Easter Sunday E. Bevan Stanley
April 12, 2020
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised.” In the name of the one, holy, and undivided Trinity. Amen.
Alleluia! He is risen! The Lord is risen, indeed. Alleluia! This is the proclamation of Easter. After the betrayal, after the sham trial, the beatings, the shaming, and finally the gruesome death. After this total defeat and destruction, after the loss of all things, Jesus lives. Not just in our hearts. Not just in that his ideas live on. But as a total human being with a body and soul. He is risen. And he stays risen. Jesus is alive. Now and always. As has often been said, the message of Easter is that the worst thing is never the last thing. No matter how bad things get, there is always a new page, a new chapter. After sin comes forgiveness. After estrangement comes reconciliation, after bondage comes freedom, after injury comes healing. After death, comes life. The message of Easter is that God’s love conquers all. Not even death can separate us from the love of God.
Now we are in the midst of a world wide pandemic. To protect as many people as possible we are staying home. We are avoiding contact with others. Many have lost jobs or are furloughed. Many who must continue working are risking their health. Hospitals are filling with COVID19 patients so that other medical needs are not being addressed. Many will die from this disease. The enemy is invisible. We never know who might be a risk to us.
In the midst of this, we hear once again the announcement of Easter. Jesus has defeated death. Jesus has reunited God and humanity. Jesus is healing the world. The Kingdom of Heaven has begun. Love and hope. These are the gifts God gives. Love and hope are the choices we make. Love and hope are the results of our practice. Love and hope will see us through this time of illness and death. The earth itself provides a picture, metaphor, and icon of this message. From the dead ground of winter, the daffodils, the hyacinths and the tulips spring forth and reach for the sky. Forsythia explodes with exuberant joy. But these are mere metaphors and pictures of the reality. Resurrection is not merely a nice idea or are a theological abstraction. The Resurrection is a fact as real as gravity. Listen to John Updike’s poem, “Seven Stanzas at Easter”:
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that-pierced-died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
That is to say, the resurrection is more real than this crummy little virus. The resurrection is mightier than our fears. Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning. Jesus is going before us and we are just trying to catch up. It feels as though this year we need Easter more than usual. That is not true. We need Easter all the time—Every year, every month, every day, every minute. We need the new life, the eternal life. We need the joy that overcomes every fear. We need the life the defeats every death. We need the love of God that truly conquers every enemy.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen.