Easter Sermon : April 16, 2017 : Matthew 28:1-10 : Holy Fear
What was Mary Magdalene afraid of?
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had just seen an angel at the empty tomb. This angel was very laid back, he said “chill” “be cool” “be calm” this angel was so easy going that after the earthquake had moved the big stone in front of the tomb he just sat on top of it, waiting for the women to show up, posing on the boulder; pulls up his apps…trying to decide the best location to check in….@Jerusalem, @thetomb, @THEtomb uploading to Instagram and Facebook: Selfie, considers duck face…doesn’t …chooses no filter…but does add a floating halo for effect…adds text…”Arrived… first Easter at the stone…can’t wait to see the look on their faces…they’re going to freak…LOL…gotta stay calm….their gonna need a lotta help #angelmission #chillinonarock #firsteaster #SundayFunday #SuprisingSunday…” And when they finally arrive he says, “Fear not, don’t be afraid, check it out, look inside, he’s not here…he’s been raised.” Maybe he added, “take a deep breath, like this earthquake we’ve just had, this is going to rock your world, so take a deep breath and listen…he’s gone ahead of you, he’s going back to your hometown and things will never be the same, including in your hometown.”
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary left the tomb with fear and great joy as they ran from the angel to tell the disciples. What were they afraid of? Was she afraid that all this was a new permutation of a bad dream, afraid that her Hopes were too high; that she was at risk of having the rug pulled out from under her again? Was she afraid that when she told the disciples that she would be rejected? Was she afraid that she wouldn’t be believed?
Then on their way to see the disciples they run into Jesus. And he says mostly the same thing that the angel does. Don’t freak out, don’t be afraid. Go home. Meet me in Galilee where it all began.
Why Galilee? It’s about returning to where it all began, home. Among those fishing and weaving villages that surround the Sea of Galilee. Peter’s mom’s house in Capernaum, Zebedee’s fishing boats, Mary’s family home in Magdal. Why Galilee? Yes, Luke has them stay in Jerusalem for the first post resurrection appearance. But this is Matthew. Why Galilee? Matthew’s ending to his Gospel is like watching one of those great adventure movies where the main character returns to his small Midwest town at the end of the movie, where it all began. The movie ends in the same place it started, but the home town is now seen through different eyes. Mary Magdalene and the disciples who followed him are now changed, they return home with new eyes, new ears, new hearts. Maybe Mary and the disciples were afraid because they were returning to their own people and had this incredible change take place.
What are you afraid of? I’ll tell you what I’m afraid of: that another great Lent, Holy Week & Easter has come and gone and I’m no different. Aside from a little exhaustion and a lot of delight about how well things have gone, especially this week in church; aside from the usual struggles with raising our kids, being a family, will anything be different in me when all this is over and the lilies have wilted? The answer is yes. Participation in any part of these holy events, these sacraments of the Church, prayers, disciplines, makes a change in our souls and in our bodies, even in some small measure, even if today is your first day back in church in many months; and we are charged by angels not to be afraid of that change. As much as I might be afraid that I haven’t been changed, that all this great work participating in the full Easter events has been a delightful exercise, I’m actually more afraid that this life in Christ has changed me. I’m actually more afraid that I now have to live with those changes, even and especially where I find myself at home. How do I need to be different in all my familiar places? What have I witnessed that means I cannot continue to operate the same way as before, especially when people who know me at home and work will expect the same things from me? That’s the kind of fear and great joy that Mary Magdalene carried as she went to meet her familiar friends the disciples with the news on that first Easter morning. That’s what she dreaded as she made her way back to her family home in Magdal. When she entered the doors to a house she knew all too well and they knew her, her extravagant living, her generous giving of money to support the Jesus movement, an unmarried woman who had been on the road with a bunch of men. She is returning home very changed.
How will you walk in the door of your own home after today’s celebration? What will be different about you? What can you no longer do in the same way, because you, too have been a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Coming to church today is as much a witness of the empty tomb as it was for Mary. That should make you afraid with a holy fear. Especially when you know that he is going ahead of you, back to your own home and that you will see him there.
Be not afraid, you are now changed,
go home, you will meet Jesus there,
and that’s worthy of holy fear.