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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

“Morning’s Resurrection Song”

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Matthew 28.1-10
Easter Sunrise Service Year A

So what began in a wild wilderness ends in a green-ing garden. There was not an earthquake; there was no great light; nor was there a loud trumpet: instead, we have been brought here this morning by pure hope. Just when we thought there would be no more light in the Jerusalem sky, the Bright and Morning Star appeared, and the darkness has not overcome it. [1] Though sorrow may last through the night, joy inevitably comes in the morning. Rousing us from our slumber this early morning is not death’s hold on life, but the celebration of life made new; a new day, a new opportunity to seek and encounter the risen Christ.


The sun rose when we started singing our first hymn at the sunrise service on Easter morning.

We find ourselves here early in the morning, basking in the moment Christmas pointed to, the moment Holy Week obscured, the moment the tomb reveals. “On Easter morning we find the manger full of life; on Easter morning we find the tomb empty of death. We know the whole truth now, don’t we? We like Mary Magdalene on that first morning know that death is not the end, and that life as we know it is only the beginning of Life. In the events leading up to this moment— beginning with the Palms last Sunday, carrying through the foot washing on Thursday, into the death on Friday and the praying on Saturday— we have learned that there is no suffering from which we cannot rise. [2] It is the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning that delivers this hope, saying to us, “You go and tell the others. Now!”

But before those words emerge, these words were uttered, first by the angels, then by the risen Christ himself: “Do not be afraid.” This calming command comes from an authority laden with power that is beyond the scope of world -- a messenger who, this story tells us, rolled a huge stone, sat on it (maintaining a rather matter-of-fact posture, to be sure), shone like electricity, engendered such magnificence that the guards swooned, and then had the audacity to assert that there was nothing to fear. With no need for fear, the women are then instructed by the angel to move into their lives with swashbuckling abandon. We, too, are so instructed. Because God’s power has overturned all expectations in our world, we have nothing from which to coil into self-protection.

No longer is there reason to fear death; no longer must we hide from the darkness of life; no longer will we quake in anxious anticipation, awaiting the unknown.

At the heart of the angel’s message, and central to Jesus’s bold assurance against fear, is the message of a new life—an unprecedented way of being and existing in the world. Thomas Merton articulated this sentiment well: “Christianity is a first of all a way of life, rather than a way of thought. It is only by living the Christian life that we come to understand the full meaning of the Christian message. The meaning of this message, the meaning of the Easter morning, is precisely that God has come to dwell in humanity and to show, in humanity, that the sorrows, sufferings, and defeats inherent in human existence can’ never deprive [our] life of meaning as long as God is capable of deciding to live as a child of God and consents to let God live and triumph in our hearts.” Thus, to be a Christian, to be an Easter people, is not only to believe in Christ, but to live as Christ, and in a mysterious way, to become united with Christ.

 Morning’s Resurrection song is a greeting call, an invitation to not be afraid, but to engage our privilege, bearing witness to the good news that God through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is making all things new, even now, even in me and in you.

The story of resurrection is happening all around us. Recognition may require us to get outside the church, get our hands dirty in the garden that is the world, but if we pay attention, if we practice waking up to the God who is doing new things, we will be overwhelmed by the abundance of life unfolding before us, even presently, in our midst.

So friends, we come here, to the garden, not alone, but together, together in the promise and in the hope of the resurrection. We may have arrived tired and battered, holes worn through our shoes from walking through Holy Week, but we’ve made it. Waiting for us in this space and time is the very same person who met Mary then: the Risen Christ. This morning, together we hear the good news that Christ has been raised, not as an invitation to come to heaven when we die, but as a declaration that Christ himself is now living within and among us.

That my friends, that is where we leave this morning, staring a new reality in the eye, encountering a gaze that warms the heart, and a look that lavishes love on our weary souls. The story of Christ’s resurrection makes us mindful that every moment and every event of every person’s life on earth plants something in our soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest undetectably in the minds and hearts of all people.

Let us then live together in resurrection, acknowledging the return of joy, the echo of God’s life, as it walks among us.

[Adam Quine, First Presbyterian Church of Lincoln]



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