From Grief to Joy

easter tomb

The Pas Easter Sunday
Year C
21 April 2019

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Luke 24:1-12

O God of the living,
you made the tomb of death
the womb from which you bring forth your Son,
the first-born of a new creation:
make us joyful witnesses to this good news,
so that all humanity may one day gather
at the feast of new life in that kingdom
where you reign for ever and ever. Amen.
__________________________________

Do you know what really bothers me? That absolutely makes my skin crawl about Good Friday Services and the Dramatic Reading?

It’s the words “Crucify Him!” as the manipulated crowds call for the death of Jesus. It’s the vindictive anger of the temple authorities and the helplessness of Pilate to circumvent the path to the cross before Jesus, with beatings and with his attempts to appeal to logic.

But these words, these actions, these emotions are truly necessary in order to fulfill God’s will, to break the power of Sin and Death that have separated us from the love of God since sin came into the world.

And for those who first issued that cry that has echoed down through the centuries to this past week, the sacrifice to end all sacrifices was the end game of God, the ultimate checkmate against the Adversary, against the one who forever attempts to keep us from the love of God, from God’s forgiveness and grace.

“34 Then Peter began to speak: …38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day” (Acts 10:34a, 38-40a)

And this revelation, this resurrection of God’s hope and love within each of our lives is where we find ourselves, today.

In Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ” his brutally graphic portrayal of the Stations of the Cross, about what Jesus endures to fulfill God’s will, but what stands out to me is the actions, the confusion of the devil, the adversary that aren’t completely answered until the moment that Jesus dies on the cross.

We know that at the end of the forty days of temptation in the wilderness, “the devil left him until a more opportune time.” (Lk 4:13).

Gibson’s movie shows us Satan at the Mount of Olives, as Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, wondering who the Christ is, and who is his father. At the same time, he points out that the burden of sin for all of humanity is too great for one person to bear, on behalf of the world.

We see him again, egging on both the Temple Authorities and the Roman Soldiers, when Jesus is flogged.

And my favourite is at the moment of Jesus’ death, when Jesus divine identity is no longer able to be hidden in his humanity, and one man – the Son of God is able, was able to bear the entire burden of sin for all of humanity, and to die on the cross on our behalf.

And this act breaks Satan’s bases of power for all who believe. It allows Jesus to battle sin, evil, death, and the grave on our behalf.

It breaks his hold over us, and over all who gather, this morning in the garden to witness the resurrection, to hear the words of the messengers, and to carry that message into the world.

Today marks the conclusion of the battle for our hearts, minds, souls and strength so that we can love God. Today Christ breaks the bonds of death through his act of resurrection.

And we are reminded “34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” (Acts 10:34-35)

Today, along with the women are the first witnesses of the resurrection.

We are witnesses of God’s redemptive action, not only on the cross but through it, and through the now broken grave proving that death is not the end.

When they arrive at the tomb, and find it open and vacant, the women encounter two men dressed in radiant white. “5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.: (Lk 24:5-8)

And this brings us to where God was aiming, on Friday, when those horrifying words of betrayal were shouted by each one of us, with the gut wrenching enthusiasm of the crowds.

God carries of us from the time of the crucifixion to the revelation of God’s will, God’s love, God’s plan of redemption that called for, and calls for each of our ongoing participation.

And still God turns our expectations on their ears. Before today we saw death and the grave as the final, immutable destination of all of humanity, but this is no longer the case.

Nor does death have the power to separate us from the love of God any longer.

No longer does sin and seeking redemption, forgiveness dominate our lives and our actions, because we are forgiven.

The price has been paid, the sacrifice given, all for love of each one of us, for all who believe.

In today’s final act of the Passion of Christ, we find the grave empty. We find that Christ has risen. We find that all is as Jesus told us it would be, once we were reminded by the angel messengers, because in the midst of our grief, we forgot what we had been told.

So, now we have new life, and new hope and a new job, all because of the passion, death and now resurrection of Christ.

Like the women who went to the tomb, today, only to find it empty, we carry the message of Christ’s resurrection and we share it with the world.

“39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.” (Acts 10:39-40

We carry the words, the evidence of a new life, no longer dominated by the necessity of seeking forgiveness, and we share with all whom we meet the new hope found in the empty tomb, because Christ has risen from the grave.

“42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:42-43)

At the same time, as we carry this message, this news of Christ’s rising from the grave, this concept that there was nothing that we could do but accept the actions of God on our behalf, it’s a message that is hard to grasp, to understand, because we have gotten so good at castigating, chastening, criticizing, reprimanding ourselves.

“7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.
9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.” (Lk 24:7-10)

Even Jesus closest followers didn’t believe their ears when the women faithfully, and with a sense of wonder and joy that really doesn’t fit a sitting of Shiva, the Jewish mourning period of 7 days, as they faithfully and joyfully told them of Christ’s resurrection, and the words of the angel messengers.

“11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.” (Lk 24:11-12)

It wasn’t until they saw the empty grave for themselves that their hearts dared to begin to hope, once again.

And this is where we find ourselves, today.

In the past week, we hailed Jesus as King as he rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, and our hearts filled with joy.

We ate at the table when Jesus blessed and broke bread, and shared wine, establishing the new covenant with each of us. We were perplexed with the disciples when Jesus knelt at our feet and washed them.

We stood in the courtyard shouting “Crucify Him!” with the deluded crowds, and we walked with him to the Cross, where we watched him die, all of this for you, and for me.

What a week!

But today, today we are standing in the garden.

Today we see that the stone is rolled away, and our ears ring with the words of the angle messengers telling us “6 He is not here; he has risen!”

And now we are able to proclaim our joy to the heavens that God’s plan of redemption is here, before our eyes, and within our hearts.

A message to be shared with the world, every day, that Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen, Indeed.

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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