Updated: Apr 19
created by Hanna Garrity,
used with permission via SanctifiedArts
Easter morning brings us to the culmination of our journey through Lent. We’ve travelled through the 40 days of Lent, and this week, we have traveled through Holy Week – from the Hosannas of Palm Sunday, to the tension of the table at the Last Supper, into the agony of Jesus’ prayer in Garden of Gethsemane – his arrest, and trial, and crucifixion. We left this place on Good Friday, in the dark of night.
Easter is the culmination of all that. We gather here on Easter morning, at what might feel like the completion of a journey – only to find that we are standing at a new beginning.
But I get ahead of myself. We haven’t talked about how we got here.
Let’s step back just a bit – back to where the story left off on Friday. And let’s travel together into this Easter morning – with this group of women who have come to the tomb. Let’s travel with these women – because they have been travelling with Jesus all along.
We know that because way back in chapter 8 of Luke, the women get a mention. Back near the beginning of the story, it says that Jesus travels from one village to another with the disciples and with some women who have experienced Jesus’ healing power. These women are with Jesus all along the way – and not only that – we’re told that they are supporting Jesus out of their own means. They are financing his ministry. These women have been travelling with Jesus all along – they are all in.
And they are there at the cross – when all is said and done – when all the others have gone home – there they are – “the women who have followed Jesus from Galilee” – standing at a distance watching all these things. A man named Joseph from Arimathea comes – a good man, Scripture says, who had opposed the decision to turn Jesus over to Rome. Joseph goes to Pilate, and gets permission to take Jesus’ body. So, as the women watch, Joseph takes Jesus down from the cross, wraps the body in linen cloth, and takes it to a tomb, and the women go with. “These women who had followed Jesus from Galilee” now follow Jesus’ body, all the way to the tomb.
And then they go home, because it’s almost Sabbath, and, there, they prepare spices and perfumes to take the next day. They do what they can. We know what that looks like – in those moments and first days after loss – when the inexplicable has happened – when a loved one is gone. We do what we can. We make food for the family. Food for after the service. We hold a hand. These women who had followed Jesus from Galilee, follow him to the end. In the hushed murmurs of home, they go through the motions – they mix spices together – and perfumes. They do what they can. And then it’s Sabbath, and the world rests.
Then, in the deep dawn of the next day, the third day, they set out for the tomb – before there is light enough to see – with those spices and perfumes – the women make their way – to tend Jesus’ body with the dignity he was denied on the cross – to wash his body with perfumes, no doubt now mingled with a few tears.
But what the women find when they arrive – is the stone rolled away. What they find when they go in – is an empty tomb.
What they don’t find is a body.
And while they are confused and perplexed – wondering what this means – what has happened – there appear two men in dazzling clothing – and they ask the question upon which the world now pivots: “Why are you looking for the Living One among the dead? He is not here. He has been raised. He is risen!” (I imagine jaws drop.)
And then the messengers say this: “Remember. Remember what he told you – how the Human One must be delivered into the hands of broken humanity, and die, and on the third day be raised again. Remember.”
Now, remember, the women have been with Jesus all along. They remember it all. They remember that moment when Jesus stood up and unrolled the scroll, and said, “The spirit of God is upon me to bring good news to the poor, release for the prisoner, freedom for all who are oppressed, and to announce God’s cancelling of every debt.” They remember how the crowd tried then to throw him off a cliff. They remember the teaching – the parable of the parent who welcomes back the child who has left home; they remember the one about the Good Samaritan who saved a life when no one else would. They remember all those meals – when Jesus insisted on eating with folks who no one else would invite to the table – sinners, and tax collectors, even Pharisees. They remember the blessings – blessed are you who are poor; blessed you who weep. They remember all the healings. The healing – that’s not just something they’ve seen – these women who have followed Jesus from Galilee, scripture says, they have experienced Jesus’ healing power themselves – in their bodies, in their spirits. They remember with their whole selves.
They remember how Jesus entered into Jerusalem and provoked the powers. They saw the powers plot and try to trap him. They remember the arrest, and the trumped-up trial. They remember crucifixion. Yes, the women who have been with Jesus all along, they remember how he said, “The Human One must be handed over to broken humanity, and be killed, and then on the third day, will be raised again.”
Remember. He is not here. He is risen!
The women come to the tomb and what they don’t find is death.
What they do find is life – what they find is life stretching out before them more expansively than they ever imagined – reaching out to the whole world – all the way out into forever. We know what happens next – the women go and tell the apostles – the men – and the men don’t believe the women – they think it an idle tale. To which, I can only say: Typical.
But we know that the Word these women bring is life. They remember, and they are living it now. We will see that life roll on – as Peter goes to the tomb – as others experience the Risen Christ – as the Spirit of Christ comes to live in the community gathered at Pentecost. We know that the Good News of Resurrection radiates out from there – out into the whole world – on down through the generations – all the way to us.
In Resurrection, Jesus draws us out into this expansive life – not just life in and for this present moment –and Resurrection surely gives us that – but also life that stretches out into forever. Justo Gonzalez talks about this as “a future we can live from” – a future intricately connected to the life we live now – all of it Resurrection – one whole life.
There’s an ancient way of talking about the causes of things in terms of “material causes” and “final causes.”
· “Material causes” (or “effective causes”) are what we usually think of as the cause of events: I tripped on this step, and that caused me to fall down. We can look back at the past and see how we got here.
· “Final causes” look to the future – a future of purpose – a goal – that causes us to live life differently now. We might say “I’m working for a cause – for the cause of anti-racism” – and so I live differently now.
We tend to think of how the past pushes us forward, but in this sense, the future pulls us forward toward an ultimate goal – a “future we can live from.”
Earlier this year, the Transitions Support Group read Congressman John Lewis’s Across That Bridge, which is part memoir, and part visionary encouragement. As you probably know, John Lewis was a Civil Rights leader from his student days in the 1960s, until his recent death in 2020. He was there with Dr. King, there at Selma, there as a Freedom Rider.
In the book, Congressman Lewis describes the overt hatred they faced in those days of resistance. But John Lewis explains that they endured all that, persevered through all that – because they were convinced of a future. Lewis and King and so many others saw a future that was already true. They believed, Lewis writes, and lived as if the promises of America are real now. In the midst of massive resistance to civil rights, they saw a world where all people are created equal, and all people experience the equal protection of law – and they lived that way now. Lewis said it’s all about “knowing in the solid core of your soul that the work is already done,... [it’s about] being so sure of what the spirit has whispered in your heart that your belief in its eventuality is unshakeable. Nothing can make you doubt that what you have heard will become a reality. Even if you do not live to see it come to pass, you know without one doubt that it will be.” They saw a future they could live from, and they lived that life now, and they transformed the world.
I’m still trying to get my head around this next example – but thought I’d share it anyway. Last week, Jeff and I watched the 60 Minutes interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. I’m amazed at his courage. He has a clear vision of a future for his people – a future where Ukrainians once again walk their city streets, take their kids to school, go to work, and tend and care for those they love... in peace. It is a future he is living from... and risking his life for... and at least in this moment, he – and so many with him – have held back an empire at the city gates.
This “future we can live from” is what Mary sings in the Magnificat – as she thinks of what God has done and what God will do – God has scattered the proud and brought down rulers – God is lifting up the lowly and filling the hungry with good things. In a world of empire, she sings a glimpse of God’s reign – a glimpse of Resurrection. And all that, Mary sings, God is now doing in me, here and now, in this one we will call the Christ.
In Resurrection, Jesus draws us out into expansive life, and gives us a future we can live from – a future so good, and worthy, and overflowing that it transforms how we live our life today.
This is true not only in the movements of our day, but in our everyday lives.
We see a world where we know and hope that our children someday will lead us in their fullness – that their love and wisdom and character will shape this world. Living from that future, we shape our lives to nourish theirs. That’s why we put our children’s time at the center of our worship, and take time to talk with them and hear from them.
We see a world where everyone is made in the image of God, a world that honors and values the dignity of each person. And so we live our lives now to extend welcome and hospitality to everyone – living the life of inclusive community. We say, “Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, there is a place for you here” – as both expansive welcome and accountability – that we might welcome here all whom Christ welcomes. Everyone.
This future we live from – we know it from our lives.
About a year ago, my Dad was making the move from hospital to hospice care. The hospice folks would come around – and we love hospice folks – they would come around and ask him, as hospice folks do, “What is your goal? What is your goal for these days?” And my Dad, clearly and consistently would respond, every time: “My goal is to go home and be with my family, and then go home and be with Jesus.” He said that every time – well, every time but once – when he was asked the question for about the 7th time that day, “Colonel Clark, what is your goal?” He looked up and said, “My goal is to go home and watch the Masters Tournament on my big screen TV.” Again and again, when asked, what is your goal? -- My Father said, “My goal is to go home and be with my family, and then go home to be with Jesus.” With that answer, he remembered, and he offered us a future to live from, and he transformed the way that we lived those days.
When the women head out that morning, in the deep dawn, they know how the story always ends – the old story. The powers have the all the power. When the people rise up seeking food for the hungry and freedom for the oppressed – the powers fight back – and the powers too often win. The powers respond with violence, and they beat down and kill those who oppose them. And, so, you do what you can, you love them to the end.
Resurrection closes the book on that old story. In Resurrection, just when we think we have reached the end of the journey, we find that we are standing at a new beginning – standing in the dawn of God’s new day – a new story – a new creation – Easter morning – that moment when everything that lies ahead is life. Resurrection is a present reality – right here, right now – and it is a promise for life forever.
In Resurrection, Rome doesn’t win. In Resurrection, we see God bringing down every power that does us harm, and so in the lives we live now, we roll up our sleeves and join the work of dismantling the systems of oppression that harm so many.
In Resurrection, sorrow never has the last word. In Resurrection, we see God wiping away every tear, and so in the lives we live now, as we weep for a time, we come alongside each other with love and tender mercy, and even in those moments beyond understanding – we do what we can.