Easter Vigil, Year A 12 April 2020
Rev Kate McDonald
Genesis 1.1-2.4a; Exodus 14.10-31, 15.20-21; Isaiah 55.1-11; Romans 6.3-11; Matthew 28.1-10
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
Greetings to you all on this Easter morning. I hope this may be a day when you know the joy of the risen Christ, and I look forward to the time when we may once again share that joy with one another in person.
Let us pray:
Eternal Giver of life and light, this holy night shines with the radiance of the risen Christ. Renew your Church with the Spirit given to us in baptism, that we may worship you in sincerity and truth, and shine as a light in the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the tomb.
I’ll confess that as I was thinking about what to say to you all this morning, I felt incredible sadness that we wouldn’t be able to gather together to celebrate Easter this year. We have become accustomed to worshipping as a community, and I miss praying with you, I miss your singing, I miss hearing you read the scriptures. I miss sharing in communion together. I just miss you!
So I began this morning’s reflection feeling that loss, and a loneliness on this holy day, as all of us are worshipping from our homes, separated from one another. Maybe you’re feeling it too.
But as I turned again to our gospel reading, I began to see the scene of that first Easter differently.
Of course Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were feeling loss too. Grief is very much a part of the Easter story as they mourned the death of their friend, teacher and prophet, the man they called Lord.
But notice the other absence in the first sentence of our reading. The absence of community. Who was there that first Easter? Not crowds. Not pray-ers. Not the male disciples. Only two women … two women … and some soldiers who were patrolling the area to ensure there was no unlawful coming and going.”
“Maybe this is sounding a bit more familiar to us in these days?
And those two women came just wanting to see the tomb. Matthew doesn’t tell us they were carrying spices to anoint Jesus’ body, he leave that detail to Mark and Luke. They’re just there.
Who knows what they were expecting to do, what they were expecting to see, how they expected to feel when they arrived. What’s most important for Matthew is that they show up, that they come at all.
So they’re there. And there’s an earthquake and an angel and an empty tomb. And those two women, on their own, separate from their community, thus become witnesses to the most wondrous and profound event of our faith.
On most Easters, our services are marked by triumphant exuberant joy. But these are anxious, uncertain times. So maybe we’re struggling to feel joyful this morning. Maybe we feel it, but it’s tempered by the pain around us. Maybe we think our joy is inappropriate when there’s so much suffering in the world. Maybe we feel a mix of emotions. Or we just don’t know how we feel.
But think back to that first Easter that Matthew tells us about. After the angel has told the women Jesus has been raised from the dead and they are to proclaim this news to the rest of the disciples, what was their response? Joy … and fear. Joy, no doubt, at the news their Lord was risen and would be amongst them once more … and fear, perhaps, of what the implications of that might be in a world which still felt very uncertain.
And it’s there, in the midst of their joy and fear, Jesus met them, greeted them, repeated the words of the angel: ‘Do not be afraid.’
We know that there is still pain and suffering and death in our world this side of the resurrection. So when Jesus says, ‘Do not be afraid,’ he isn’t promising that bad things won’t happen. He isn’t telling us that nothing can go wrong. He isn’t assuring us that everything will turn out for the best.
What he is saying, is that whatever we are feeling, he meets us in the midst of it. Whatever we face, we do not face alone. Whatever happens, nothing is stronger than God’s love. God’s love gets the final word. God’s love will triumph. Do not be afraid, he says.
With these words, Jesus sent the women to go share the good news with his disciples, to report what they have seen, and to tell the disciples he will meet them in Galilee.
Of course the Galilee is where Jesus lived and walked and ministered. Where he healed the sick and calmed the storm and preached from the mountain. The Galilee is where he told stories and shared food and proclaimed forgiveness. It is where his followers caught glimpses of the kingdom he promised was near.
The Galilee is where he and the disciples first met. The Galilee was the starting point for their journey together. Because the Galilee was the place his disciples called home.
What Jesus is saying to the women is: Go tell the men to go home. There I will meet them.
This Easter looks very different from Easters we have experienced before.
So perhaps this is just the reminder of the good news we need, that to bear witness to the resurrected Christ, all that is required is that we show up … carrying whatever we are carrying, expecting whatever we are expecting, feeling whatever we are feeling. In our joy. In our fear. In the garden. In our homes. Our Lord meets us there. Christ is risen. Alleluia.
Will you join me in saying the prayer our Saviour taught us:
Our Father, who art in heaven hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread And forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
forever and ever. Amen.
The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the eternal covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.