Easter Sunday Year B
April 1, 2018
In the name of the Risen Christ. Amen.
Two years ago, I turned 50. My goal, over the course of my 50th year, was to intentionally seek out new experiences – 50 of them. That summer, I saw a commercial for a new roller coaster at Six Flags, called The Joker. As soon as I saw it, I knew that riding it had to be one of my ‘new things.’ Special magnetic technology allows the seats to be hang off to the side of the track, so along with the usual climbs and drops, and speed, there is the added thrill of your seat spinning freely, 360 degrees, backwards and forwards, throughout the ride. I couldn’t wait to try it! So on my birthday, as soon as the kids were off to school, I got in my car – all by myself, and drove to Six Flags, giddy like an adventurous kid, to experience this ‘new thing,’ The Joker.
Of course, it never really dawned on me that this might be strange, going to Six Flags by myself. It also never dawned on me, really, that other people would even be there at the park. But when I arrived, school buses had already filled the parking lot, and I felt more than a little conspicuous, there alone. But I bought my ticket – for 1 - anyway. As luck would have it, as I was standing there checking the park map, believe it or not, I happened catch eyes with one of my son’s high school baseball coaches.
-- Oh No! What is HE doing here?!
I couldn’t not acknowledge him. He had coached my son for the past 6 years. Of course, we were both surprised to see one another, so we said our ‘Good mornings,’ and then he rolled his eyes – as if to say ‘This is going to be a really long day’ – he pointed to the line 8th graders he was chaperoning.
But then, without warning – without skipping even a beat - he caught me totally unprepared and asked, “Why are YOU here?”
-- Oh God. The thoughts raced through my head. My quest for ‘50 new things in my 50th year’ was way too long to go into at that moment. And I wasn’t bold enough to admit that, like a thrill-seeking teenager, I just wanted to try this really cool, new roller coaster. So I paused, just long enough, and he mercifully filled in the blank for me. “You’re here with kids from your church, right?” Right, that’s it. I lied.
And off I went to get in line for The Joker, praying he and his kids didn’t do the same and blow my cover.
And while I loved the roller coaster – it was really cool - this chance encounter made me feel embarrassed to be there. I looked like a crazy person, 50 years old, at an amusement park, by myself. But the more I thought about it, I was there for a really great reason… for the joy of life, to really live, intentionally, one adventure at a time.
So, why couldn’t I just say that?
Jesus’ disciples, Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and Salome, were also caught unprepared on that first Easter morning. They never expected to run into anyone who might stop and question them. But, as we heard in Mark’s Gospel, an angelic messenger met them there at the empty tomb, and he wanted to know, why they were there?
They were there for many reasons, of course. Dutiful, grief-stricken followers of Jesus. But to simplify it, to boil it down to just one word, they were there because of love. They loved Jesus. They loved each other. And going to the tomb that morning was how they could express that love. In return for their love, they were given the privilege of being the first to know of Jesus’ resurrection. But just knowing about it wasn’t enough. The angel gave them instructions to begin telling their story of love to the world, beginning in Galilee. Their stories, though got off to an unpromising start. What would people think if they told the truth? People might think they were out of their minds. Crazy!
Well, obviously, the good news of Jesus’ resurrection did get out despite their fear, and these women have been honored throughout the generations for their faithful act of Love.
And the good news of God’s redemption through Jesus continues to unfold and take shape even now, 2000 years later. But we cannot be afraid to admit, honestly, why we are here today – explaining to others what really happened – because our answers, no matter what they are, name blessings of the resurrected Christ. So are you ready with your story? Why are you here?
Maybe you are a little embarrassed because your reasons don’t fall into the perfect “churchie answer.” That’s ok. Name them and realize the blessings found in them. Are you here because you are duty-bound, because going to church on Easter is just what Christians do? If so, what does that mean for you, what love does it reveal? Are you here because your mother is a priest? Or your grandmother won’t be happy otherwise? Sure. Name it, but also name the love that is expressed sitting by her side. Are you here because you love the smell of lilies, or the sound of Easter brass? Well, name it, and name the blessing that God gives us through the gift of our senses. Are you here because, like the women at the tomb, despair and death have been your close companions recently? Name it. And name the truth that death is not the final word. I am here because I fought like mad to be here, and told the doctors I would be. In that, God has given me the gift of resilience and endurance. Whatever your reason for being here, name it – then don’t wait to share your story. Share it Confidently and Boldly.
Because the truth is, we are all part of what happened at that empty tomb, and we pick up where these women left off . . . Witnesses to the Resurrection, and part of the story of God’s perfect love.