Easter 2020
April 12, 2020

Easter 2020

Preacher:
Passage: Matthew 28:1-10, Jonah 1:17-2:10

Easter 2020
April 12, 2020
Rev. Fritz Nelson

Text: Matthew 28:1-10, Jonah 1:17-2:10

Did Jonah ever think he was going to get out from inside that fish? Sitting there in the dark, surrounded by whatever else happens to be in a fish’s stomach, holding his nose against the stench, trying not to puke, did Jonah ever think he was going to get out of that fish? Or did he think he was the victim of some cruel joke – rescued from the deep only to become food for the fish.

Or Lazarus, one of Jesus’ closest friends. Lazarus had seen Jesus raise people from the dead. Had Jesus been there during his sickness, Lazarus may have believed Jesus could make him well. But in the grave? In the tomb? Holding his nose against this own stench. Trying not to puke? Did Lazarus expect Jesus to come, to stand outside the tomb, to roll away the stone, to call him to new life?

Or Mary. Jesus had told her and the other disciples he would rise again in three days. But here she is, with the other women, early in the morning, carrying the spices, the shrouds, everything they needed to prepare Jesus for burial. Worried about the stone, the stench; they’ve had to delay preparations because of the Sabbath. The high priest had remembered Jesus’ predictions. He’d had the tomb sealed, had guards posted, afraid the disciples would try to steal the body. But the disciples had never heard – or in their grief and shock they’d forgotten. On Easter morning Mary expected Jesus to be in that tomb.

Or Jesus. Of course Jesus knew. Yet as he got nearer and nearer to the cross the pain, the agony, the betrayal and hurt began to overwhelm him. “Father,” he prays in the garden, blood dripping from his brow like sweat, “take this cup from me.” On the cross, the ancient, painful lament of Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” In the pain and agony of the moment resurrection seemed far away, an elusive hope, a distant dream.

When we’re in the grave its hard to imagine resurrection.

These last few weeks I’ve been thinking frequently of my friends in New York. My aunt, who lives in a retirement community just north of New York City, shared her grief over the death of a fellow resident – who contracted COVID-19 while taking her ailing husband to a local hospital. My cousin, who lives in New York City, writes how the constant wail of sirens somehow seems more ominous than usual, of how everyone knows someone who is sick, everyone knows someone who has died.

When we’re in the grave its hard to imagine resurrection.

I find I’m losing my own sense of “normal.” Calling around the congregation the other day every conversation seemed to focus on this ending. When will it end? How will we know its over? How will we know when its safe to gather again, to hug again, to dance again, to meet friends at McDonald's again, to gather around the table again? Columbiana’s deacons met the other day via computer. “What are your plans for when we are able to come back to worship together?” someone asked. I said something about wanting to have both congregations worship together and then have a huge feast of thanksgiving, but such a vision seemed very far away, impossible even, a hope so far off it will never come.

When we’re in the grave its hard to imagine resurrection.

“If Christ is raised from the dead,” intones the Apostle Paul, “how can some of you say there is no resurrection?” We know, just as Mary knew. Yet in her grief, in her tears, she and the other Mary went to visit the grave as countless women have gone to visit the graves of those they’ve lost. They expected the stone to be firmly in place. They expected to have issues with the guards. They expected to hold their noses against the stench. They expected to say the prayers, tend to the body, to cry their tears, and to go home to labor through their grief like generations of women had done before and generations of women would do since. Jesus has told them, but they can’t imagine it. Jesus has told them, but they couldn’t see it.

When we’re in the grave its hard to imagine resurrection.

As they arrive that morning the earth shakes. The guards collapse with fright. The stone rolls away and a triumphant angel, emitting the golden rays of the heavenly throne, sits upon it. The women tremble with fear, with amazement, with surprise, with anticipation. The voice of the angel: “He is not here. He is risen.” And then Jesus himself. “Greetings. Do not be afraid. Go and tell.”

As Mary was grieving her God was living. As Mary was hurting, her God was healing. As Mary struggled in her pit of despair, in her pit of no future, in her pit of “how am I going to get through this?” in her pit of “I don’t know what will happen!” in her pit of “how can I do tomorrow?” in her pit, in our pit, of fear, anxiety, sickness, death; as Mary struggled, as Jonah struggled, as we struggle, our Lord brings deliverance.

“Deliverance belongs to the Lord,” Jonah prays. The Lord speaks and the fish spews Jonah out on dry land.

When we’re in the grave its hard to imagine resurrection. But Easter always comes.

Amen

 

 

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