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    Apr 16, 2017

    Easter Vigil and Easter Day

    Preacher: The Rev. Joan Mason, Rector

    Series: Rector

    Category: Easter


         Easter begins with darkness, hopelessness and fear. Jesus the Messiah has been killed and his lifeless body lain in the tomb. Then that Easter morning, the tomb is opened; Jesus is not there; and, not realizing what has occurred, those present are filled with fear. Four times in today’s passage, fear is addressed. The guards are afraid – so much so they, ironically, react to the opening of the tomb by becoming like dead people.

         The women are afraid: They experience the earthquake and see the angel descend and roll away the stone. The angel’s first words to the women are, “Do not be afraid.” The angel is commanding them to reject their current state of fear: “I know that you are looking for Jesus the crucified one. He is not here, for he was raised just as he said.” Then the angel sends the women to take this good news to the disciples.

         But the women don’t quite let go of their fear. The passage goes on to say, “They left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples.” The joy is sinking in, but the fear still resides.

         And then lastly, as they are on their way, Jesus meets them himself and reiterates the angel’s command: “Do not be afraid.” He is alive and present with them. You would think, “Why would they fall prey to fear? Why should they leave room for anything except worship and overwhelming joy?”

         I think fear would be a natural reaction to the events of the resurrection. There is something about the Easter message that is so powerful, so overwhelming, so beyond belief, it can be fearful. And yet the consistent message from Jesus is, “Do not be afraid.”

         The Gospel today talks about a subject that affects all of us. I think many people go through their daily lives with a good dose of fear mixed in. Where are my kids right now? Will I have a job next year? Is my loved one going to be OK? Will I fulfill my dreams? Will I make it through tomorrow? Or maybe there are other things, a little more remote, that can cause tremors in your life – like the threat of terrorist attacks, or war, or an epidemic?

         I think it’s striking that the announcement of the resurrection to the women does not take away all their fear. Rather, it enables them to keep faith amid their fears. This is the very definition of courage: to share the good news in spite of their anxiety. And I would argue, courage is precisely what Easter is all about. Some preachers proclaim that coming to faith in Christ should smooth all the rough places of life, and still the tremors of this world. But I believe that the Gospel gives us the ability to stay on our feet amid the tremors, and enables us not just to persevere, but even to flourish when life is difficult.

         That first Easter morning started in darkness, hopelessness and fear. We don’t have to live like that any more. With the Resurrection, courage has supplanted fear. In spite of their fears, the women acted. We all are called to do the same – to proclaim the Good News in spite of what’s going on in our lives, and regardless of our fears. Jesus’ command to the women becomes a command to all of us: “Do not be afraid!” This does not mean there will be no more challenges in your life. Instead through Jesus, you have the tools to push down hopelessness, darkness and fear. Jesus defeated death on the cross and now reigns; and He did it all for you.

         Do not be afraid. Accept this gift and allow joy to permeate your life. Rejoice, have courage, and share the good news!

         I wish you all a blessed Easter.