Text: Acts 10: 34-36; John 20: 1,3, 16
Listen to the silence, the silence of a graveyard in the early dawn; the silence of a woman coming alone, numbed speechless by grief…a Easter crowd of one.
Then Peter and one more disciple join her; an Easter crowd of three. The count on that first day when Jesus’ tomb was found empty! Three, only three! as reported in John’s Gospel.
Not a count that makes headline news today when what counts is a stadium filled beyond the capacity it is built to hold; or a parade or rally covering the pavements, jamming the streets, with more people hanging out of windows, too many to get an accurate count, so a square foot grid is made of a selected spot, then multiplied by the footage of the crowded-covered space. That’s what qualifies as a crowd today; not the first Easter’s count – according to the Gospel writer John who reports an Easter crowd of three!
It’s a joy-filled count for people like us who come to an early Easter service where there is plenty of room, maybe too much emptiness to get in the mood to celebrate Easter…so we may think.
And yet, this is how Easter began. Mary Magdalene – as we will sing, came to the Garden alone; perhaps as you are coming today, alone in grief as new as the dawn of this new day, or a grief that has been with you, suppressed for years, that hounds and lurks in the shadows, subconsciously making you unable to trust God and affecting relationship with others, feeling an emptiness you are trying to fill in ways that prove to be fleeting, not lasting.
The two who joined her filled their emptiness with doubt; they couldn’t believe what Jesus had promised God would do, God had just done, that God was laughing in the face of death, that God was bringing down the world’s vicious, heartless people, that God was having the last word…
which the three would come to believe and make their life’s witness.
On this Sunday we listen as Mary Magdalene’s grief is overcome by an amazing sight: Jesus standing before her, the real Jesus, Who has her filling her emptiness with her exclamation, “Rabbouni!” (my Teacher)
– from weeping to witnessing!
On this Easter Sunday we pull Peter’s first after-Easter sermon from the pages of history to echo into our minds and hearts:
“I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all.”
The first Easter crowd of three wait to break into our grief and doubt today – a day that has so many reasons to grieve private deaths and very public ones that make it hard to watch the daily news, and so much proof to doubt in someone else and in ourselves! So much grief and doubt to project onto God.
All reasons to come to the garden with its Easter crowd of three who found that the wonder of that morning was not an empty tomb,
but the affect it had on them…and is having on some who
become living proof for all who are grieving and doubting.
Christians who in the rubble of a Syrian city spread a table with bread and cup and receiving say, “peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all.”
A recovering drug addict and alcoholic coming to the Easter table confessing, “Rabbouni!” (my Teacher) who gives the strength to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Somewhere today Mary’s confession and Peter’s sermon are helping someone believe through their witness,
and like them becoming a witness.
A seminary student who was being tested on preaching, stood before the professor and classmates and nervously asked,
“Do you know what I am going to say?” All of them shook their heads “no” and he said “Neither do I. The service has ended. Go in peace.”
The professor ordered him to try again, and he said,
“Do you know what I am going to say?” The students all nodded their heads “yes.” “Then there is no reason to tell you.” he said. “The service has ended. Go in peace.”
When the professor gave him a third chance to try to pass preaching, he said,
“Do you know what I am going to say?” Half of the students nodded “yes” and the other half shook their heads “no.” He then announced “Those who know, tell those who don’t know. The service has ended. Go in peace.”
The professor’s response was,
“Those who know, tell those who don’t know. Today, the gospel has been proclaimed.”
(Steven Molin, Four Truths and a Lie)
That first Easter crowd of three according to the count of the Gospel writer John, wait to “tell those who don’t know,” and in that telling chase the grief and the doubt around us and within us, giving us the trust to shout:
‘The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!’ AMEN.
Title: “CLOTHED IN A NEW SELF-ONE SIZE FITS ALL” (10:45) Text: Colossians 3: 10-11; Matthew 28; 7
One of those Facebook photos that asks, “Do you remember when?” shows little girls wearing frilly dresses, flower decorated hats, and hands covered in white gloves, all ready for Easter…back there, then.
Easter: a time to “dress to the nines” – to dress elegantly for an elaborate occasion, which for some is a fading tradition, to the worry of the garment industry and marketers, in part because it’s gotten too expense to “dress to the nines,” while for others today’s style is to go casual.
The good news is, the best Easter outfit is free and marketed in the words we just heard: clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. The first to be outfitted were adults who made the confession: “Jesus is Lord!” and then were brought to a Baptismal pool where their old clothes were removed, water was poured over them three times ("In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.") and they were dressed in a new white robe, meant to remind each and every Christian, and today reminds us, baptized and confirmed Christians, that, like them, we are dressed in the new life of Christ;
a one-size-fits-all garment, with words from today’s letter, attached to the robe, announcing the garment’s guarantee: there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
The Easter outfit that dressed us “to the nines,” clothing us in the elegance of the life of Christ.
The interesting detail from the early church is: when the newly baptized person was the head of the household, everyone else – adults children, servants, were included. The garment of Christ’s life became the dress code for everyone; all were clothed in the garment of Christ’s life, and each became an announcement of the presence of the Risen Christ.
It was the profound truth broadcast in the Easter morning report, “He is not here,” “he goes ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” “There you will see him.”… there in those who put on the garment of the Risen
Christ, dressed to be a people who are all one in Christ,
a people through whom Christ lives out His life.
Like a commentator at a fashion show, reviewing the models as they walk by on display, Mark Galli says,
“The great miracle that the Gospel proclaims is not merely that Christ lived bodily after the Crucifixion but that he lives dynamically in us today…an even greater miracle: Christ in us…” (“The Most Astonishing Easter Miracle,” Mark Galli, Christianity Today, April, 2017, p. 31)
Where in the Galilees of today, the real life places lying in ruins, the chaos in public life, the crises in our personal lives, deathbed scenes that will bring some to new tombs; where in it all do we meet the Risen Christ now seen in a person clothed in a new self, wearing the garment that is one size which fits all, with the label reading: Christ is all and in all?
One person has spotted Christ in Terri Roberts, the mother of her terribly disturbed son who locked himself in an Amish school house, fired on ten children, killing five, wounding five, then turned the gun on himself.
Witnessing the Amish wearing Christ’s robe that dresses them to act with forgiveness and care for her widowed daughter-in-law and grandchildren, Terri has put on the garment of Christ to serve as a little Christ to Rosanna, one of the survivors but unable to talk, walk, or feed herself. (“The Word in Season,” Augsburg Fortress devotional for April 18, 2017)
Where might you see someone modeling that garment today, or better yet, might you be that baptized-confirmed person someone else sees wearing the robe of new life in Christ, the Easter outfit that dresses us “to the nines?”
Come, to the Easter table of Holy Communion clothed in the robe of the Risen Christ, intentionally choosing the garment of His life, knowing one size fits all. Amen.