April 17, 2022- Easter Sunday: Sermon Preached by The Rev. Carolyn H. Eklund

Year C; Easter Sunday.FB; 4.17.2022

Luke 24:1-12

Alleluia! Christ is risen!         The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

It was morning. The first streaks of yellow-pink morning light started to burst in the eastern sky. We all know of a morning sky that looks like that here in Maine! Before their sabbath rest, the women, duty-bound, faithful, loving Jewish women, went to buy spices and ointments and worked to prepare those ointments, oils and spices to have them ready when sabbath ended. Their plan was to clean, anoint and minister to Jesus’ body that morning.

I resonate joyfully with the late Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Luke’s resurrection passage in “The Message.”

“At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared. They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in. But once inside, they couldn’t find the body of the Master Jesus. They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said, ‘Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up.”

My friends, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is brought to you by the women and the women only. In each of the gospels, maybe a different assortment of women was there at the empty tomb. And the women were at Jesus’ feet at his death. And rather than scatter like the men did, the women gathered together to make a plan for the proper care of the body and to prepare the burial emulsions.

They set their morning wake-up call for after sabbath and gathered together to make their way to the tomb. There, they were witnesses to that something so many of us wonder about…SOMETHING mysterious…SOMETHING mystical. THAT SOMETHING they soon realized caused Jesus’ body to not be there. Could he be raised like he said? Did that SOMETHING, that powerful SOMETHING raised their beloved to new life?

We know these hundreds of years later, the story of the passion of Jesus and of his resurrection because of the women, faithfully tending to their friend and loved one. At some level, yes, they believed that he was the anointed One, sent to shine light on God’s reign in a very dark world. Still, they really didn’t believe he would be raised as he said he would be. Otherwise, why did they prepare to treat his dead body?

Terrified and astonished as they were by the angels’ appearance and message, somewhere in their hearts and souls, the empty tomb pointed to the truth. “Why DO you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

The women ran to tell the others. WE are the others. The women are OUR witnesses.

I encountered a meme on Facebook this weekend that shone a humorous and truthful spotlight on the women.  There was a picture of a classic artistic painting of the women peering into the stone entrance of a tomb. We only see their backs. The words of the meme next to the picture read, “In the interest of biblical accuracy, all the preaching about the resurrection this Easter Sunday will be done by women.”

St. Paul’s Church, Brunswick, Maine has given me the privilege of preaching about the resurrection this Easter Sunday. Thank you!  He is risen. Alleluia!

In the daily devotional book I read, “Letting Go: Christian Meditations for Recovery,” I’m always inspired by the sections on suffering and the promise of coming through suffering to renewed life. The author of this book is a recovering alcoholic and an Episcopal priest. A. Philip Parham writes helpfully about God’s power, and for us to let go and let God provide for our renewal. He writes in Easter language such hopeful, truthful words:

“The discovery of God’s liberation and new life is our resurrection experience. It is for us a rising again and a coming alive – a bursting forth from the death-like tomb of our diseased compulsions. When God’s liberating life breaks through and rolls away our tombstone, we can sing…” with the witnesses of Christ’s resurrection the truth of all that is broken, sinful and evil, is raised up by God’s power.

That God’s power to raise the dead, conquer evil, overcome hatred with love, and lies with the truth ARE the facts of his resurrection that we celebrate today. Alleluia!

I return to another woman’s witness to the empty tomb; an early 20th century American poet, Theodosia Pickering Garrison, a writer for “Life” magazine in the early 1900’s.

She tells the story of the resurrection in her poem, “A Ballad of Easter.”

I heard two soldiers talking as they came down the hill,

The somber hill of Calvary, Bleak and black and still.

And one said, ’The night is late,

These thieves take long to die.’

And one said, ’I am sore afraid, And yet I know not why.

I heard two women weeping As down the hill they came,

And one was like a broken rose. And one was like a flame.

One said, ‘Men shall rue This deed their hands have done.’

And one said only through her tears, ‘My son! My son! My son!’

I heard two angels singing Ere yet the dawn was bright,

And they were clad in shining robes, Robes and crowns of light.

And one sang, ‘Death is vanquished,’ And one in golden voice

Sang, ‘Love hath conquered, conquered all,

O heaven and earth rejoice!’’

Death is vanquished.

Love indeed conquers all.

How will we be witnesses to God’s power of resurrection and love this Easter morning?

Alleluia! Christ is risen!