Monday, April 12, 2010

Sermon for 04 April 2010, Easter Dawn

The Rev. Paul J Cain

John 20:1-18

Why Are You Weeping?

The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Sunrise, 04 April 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

Why are you Weeping? That’s what “they” asked Mary Magdalene. At times I wonder if we weep enough. Our modern eyes sometimes glaze over when we see pain and suffering shown on the evening news. In too many ways we’ve become desensitized to it. Do we really care? Can we really care? And then there’s us men. We’re guarded about our feelings and afraid to appear vulnerable, without our armor. Men really don’t want to use the words “cry” or “weep.” At other times I wonder if we weep too much. We cry out in the agony of heartache and disappointment. We may scream in response to unseen physical pain. Some may even cry themselves to sleep for fear of the future or even for fear of the consequences of the past. We cry because we have lost loved ones. At times we even weep over truly important things.

Why are you weeping? That’s a question we can relate to. But can we relate to those who ask it? Do you remember who “they” were?

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Mary Magdalene was surprised by what she saw. The tomb was open. She didn’t look inside it during her first trip, St. John tells us. She ran and got the guys just in case those who had been there before were still lurking around. They were. But “they” were not the people Mary or Peter or John expected.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Think back to the last time you lost something. You looked everywhere. Every pocket. Every shelf. Both vehicles. At home. At work. Between home and work. The last place you ate out. And then, right before your eyes in the most obvious place in the world, there it is.

Mary was frantic. “They” were angels. They asked her why she was weeping. She even had a decent answer. Her Lord’s body was missing and she didn’t know where it had been taken. And there, right before her eyes in the most obvious place in the world, there He was. He was no gardener. He was Jesus, the Resurrected Lord.

And He is before your eyes again this morning. Like Mary Magdalene you have seen the Lord. She saw Him with her eyes, but didn’t see Him at first. Then she saw with the eyes of faith. You have seen the Lord with the eyes of faith as well.

We have been gathered by the Lord around His gifts to celebrate the empty tomb because Christ has been raised from the dead. We thank the Lord for the new birth He has given us in Holy Baptism, and especially for those baptized this morning.

While a Sunrise Easter Service, even one at 8 a.m. may be relatively familiar, a more ancient tradition is to gather as early as possible to celebrate the Resurrection, even Saturday night just after dark. Perhaps we could also hold an Easter Vigil next year on “Easter Eve.”

We do not know the exact hour that Jesus rose. Scripture doesn’t tell us. Even so, we could rejoice in the wonder of Easter a little earlier than you may be used to. The Easter Vigil on Saturday just after dark is a really, really early Sunrise service. We would celebrate Easter and go to the tomb with Mary. The Jewish people (then and now) recognized that a new day began at sundown, not Midnight like the Romans. As the sun set last evening, we thank the Lord for the S. O. N. rise now that is Sunday, Easter, the day Jesus rose from the dead for you.

The parts of the Easter Vigil proclaim Jesus. The Service of Light confesses Jesus Christ who is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome. The Service of Readings recounts salvation history. At times the Angel of the Lord actually proves to be no mere angel at all, but the pre-incarnate Christ merely looking like an angel before He took upon human flesh at Christmas, and in His Resurrection was brought back to life in the flesh, the wondrous fulfillment of salvation history. The Service of Baptism provides an opportunity for candidates to be baptized or for the baptized to be confirmed, but always gives us an opportunity to thank the Lord for the gifts Christ gave us at our own baptisms. While the Vigil may be celebrated with Holy Communion, we could observe the “page 5” version without the Sacrament. Again, something to consider adding for next year.

There is more to the Easter story. That is yet to come this morning after breakfast. Divine Service for the Resurrection of Our Lord has three different readings, another sermon, additional hymns and special music. Such is the way of our Lord. He gives and gives and gives His gifts to you, and yet there is always more. Matins. Breakfast. Divine Service. And next Sunday. And the Sunday after that. The Lord has good gifts for you in Christ because of His Resurrection from the dead. You, too will rise!

In the Name of Jesus. Amen