Easter Sunday 2020
April 12, 2020 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: Matthew 22:1-28:10
CHRIST IS RISEN!
HE IS RISEN INDEED! WOOO!
Well, that’s normally what we would do here, and that’s normally the excitement we would feel. And I’ve got to be honest with you all, we are trying very hard. Mary and Mark are doing a great job with the music. We do have a lot of energy here, but we’re less than ten, according to CDC guidelines. It’s raining outside. We’re in the midst of a pandemic. I’ve had a lot of people say to me, “You know, this is just not the same.”
And we are definitely in for a different Easter as we celebrate this morning. We’ve got the decorations up, and we’ve got the livestream going. But yes, it’s an understatement to say that this is not the same, but I think it is a gift for you and for me at this time. Yes, a gift. Precisely because we cannot be here, business as usual. We can’t have Easter brunch in the Commons; we can’t put on our Sunday best. You know, I saw a meme going around the internet that said, “This morning we will be celebrating the risen Christ in pajama pants, or no pants, depending on your denomination.”
We won’t be gathering together and doing these things; it is tremendously upending our patterns as the way we’ve always done it. And I would suggest that that is a good thing. That is a gift for you and for me: to have to do this differently somehow, to have to approach this story differently somehow. Because, what does it truly mean to “feel like Easter”? We are not going to feel the same today as we have on previous Easters, and so we need to find the message differently.
I like to think that, that morning as the two Marys were walking to the tomb, and those guards had been stationed there as a way to prevent a story from getting out that the disciples had come and stolen the body, I like to think that it’s a day kinda like today: dreary, dull, ordinary. And as the two Marys are at the tomb and the guards are there guarding to make sure that no disciples are gonna somehow roll that stone away and steal the body of Jesus so they could say He raised from the dead, BANG! This earthquake happens. Jesus, risen from the dead, juxtaposed against these guards who are paralyzed in fear like two dead men. Meanwhile, the angel says to the two Marys, “do not be afraid.”
There is archeology that suggests that an earthquake really did happen around this time. And it’s interesting to think of that this monumental thing like an earthquake. And yet, for the majority of people, it would be just carrying on a regular day, except maybe talking about the earthquake as a thing to talk around the morning water cooler. But for these guards, and for the two Marys, they are confronted with the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. The guards respond to it in fear, paralyzing fear. But I love what Matthew says about the two Marys: that they “left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy.” And I love that so much, because the instruction was to go ahead and check for yourself and see the place where he laid. Matthew doesn’t even say that the Marys do that, it’s almost as though they’re too excited, but yet there’s that fear underlying as well. How can this be? How can this be true that Jesus is risen from the dead?
So too do we live our lives in that weird contrast of fear and joy. We hear the message, and we hear, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!” and sometimes we feel it more than we feel it at other times because we have things like this that pop up. And hopefully this is one of the biggest things that affect us all in our daily routine, but you never know.
This pandemic has things upended, and amidst that fear of the unknown, we have this story; we have this promise that Christ is raised from the dead for you and for me, that we don’t need to ultimately fear death. So that brings that joy welling up inside amidst the fear, fear of the unknown, the fear of dying, the fear of what may come. There is that joy, that joy of the message within us. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!
Perhaps we’ve come to rely too much on the church building and the way that we do things. Perhaps in doing so, we have overcomplicated the message. The heart of Christianity is simply this: Christ rose from the dead for you and for me. It does not make us good people because we believe in Christ, but it makes us, who once were dead, alive in Christ. Amidst the uncertainty, amidst the fear and the doubt, the joy of the Good News is still there. We too can take advantage of this moment and proclaim to others, in the midst of our fear and doubt, that Christ is indeed risen for you and for me and for all people. Praise be to God.