Sunday, April 24, 2011

Surprise Greetings (Easter Sermon)

Easter Sunday- Late Service
24 April 2011

Matthew 28:1-10

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

            When I was prepping for this sermon, each time I read today’s gospel, it made me laugh. Not the part about the earthquake or the angel or the guards who appear dead. No giggling at the women who dare to show up when the disciples are still afraid and in hiding. Jesus makes me laugh.

            How does Matthew record Jesus’ words to the two Marys? They are hurrying back to find the disciples and “suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings.’” I come from a family that loved to scare one another. Nothing was better than hiding, even if you had to wait 20 minutes in an uncomfortable position, so that you could jump out and get a squeal from a sibling or, even better, my dad. You can ask my husband sometime if I’ve outgrown that.

            Anyway, that’s what I imagine Jesus doing. Seeing the Marys coming down the road, hiding behind a tree and then jumping out, “Greetings!” The way Matthew records “greetings” is with a word that is sometimes translated as “Hail” or “Rejoice”. It’s basically like our “hello”, which we vary by saying “Hi” or “What’s up” or “Yo”.

            When I’m not picturing Jesus jumping out from behind a tree, I imagine him leaning against a tree, waiting for the women to pass him. They do a double-take and he says, “Fancy meeting you here.” Okay, maybe he wouldn’t say that, but more gently in a Savior-like way greet them with a “Good morning.” Anything has to be better than “Greetings”, which sounds a little science-fiction-y.

            Anyway, however it is that Jesus greets them, the women fall down and grab his feet. Do you know why? Ghosts don’t have feet. They’re stunned, falling down in front of him and grabbing a part of him that will have to be solid and real, if he’s actually alive.

            When they are assured and Jesus has pulled them back to their feet, I imagine they can’t stop talking. They can’t stop praising God and worshipping Jesus. Many of the questions they had no longer matter now that the answer is standing in front of them. And so Jesus reiterates what the angel told them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell the disciples that I am waiting for them in Galilee.”

            Except Jesus doesn’t say disciples like the angel did, he says, “Tell my brothers.” Where are the disciples right now? They are hiding somewhere, afraid for their own lives. We haven’t seen most of them since the Garden of Gethsemane. If the two women show up and announce to them that Jesus is alive and waiting for them in Galilee and they’re hiding in Jerusalem… what kind of image do you think will be in their heads?

            They will be afraid that he’s waiting, impatiently, for them in Galilee, tapping his foot and looking at a sundial, wondering why he bothered with such a group of doubters. So Jesus gives the Marys a specific message with specific words, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

            By using the word “brothers”, Jesus makes it clear that not only are there no hard feelings, but that everything is different now. In the light of the resurrection, the relationship has changed from Teacher and followers to a new family of God. The Marys are not only carrying the message of resurrection, they are carrying a message of reconciliation, a message of healing and hope, of renewed possibility.

            And I think that’s part of what most of us need to hear on this Easter Sunday. It is easy to come and feel guilty about many things in your life. I’m not saying that because I think you should feel guilty. I’m saying it because my experience is that many of you do feel guilty both for things you can change and for things that you can’t.

            And when you are overcome with that kind of darkness, even around the edges. It’s easy to have the same picture of Jesus in your head as the disciples. One of a man- tapping his foot, eyebrow cocked, waiting for you to show up and get it right.

            But that’s not who Jesus is. Not before the resurrection and certainly not after. The good news of Easter is that we are now called brothers and sisters, children of God, Easter people. The reality of resurrection in our lives is that Jesus meets on every road we walk. Sometimes he jumps out at us and we are surprised. Sometimes we don’t remember passing him until we think back. Sometimes we realize that he’s been keeping us company all along.

            The power of darkness could not keep him in the tomb. The mistakes and worry of the disciples could not prevent the resurrection. Our questions, our doubts, our wrestling, cannot stop the risen Christ from acting in, around and through us. Easter people hold fast to the truth that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not, cannot, will not overcome it.

            There is no frustrated, foot-tapping Jesus. There is only the risen Son of God, arms open, welcoming, calling softly and tenderly,  “Greetings. Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers and sisters that I am waiting for them.” Brothers and sisters, you have a home. You have a family.



Alleluia! Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia. 


angela said...

He is Risen Indeed!! I was thinking along the same lines a little when I wrote my sermon. Yours made me smile. That was the challenge to stay on topic on Easter celebration when everyone was chock-full of chocolate! Happy Easter.

Jennifer said...

Love this sermon! Blessings to you in Eastertide.

revkjarla said...

I also love that you said "ghosts don't have feet" and that "greetings" sounds a little science fictiony!

great sermon!