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Easter Sunday 2022

Sunday, April 17, 2022:
Acts 10:34-43
Luke 24:1-12

Time and memory feel strange these days, I find… It’s our first in-person Easter celebration in over two years. And I’m not sure what it feels like for you. Maybe time has flown by, as it sometimes feels, in a sort of haze. Or maybe it’s felt long, and dragged-out, and today stands out as markedly different. I recall that first, anxiety-infused Easter, reading the very different resurrection story from John, where Mary Magdalene has that interaction with the risen Jesus, thinking he was the gardener. At that time we were very much more confined to our homes, and I recall even being told not even to drive to a park in a different neighbourhood, if we wanted a walk; just contain the virus to our home’s own walking-distance radius. So that story of the face-to-face reunion of Mary and Jesus, reflecting their deep relationship, spoke to me in a new way.

This year’s chosen resurrection story, from a different Gospel, also speaks to the present moment, I find. It’s not quite the heartfelt, intimate portrait of two friends, like in John, but describes a larger group: Three women — Mary Magdalene, Joanna, another Mary — and, we’re told, unnamed and uncounted others; two angels; eleven doubting disciples. Plus one running Peter, a very empty tomb (and a partridge in a pear tree). For Luke, he starts off his discovery of the resurrection of Jesus with a larger gathering, just as we, in recent weeks, have come again to experience the same.

And yet, I also see some connection between this snapshot of Luke’s first Easter with the Easter of 2022 in other ways: the women are, we read, “perplexed” about what they’ve discovered. Perhaps mirroring our perplexity at how we think it wisest to engage with others right now. Or perplexity at how to meet the challenges and threats of a fragile world situation: whether it’s economics, health, housing, or violence.

We read on, and upon seeing the angels, the witnesses are “terrified.” Some people these days are not just perplexed, but scared.

So the glimpse of the resurrection that we have here in Luke 24 is an interesting one: an empty tomb, and the commending of a message of hope and reassurance: “He is not here; he is risen.” But at this point there’s not yet a reunion with Jesus; just the message. No transfigured body; just the set aside linen cloths. And the feeling is confusion, fear, and subsequently some discord within the community. Though there’s also a reminder of past words: the angels remind the women of how Jesus had apparently quite clearly forecast all this. And there’s an understanding figure in the person of Peter, who listens to the women, and is intrigued and hopeful enough to run to the tomb himself.

The million-dollar word that comes to mind here is “liminal.” Meaning an in-between time. “Liminal,” as in the limit, or boundary, of one thing comes up against the limit of another, like a front porch or doorway. In province and community there seems much more we can do; much more planning we can do for our summer holidays, compared to the last two years. We even see it in our liturgy: singing in procession, as we began and as we’ll end, was just recently made possible again in our diocese. And yet things are not back to normal; things are not perfect. We’re not ‘there’ yet. And we’re sometimes perplexed, or anxious. We’re in an in-between time. And alongside this, appropriately, a resurrection story that is tempered and somewhat incomplete (and it’s not the end of Luke’s story yet). There are times when we seem to be lacking the fullness of joy — that reunion with the risen Christ — that we so desire, and yet all that might be available in the moment is a reminder of the message that has been commended to us (as the angels remind the women of Jesus’s words); or an understanding friend (like Peter, who goes to the tomb); or maybe even just a flicker of faith and hope (like when the women seeing the stone rolled away, and the linen cloths set off to the side). It may not be perfect, but it’s the grace given to us. And not yet the end of the story.

Some have described, in very stark and simple terms, what Holy Week and Easter are about: The world (represented by the religious and civic authorities in the Passion story) says no to Jesus. That’s Good Friday. On Easter Day we celebrate that God has said no to that no. And has said yes to Jesus. The various resurrection stories in the Gospels show different people in the early stages of realizing that these no’s and yes’s have happened. Some, it seems, were chosen to receive a direct appearance by the risen Christ. Others may simply have received reports. Some had to wait for their own experience. But they, and us — many years later — maybe struggling to understand what the resurrection looked like, or how exactly Jesus’s death achieved something (…something very good, on a cosmic scale), we’re all being drawn into a mystery that says that God has said no to the tomb (and all it represents), and has said yes to Jesus, and all that he did and does represent. The message we, as Church, have been given, is that things have changed because of Easter. And as Peter preached in our first reading, the one they crucified is now “the one ordained by God as judge of the living and dead,” now that God has said no to the world’s no, and said yes to Jesus.

We may not, in our lifetimes, get quite the experience that some of the gospel characters did: of experiencing the risen Jesus in an obvious, face-to-face way. But we are inheritors of this message of God saying no to death and yes to a new way. And while our hope and joy might be tempered, or paired with perplexity and anxiousness, we’re called to open ourselves up to the new way of being that the first Easter inaugurated. That new way of being is the baptized life; thinking of the baptismal liturgy, with its no’s to sin and evil, and its yes’s to God, to love of neighbour, to repentance and forgiveness, and to responsible, mindful life in the world.

So here we are today: with a somewhat tempered resurrection story. And in our day-to-day life, in a liminal, in-between stage. Confusion, anxiousness, but still, a message of hope. Of God saying no to our no. Yes to Jesus, and through him, yes to us. And whether we exist with every freedom imaginable, or within certain limits on our actions or on our joy, we are still called to participate in the risen life of Jesus. By living out our baptism. In the breaking of bread and in the prayers. In seeking to serve God in our neighbour. And when we struggle, repent and return to the Lord, finding our no transformed by God’s yes. Amen.

&copy: 2022 The Rev’d Matthew Kieswetter