’t know where they’ve put him.” 

She must have thought that grave robbers had come to steal his body. 

Mary follows Peter and the other disciple as they take off running as fast as they can.  She waits as they burst into the tomb.  They don’t see the body of Jesus but they do see the linen clothes that had been wrapped around him, lying there, neatly folded.  What does this mean?  The men aren’t sure what to think.  Has Jesus indeed risen from the dead as he said he would?  The two men go back into hiding with their friends.  They don’t tell anyone what they have seen.

Mary is now left there all alone by the empty tomb.  She sobs, filled with fear and distress.  She finally kneels to look into the tomb and through her tears sees two angels sitting there, dressed in white.  They ask her, “Woman, why do you weep?”

Don’t you think this is a ridiculous question?  Let’s see... Mary has witnessed the horror of the cross where she lost the one person in her life who had loved her just as she was and now she fears grave robbers have been at work.  Mary is a bit cranky as she answers the angels, “They’ve taken my Master and I don’t know where they’ve put him.”

She turns away from the tomb and almost bumps into a tall stranger standing very near her.  She doesn’t know him.  He must be a gardener.  She steps back.  The stranger speaks to her, asking, “Woman, why do you weep?  Who are you looking for?”  Mary bravely demands, “Mister, if you took my Lord, you tell me right now where you put him so I can care for him.”

The stranger looks at her with immense love and murmurs one word: “Mary.”

She knows that voice.  It is the voice of Jesus!  The world opens up with that one word. Easter happens with that one word.  Mary turns to him and gasps “Rabbouni”, teacher.  She reaches for his arm to hold him, maybe to keep herself from falling over in her shock.

Jesus says, “Don’t cling to me for I have not yet gone up to my Father.  Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 

Mary Magdalene goes out into the world to do the work Jesus has given her to do.  She announces to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”  And she shares the whole story with them.

Mary Magdalene is the first preacher.  She is the first person to meet the risen Christ.  She is an eyewitness to the mystery that is central to our faith.  She is the first person to celebrate Easter! 

This is so remarkable.  You see, in that day and age, women were powerless.  They couldn’t own property and were not allowed to testify in court.  Yet, this pivotal story of our faith is told through a woman.  Isn’t it just like Jesus to choose the least among them to carry the glorious news of his resurrection? 

The men who followed Jesus are in hiding, filled with fear.  That Friday, that Saturday, they didn’t know that Easter Sunday was coming.  To them it was all over.  Jesus was dead and that was that.

They didn’t want anyone to know that they were friends of this Jesus who had just been hung up on a cross as a convicted felon.  Would any of us have acted differently?  But the first thing that Jesus does after he has risen from the dead is send Mary Magdalene to his friends to tell them the good news.  In doing so, Jesus forgives them for not standing by him.  As Jesus forgave them, he forgives us for being flawed and frightened.

Jesus didn’t choose perfect people to follow him.  He chose people like us, normal people, not saints.  Jesus chooses us, as we are, with all of our failings.  Never forget that Jesus forgives us and loves us as he loved Mary and the disciples.  He loves us now, this moment, just as we are.

Today some of us are going through hard times.  My family just lost a very beloved relative and we are sad.  Some of us are in bad shape financially, some of us are battling addictions, some of us are lonely or in an empty place spiritually.  We need to hear this Easter story to remember that God works amazing miracles and this is the most amazing.  God raises Jesus up from death.  Remember that God also raises us, each of us, to sit by his side, to glory in his vast love.

Jesus Christ is risen today.  Like an egg cracked open, Mary finds the stone rolled away from an empty tomb.  Because Christ is risen he is no longer of our world.  He is no longer just a great prophet who taught wise things long ago.  Because he rose, because he IS risen, he is here with us today.  He is here in our lives with each of us, every moment of every day.  That man, that Christ who walked in the desert of Israel 2000 years ago cannot walk with us.  The risen Christ can and does walk by our sides today.

Please join me in prayer: Dear God, we know that the risen Christ fills this church as we gather to remember his glorious resurrection.  So fill our hearts and fill our lives this Easter morning that we can know the peace that your love brings.  Come to us, loving God.  Alleluia! 


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