Easter Sunday: The Feast of the Resurrection
Watch the Sermon Here
I believe I’ve mentioned here in Easters past the tradition of Bright Sunday, the celebration of the Eastern Orthodox church during Easter week with feasting, dancing, and joking around – celebrating the glorious foolishness of the resurrection, the divine joke of God raising Christ from the dead. One strand of that tradition makes a point of telling jokes in church, to brighten things up with laughter and joy. So here’s a few jokes, to start your Easter off right:
Why shouldn’t you tell an Easter egg a joke? It might crack up.
What do you call the Easter Bunny the day after Easter? Eggs-hausted.
Why are people always so tired in April? Because they’ve just finished a March!
I’d tell you a coronavirus joke now, but you’d have to wait two weeks to see if you got it!
Yeah, ok – there’s still nothing funny about our situation these days. Even Google canceled their April Fool’s joke for the second year in a row, saying, ‘With much of the world still grappling with serious challenges, we feel we should again pause the jokes.’ The great divine joke of Christ’s resurrection – it just doesn’t offer that same delight this year, does it. Dancing, feasting, and joking around – that would require us to actually BE together, jostling each other with our big hats and faces radiant with smiles. Instead, I can’t even see you, everyone who is in church today is hiding their face behind a mask, there are no hats in sight, and you’re looking at me, a tired rector who doesn’t feel like we’ve finished a march so much as that we’re still. On. It. Come by later to the church and we can smile with our eyes at one another and share some chocolate – furtively, distanced, slapping our masks back on as soon as we eat it. Aagghh!! Could we have made it through last year’s Easter if we knew that this year we’d still be doing church online? I don’t think so. And yet, here we are. But it’s Happy Easter anyway.
There’s so much ‘anyway’ around us. Today is the anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s murder. This month, the trial for George Floyd’s murder continues. Covid case numbers rising again in New York. The head of the CDC in tears about the virus. Political leaders supporting armed insurrection against our country. State governments moving to restrict voting rights. And we’ve lost so many people we love. And yes, it’s spring, and yes, the vaccine, and yes, this may all one day be over, but still, ugh. We have a long and painful way to go before it all gets better. And by all, I mean all – before justice and peace and God’s beloved community and the end of all this suffering.
There is no way to say Happy Easter without saying all of that. We don’t even know yet the full weight of the trauma we are carrying, the sadness and grief in our bodies and souls – we don’t even know yet how this has all changed us. Only that we’re tired, because it’s been a really, really long March.
And here’s the gospel witness we have for this Easter: The Gospel of Mark, which begins with the words in chapter 1, ‘The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,’ and ends in today’s reading with, ‘And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.’ This is good news told in a time of terror, of fear so ongoing that it nearly extinguishes the good news we so need to hear today. The Roman Empire and its oppressive regime. Poverty, sickness, demons on the loose. Women and outcasts desperate for some kind of hope. And their beloved rabbi and Messiah dead.
No wonder those three women were too afraid to say anything. And no wonder they obviously said something anyway, because somehow we heard about it, and here we are, even online, even the way things are today. And no wonder we too are afraid – but we have got to say something too. The world needs what we are celebrating today.
Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry spoke of this in his Easter message this year, using the gospel song ‘Hallelujah, Anyhow’ to bring this same point home. Bishop Curry spoke of the faith that brought those three women to the tomb, not even knowing whether they’d find anyone to roll back the stone for them. Faith that keeps us going even in the midst of the world as it is. Resilient faith. Faith with grit.
Hallelujah, anyhow: I daresay the Black church knows this better than anyone, a culture that knows from its own history that God is there in suffering. Think of every gospel song you know – the truth they sing of is not facile or naïve. It is faith grounded in reality, the reality that life is hard, that suffering is real, that leaders and prophets and people who inspire us to dream can themselves be killed and broken. Yet even so, eyes wide open, we believe. Happy Easter, anyway.
I reflected this week that one gift of this past year has been that we have opened our eyes. We opened our eyes to the gifts of flowers and sunshine – think of how sweet the spring was last year, as the ambulances roared by, the reminder that life was continuing anyway. We opened our eyes to the too-much-busyness of ‘ordinary life,’ finding in long hours at home time to be with one another, to pause, to reflect. We have opened our eyes to the preciousness of life, as we see the death toll rise daily. And we have opened our eyes to the pain of this world, of a system that requires immigrant workers to deliver our food in the midst of a pandemic, that continues to destroy Black and brown communities for power and profit, that laces through our own family histories with hatred, fear, and misunderstandings about one another. We have opened our eyes to all of it.
And maybe we’ve been tempted to shut them again. To go back to the screen and click ‘next episode.’ To escape into whatever privilege we’ve got. To pull the covers back over our head because it has all gone on just too long, and there’s nothing fun or funny about any of it anymore.
But, yet, here we are. We’ve gotten up, early in the morning, and we’ve geared up for another online service; we’re at the tomb, even though we don’t really know how the stone can be rolled back, and maybe we fear, deep down, that this time maybe it won’t be – that where we long to find life it will only feel dead. We’ve shown up, despite it all. Mark says, ‘when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.’ And there was good news waiting for them there: He has been raised. He is not here. Just as he told you! And they were amazed – and somehow, despite their terror, despite their initial impulse to flee, they told someone. They shared that good news.
And so, here we are today, because of those women. What do we see when we look up? What do we see when we open our tired eyes?
Look up, friends. Look up and see that the faith and the persistence and the resilience that has got us this far is met today with life and light and joy. That even so, even now, even as things are how they are, Christ is risen. In the midst of our fear and silence, the good news is proclaimed. It is Easter anyway. The light shines, anyway. Our laughter at this news may be full of tears, wracked with sobs – but it is joy anyhow. Christ is risen. And so are we, coming forth from the tomb, into the fresh sweet springtime of new hope and new life. Even at the grave we make our song – Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Happy Easter.