It was clever wasn’t it? The story, I mean. It preyed upon a natural incredulity, a kind of desire not to believe the story of the resurrection. After all, how can a person be raised from the dead?
Tonight, we gather back here at Saint Meinrad. At this time of year I always remember my old pastor. He once remarked at the close of the Easter Sunday festivities: Jesus is risen, but we are half dead. True enough. In the past days we have worked, we have lauded and crooned. We have moved stuff around. We have practiced with the servers. We have tried to keep the incense from burning down the church and the candle from falling over.
Jesus is risen, but what about us? Perhaps not so much. That story of the Jews in Saint Matthew’s Gospel might just play upon our own lack of belief, a lack focused today on well, just being plainly worn out by the resurrection. Before we give up though, let’s go back.
I wonder what it was like for those others, those characters in the Gospel?
What must it have been like for the disciples? They were so tired from the road, so exhilarated by the stories of Jesus, by his miracles. They were caught up in the fever of last week, of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. They were filled with joy at the Seder meal, the reception of his body and blood. And then, Judas and the garden, the mob, the crowds, Pilate himself. They ran. The disciples ran. The brave disciples who said: Lord we will follow you anywhere, cowered in the shadows, denied the accusations of a slave girl, brave Peter. The disciples of Jesus didn’t believe. They didn’t hold out. Their courage failed them. And this story has circulated among us to the present day. The disciples failed.
What must it have been like?
What must if have been like for the women? They had followed Jesus, they had risked more than the disciples. Nets and counting houses could be regained, but reputations could not, families could not. And yet they followed him, the served him, they laughed and cried with him, they went all the way with him, all the way, to the cross, to the grave. And in their loss they went that morning to the tomb, expecting one thing but finding another, finding that it had all been true. On that day, the strength of men failed but the faithfulness of women endured. And this story has circulated among us to the present day. The women endured.
What must it have been like?
What must it have been like for the soldiers? Perhaps they were cynical. Watch over a tomb? Really? And who in the hell could roll away this stone? Who in the hell, especially among these superstitious Jews would steal a dead body? Who in the hell would put up with the mess and bother? Who in hell indeed but one who had gone down to hell and ransomed those captives held fast by the hell of their own fantasies? The soldiers were afraid but they would be protected, protected by the very incredulity of the thing. And this story has circulated to the present day.
What must it have been like?
What must it have been like for the bystanders, the onlookers, the hangers around? The disciples were gone, the women endured, the soldiers were afraid and the bystanders, well, they stood by. They watched, they gawked, they cried out now and then, but they also must have wondered. They were caught up in the spectacle but they must have asked themselves: Could it all be true? Could these days through which we have lived have changed the world? Could it all really have happened? And this story has circulated to the present day. The bystanders, the onlookers looked on and wondered.
Disciples, women, soldiers, bystanders … Who are we?
The miracle of the resurrection, the possibility of the miracle of the resurrection renews us, even in our fatigue in this Eastertide. We may be tired but frankly brothers and sisters it is only the miracle and our complete belief in this miracle that raises our lives from the lowliness of destitution to the heights of meaning.
The miracle of the resurrection, the very possibility of that miracle raises us up.
It raises us up from our weariness and calls us into the joy of Easter, a joy unprecedented
It raises us up from our doubt and summons us into the confidence of God’s own sons and daughters
It raises us up from our cynicism and brings us into the pied beauty of a world of generosity and kindness
It raises us up from our fear and draws us into the braveness, the brazenness of those who walk with God
It raises us up from our past and shows us a bright future, filled with dreams made real
It raises us up from our hopelessness
The miracle of the resurrection is a promise and THIS story has circulated also to the present day.
This story is still alive. This story could not be contained. This story, this story of hope is our story. It has filled our lives, our dreams, our expecations until we are changed, transformed, as surely as those who went down into the waters of baptism over the weekend were changed. Brothers and sisters we are called, called to a life that not only gives meaning to our dull existences but has the potential, the potential in our hands to change the world.
But lest we think that the miracle of the resurrection is nothing but sugared confection, nothing but pastel colored children engaging in an egg hunt beneath the budding trees of spring.
Let us recall the words of a great preacher who reminded his flock this past Saturday evening this important truth:
Resurrection is dangerous business. How true these words are, and how we must drink them in if we are to be authentic to the promise of Easter.
The resurrection threatens our complacency, our sense of control and we love control. It threatens our ability to know, to lie to ourselves in knowing. It pops out at us with the suddenness of jonquils springing from the earth. It surprises us
But it gives us promise, the promise that there is one greater than ourselves and HE IS IN CONTROL.
Resurrection is dangerous business because …
The resurrection convicts our hollow confidence.
But itgive us strong confidence in the primacy of God’s word, God’s love, God’s presence
The resurrection enforces in us the desire for renewal and transformation
But it also gives us the spirit of renewal, a spirit that in the doubts of war, in the pain of domestic strife, in the harshness of our own damnable, withering judgment, it gives us hope that ---
Like Jesus, we can rise again to new life. It will cost us something, but we can rise again.
Listen again to the words of our first reading:
This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God,
you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.
But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death,
because it was impossible for him to be held by it.
And now, impossible for us. What shall we do? Where shall we go from here?
The tomb is empty and its promise is yet to be fulfilled. We are the actors. We are the disciples, we are the women, we are the soldiers we are the bystanders. Brothers and sisters, that story has circulated to the present day and it rests now on us.
The Lord is risen. He is truly risen. And the song of his people is Alleluia.