Preaching: Pastor Rebecca Henry
Date Presented: Sunday, April 16, 2017
Scripture Reference: Matthew 28:1-10
Sermon: Easter Sunday
Dr. Davis L. Dykes was a powerful and well-known United Methodist preacher back in the 70’s and 80’s. Not only was he serving a large church in Louisiana but thousands tuned in to hear him preach on TV. One Sunday he was preaching about worry and he wanted to tell the story of a man who had an interesting way of dealing with his problems. Before leaving work he would write his problems down on a piece of paper and then put it in a drawer in his desk. He didn’t want to take his problems home with him, but when he would get back to work he would take the card out and deal with his problems as best he could.
This was the story Dykes wanted to tell, but he had a hard time getting it out. He said, “I know this man who has a desk in his drawers. . .” At first the congregation snickered, but then they couldn’t contain it any longer and burst out laughing. The preacher turned to other worship leaders, puzzled, and asked, “What did I say?” They explained, and Dykes turned back to the congregation and said, “That’s not what I meant to say. I meant to say, ‘I know a man who has a desk in his drawers.’” Again, everyone started laughing. The poor preacher was so tongue-tied that week that this continued five times before he finally asked, “Does anyone have any idea what I am trying to say?”
We all have moments like that, moments where we say something we never meant to say; do something we didn’t intend to do. Only it isn’t always something we can just laugh away or casually dismiss. Sometimes what we have said or done has hurt someone or had devastating effects that we didn’t intend. The truth is we have all had those moments. We have those habits that we want to get rid of because we see the harm they cause.
It can hurt to see the harm we’ve caused, and sometimes we find ourselves dwelling on it, wishing we could take it all back, redo that moment in time. It can be hard to let it all go.
I think that is what we are witnessing in Matthew as we are told the two Mary’s have gone to look at the tomb; “To look at the tomb.” Why would they want to just look? Are they just trying to convince themselves that all of this is real? Are they replaying this past week in their minds as they absorb what has happened? Are they looking with regret at what has happened because of what they did, or for that matter, didn’t do? They had such good intentions, but in the end they cowered in fear. They stand there looking at the tomb, unable to let go of what has been said and done, the pain and suffering it caused Jesus.
Only that isn’t the end. The two Mary’s aren’t left staring at the tomb, a place of death, any more than we are left there. The earth shakes to wake us up, to get our attention. God moves heaven and earth to open the tomb and show the women, to show us, Christ is not dead. New life emerges from pain and suffering. Christ is free from the tomb as we too are set free from keeping vigil at places of our suffering. There is a new story to tell; a new mission to live; a new beginning and opportunity to faithfully serve Christ. The women are told to go and tell others, “Christ is alive!”
Notice, though, what Matthew tells us: “The women are afraid and full of joy.” They are in a hurry, ready to share the good news, and yet are still afraid. I think we all find ourselves in such moments. We want to be free of the past; we are eager to move, and yet unable to for fear we will repeat the same mistakes. We are filled with joy at the possibilities, the new beginning we are being given in a relationship, at work, with a project, and yet we are afraid of what might happen.
The women are sent forth with a new mission, but there is tension and suspense in the story, wondering if in joy they will tell others or will they fall silent because they are overcome with fear.
Only the good news that we hear today is that the Risen Christ meets the women along the way. There is no mention of the past, no judgments made about what has happened. Instead Jesus meets the women in the midst of their journey to remind them what they have been asked to do, to encourage them and give them assurance so they can overcome their fear, so they can be faithful to the Risen Christ.
Christ offers each one of us that same gift on our journey. There are moments of our past we want to leave behind. We want a fresh start to deepen to our faithfulness to Christ. We want to live lives where our witness to Christ is strong in every way, but it isn’t always easy. There are times we falter, where we feel torn in what to do, much like the women on Easter morning, but Christ meets us to encourage us, to remind us of the reason for our joy. Christ comes to remind us of the new life to which we are all called.
That is why we come here to this place. Here in these baptismal waters Christ meets us. We remember the new life we have through Christ, that the sins and destruction of our past have died, have been washed away. We are raised into a new life. Here we remember our mission to oppose forces of evil and destruction. In our journey Christ meets us here, and we remember the reason for our joy, the good news we are sent to deliver to all those who are still sitting in fear and sorrow – Christ the Lord is Risen! Alleluia! Amen!