Don’t be afraid!

For this I was born!
March 26, 2024
Christ is Risen! Hallelujah!
March 27, 2024

After everything God has done, after God has raised Jesus from the dead, forget normal, forget ‘business as usual’!  We have been shaken by an earthquake and the ground on which we stand is no longer the same.  We are on holy ground. The new creation!  The last few days and weeks, as we journeyed with Jesus to the cross, we have started to look once again at the world and we have realised it is no longer familiar.  We see the world with Jesus’ eyes, we notice where God is present, and we realise with fresh eyes what the world is failing to notice.

 We are being asked to peer into the darkness, not simply of the tomb, but into the darkness of our lives and to see the wonder God has shown among us.  We have seen God’s working with the angel moving the stone blocking the tomb, now empty of Jesus’ body.  The inbreaking of God’s reign in the world in underway.  A badly damaged creation is being restored and God is working to forgive our sins and overcome death for everyone.

When the local church leaders urged and pleaded with Martin Luther King Jr to ease up on his demands and agitation for civil rights, King responded with a sermon in Montgomery called ‘Our God is Marching On.’  In that sermon, King mocked the desire of white moderates and faith leaders for a return to a more comfortable, placid, reliable world.  He vowed: ‘No, we will not allow Alabama to return to normalcy.’  A world in which racial segregation made sense has ended.  King rejected ‘normal world views and politics’, because of his Christian faith.  After God raised Jesus from the dead, forget ‘normal’. 

A new day has dawned, and nothing is ‘as usual’.  Three women went out to the tomb to pay their last respects to poor, dead Jesus. It was woman who went, in Matthew’s Gospel.  Where were the men?  And who, in such times, begins an important story with marginalised unreliable women as witnesses? There were even rules about this.

There is a great earthquake, God is present in the world, rolling back the stone with an angel.  While Jesus is clearly not in the tomb, and not dead, the guards have obviously been keeping watch over an empty tomb, and became themselves like dead men. 

The angel invites the women to check the Angel’s words: the tomb is empty, Jesus is risen, they are to go and tell the others, Jesus has gone ahead to Galilee as he promised.  You will see him there!  Filled with fear and joy they do as the angel says but then, on the way, Jesus himself meets them and again urges them to go to Galilee with their brothers and they will all see him there. 

The angel’s brief words are our sermon:  Don’t be afraid, you’ve just missed Jesus who is already on his way to Galilee.  Go and tell the men who are in hiding, that the story between God and humanity is not ended, it is simply beginning. 

Our world is full of people who are fearful of disruption and who shield their eyes from the blinding truth of resurrection.  Is Jesus, is God, really more powerful than the powers and principalities of this world, more powerful than sin and death?

People who have been trained to think of religion as the cement of social stability, requiring and demanding our cultural, political and economic conformity, keeping our places and following the current order may have trouble believing in Easter.  Can it be that God is on the move, restless, homeless, moving and headed for the places where we live, where others live and suffer and where we have placed our own social outcasts? 

People who think they have got up, dressed and come to church to come to see a comfortable, known God, may be a little bemused to find the risen Christ has gone ahead to Galilee. 

Women bearing the disruptive news, determined to give their testimony to the resurrection to hesitant and disbelieving disciples, are models for Christians everywhere and in every age.  God calls us, invites us not to conform, not to do as the world demands and expects of us, but instead, to follow the earthquake that is God making a difference in the world.  If you want to believe the women have got it wrong and stay behind your closed doors, you will miss the resurrection. 

If you have come to church to be told all your ‘wants’ will be met here, you will be disappointed.  The story being told here today is not about us, it’s a story of God, who is not simply love, but love for us, love in action, taking on our battles with sin and death, doing things for us which we could not do for ourselves in the world.   Here is a story that defies our tendency to reduce it to pastoral care, as if our greatest need was for comfort and pacification.  This is not about humanity conquering evil and changing the world.  This story rises above all this, and pushes us to see what God is doing and to join God wherever God is in the world.

This includes places of poverty, homelessness, in refugee camps, in slums and in the battles against unjust laws and policies, in the refusal to acknowledge our shared humanity with the ‘other, in prisons with political prisoners, in bomb shelters and in the trenches, in hospitals and with all the girls shut out of society and schools, in Gaza and Israel, Sudan, and Ukraine and Russia and everywhere. God is in the darkest of places with the suffering and despairing.  If we have contributed to that and refuse to see Jesus in those places, then we still live with the stone over the entrance to the tomb.

Jesus’ resurrection declares there is hope beyond death, and that all the death-dealing powers of the world do not have the final say over our lives.  To those who threaten us with death, we can reply Jesus survived the worst they could do.  To those who threaten us with resurrection, we know that where Jesus went, we can too and God will be with us on the way.

The Lord be with you.

Reference:

Jarvis, C.A., Johnson, E.E. [Eds]. 2013.  Feasting on the Gospels Matthew, Volume 2 Chapters 14-28.  Westminster John Knox Press.  Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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