Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
The four gospel accounts of the Easter event vary in their details, but one thing is clear: the events of that morning were shocking to every person who came to the tomb. The women came to that place expecting to find the body of the man they had known and loved. They came to that place expecting to care for the dead body of the man they mourned. They knew the end of the story, and they expected that the days and years of their mourning would unfold according to the normal rhythm of their lives in community. Instead they and the men who came to check out their stories found a situation that turned their lives upside down. In the stories told by Matthew, Luke and John, we hear that the women who came to the tomb told their stories to others, who came to see for themselves and then went out into the world, telling the story, testifying to what they had seen.
This morning we hear a story with a different ending. In the gospel told by Mark, perhaps the earliest account, we are told that three women go to the tomb. As they walk through the dark, cold morning, they are wondering who will roll back the stone so that they can prepare Jesus’ body for burial, but when they reach the tomb, they find that the stone has already been removed. A young man, dressed in a white robe, is sitting inside the tomb, to the right of the place where Jesus’ body had been laid. The women are alarmed. The young man tells them to tell the disciples that Jesus will meet them in Galilee, and they run from the tomb, so filled with fear that they tell no one at all about what they have seen.
Last evening, I found out I had more in common with the women at the tomb than I had imagined. I had also been mourning, in a different kind of way. Last year, each Sunday of Lent was marked by the hanging of a letter outside the door of the church. On Easter, those letters, which had puzzled so many of us over the weeks, were finally arranged so that we could see them spelling out WONDER. I have missed having a hanging outside our door this year and have had a few wistful thoughts about asking Jani to bring back the hanging that held so much meaning for me. Then, last night, I came to the church to prepare for the Great Vigil. As I walked toward the front door, I looked up and saw the new hanging. In case you didn’t notice it on your way in, the new hanging says Testify! This is not a word we hear very often in the Episcopal Church. It’s not a word we use when we talk about our faith. It’s not a word we use when we talk about our experience of the Holy. It’s not a word we use when we talk about an encounter with the risen Christ in the face or hands or words of someone whose life has touched our own. It’s not a word we use, and, as our artist, Jani Wild, suggests, perhaps it’s time we reclaim it. As you leave this morning, you’ll see words on this side also: Tell your truth
Our truth begins with the reality that we are here—each one of us—because someone along the way has testified to us. Someone along the way has borne witness to the resurrection in their own life. The long line of witness begins with the testimony of those who were there on that morning so long ago, and we who gather this morning find ourselves with a choice to make that we couldn’t have anticipated.
Just like the women who came to the tomb so long ago, we come here this morning with our own expectations. We come to shout the alleluias once again—to sing beloved Easter anthems once more. We come to hear the music, to celebrate our faith in the pattern we’ve established with the people of this community. Perhaps someone comes with hope, entering a new community where welcome might be found. Perhaps someone comes with gratitude for the gifts this parish family has given. Perhaps someone is here just because this is what we’ve always done, and perhaps someone is here because this is what you’ve never done. Whatever our situation or our expectations, most of us are pretty sure we know the range of possibilities for our experience this morning. After all, we know the end of the story.
We do know the end of the story, don’t we? Maybe. Maybe not.
If the Resurrection was a historical event that occurred 2000 years ago, we can perhaps tell ourselves that we know the end of the story. But, if the Resurrection is part of God’s ongoing work of creation, then we’ll never know the end of the story. If the Resurrection is part of God’s ongoing gift to us, we can expect that new life will continue to break forth into our darkness. We can expect that all things will continually be made new again. We can expect that the same force that transformed the fear those long-ago women felt as they ran from the tomb and ultimately gave them voices to tell the story we hear today can also transform our own fear. We can expect that God’s action in our lives will continue to shock, amaze, perplex and delight us.
Dearly beloved, come to the tomb.
And leave this place to tell others what you have found—to testify to your own Easter story. Go out to tell your own story of lives made new and hearts made whole again. Go out to tell your own story of God’s love made flesh in a human being who died because he wouldn’t stop telling his truth. Go out to tell your own story about the risen Christ whose presence with us brings new light and hope to our lives. Testify if you dare—tell your own truth about the power of God’s love in this world today.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
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