Sermons

"Love Beyond Our Wildest Imaginations," A Sermon for The Great Vigil of Easter, Year C

"Love Beyond Our Wildest Imaginations," A Sermon for The Great Vigil of Easter, Year C

Apr 20, 2019

Passage:Luke 24:1-12

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Jill Walters

Series: Easter

Category: Resurrection

Keywords: fire, love, resurrection

Summary:

Love is the light that brings us out of the darkness. Love is the fire that warms our hearts and souls. Love is the hope that binds us all together. On the first Easter, God brought the women at the tomb out of their darkness. On this Easter, God brings us out of our darkness. God reminds us that the light of the world never goes out. Christ is risen! There is hope! And you are loved beyond your wildest imagination!

Detail:

May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of each heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”  These are the words of the two men in dazzling clothes.  They address the women...the women who are the first witnesses of the resurrection...Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the “other women.” 

As the first light of the new day begins to arrive, the women have returned to the tomb...this same tomb where they witnessed Jesus’ body laid to rest, wrapped in linen cloth. 

Then they wait...they wait a whole day because it was the Sabbath. After all, these are faithful Jewish women. 

Imagine the agony of their waiting.  In the midst of their grief and astonishment at the events that had taken place just a day before, they have to wait. 

They wait with their broken hearts to be able to do something...to care for their friend...but on that day, they can only wait and sit with their grief.

Then on the third day, they walk to the tomb.  They carry with them spices to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.  Their hearts are heavy with grief. 

At the same time, they long to go to Jesus’ body...to see it one last time...to prepare it for burial.  It’s their last chance to tend to the physical needs of their loved one.  To them, Jesus isn’t only their Lord, he’s also their dear friend...their family.

But in this early light of dawn, they find their beloved Jesus gone!  The stone to the tomb has been rolled away and He’s gone. 

They’re terrified and bow their heads to the two men in dazzling clothes.  And women are greeted with these words:

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.  Remember [what] he told you....”

Amidst their loss and terror, this is actually the reassurance they need.  They need to be reminded of Jesus’ words...of what he himself told them would happen.    

And the story could end here.  It would still be an amazing story...but it doesn’t end here.

In my family, we remind each other of a saying my grandmother repeated often:  “The past is the past, you’ve got to move on.” 

Now, for us, it sometimes seems a little too pragmatic...not quite sentimental enough...and we softly laugh to one another as we say it.

But we know there’s truth there...sometimes an uncomfortable truth...but truth nonetheless.  And in that truth, there’s reassurance...there’s hope...there’s a sense of promise.

The two men in the tomb speak this truth to the women who come to care for Jesus’ body.  They’re the first to proclaim that the story isn’t over.

This past week, people all over the world watched the Cathedral at Notre Dame in Paris burn.  We watched the famous spire collapse into the building. 

People stood in the streets in Paris in disbelief and grief.  People around the world shared their sadness at the loss of this great symbol of history...an example of the creativity of humankind...its architecture...its art...its historical significance...an outward and visible sign of the hope and possibility that God’s love offers to all people.

And it’s not the first time this great Cathedral has suffered damage and loss in its roughly 800-year-old history.  Despite repeated assaults, it’s always brought back to life.

Let me be clear, it’s appropriate to mourn and to grieve in times of loss, whether it is a cherished symbol or the overpowering loss of those who are dearest to us.  It’s important to honor and feel the grief of loss in whatever ways that comes to each of us.

At the same time, we can hear those words again:  “Why have you come to seek the living among the dead?” 

So even as people cried and watched the flames of this devastating fire destroy great portions of this beloved monument, new life began to grow.

People around the world started offering their support.  Plans began to be made about how to rebuild.  People around the world joined the French in their sadness.

Then something completely unexpected happened. As the news and support for the Cathedral at Notre Dame surged, the world began to hear about other fires. 

People in Louisiana stood outside of their beloved houses of worship and watched fire destroy them only weeks ago. 

As news spread about the loss of these three historically-Black churches, donations began to pour in for them, too.  By Wednesday donations for these three churches surpassed $1.8 million.[i]

These fires which caused so much destruction and grief were bringing forth new life...not only in Paris...not only in Louisiana...but all around the world.

This new life isn’t just about buildings...or bodies...it’s about resurrection.  It’s about hope and love and possibility.

And new life doesn’t mean we forget the past.  It actually means we cherish it even more because we know its value.  We know how precious it is.

We know that life can’t and won’t ever stay the same, no matter how much we sometimes wish it would.  If it did, the story would end.

But death and destruction aren’t the end of the story.  They’re a new beginning in an ongoing story.

It’s why we come here to be part of this story every year.  We don’t just do it once and it’s done.

For new life to continue, we make this journey again and again and again each year.  We long for the hope that love brings. 

Deep within each and every one of us, we hunger for this love.  We search for it.  And we sacrifice for it.  Love is why we were put on this earth.  It’s like air...we need it to live.

And the Easter story is the ultimate story of love.  God gives us this amazing gift of love so that we can, hopefully, get it...get what God has been trying to get us to embrace ever since the Creation of the World.

God wants us to know, really know to the depths of our being, how much we are loved...and how much every other single human being on this planet is loved. 

This Easter story reveals the new life that is always borne out of love...how love multiplies and spreads and expands until it fills the whole of our beings...our hearts...our minds...our spirits.   

It makes us want this love for everyone else, too.  It calls us to do whatever we can to share this love.

The Good News of the resurrection of Christ isn’t that it’s history.  It’s that it continues even today...and tomorrow...and next week...and next month...and next year. 

Love doesn’t become an afterthought just because Christ conquered death 2,000 years ago.  Love doesn’t take a break just because Easter’s over. 

Love is the light that brings us out of the darkness.  Love is the fire that warms our hearts and souls.  Love is the hope that binds us all together.

On the first Easter, God brought the women at the tomb out of their darkness. 

On this Easter, God brings us out of our darkness.  God reminds us that the light of the world never goes out. 

God cries out that there’s still living and loving to do, even as we suffer loss.  The rest of the world needs to know about this magnificent love that gives life and freedom and hope to all people.    

With Jesus, God changes everything...for the whole world...and for us.  So, let’s follow the women at the tomb and share this Good News.  Let’s share it with everyone, not just on Easter, but every day. 

Christ is risen!  There is hope!  And you are loved beyond your wildest imagination!  Amen.

 

[i] Karen Zraick & Niraj Cholski, April 16, 2019, The New York Times.