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April 12, 2020
Resurrection of Our Lord, Easter Day
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
There have been near-daily press conferences from the White House about COVID-19. After the one on April 4th, last Saturday, it’s said that a reporter made the observation that for the first time in our nation’s history we won’t be celebrating Easter.
When that became public, I thought, “Noooo…we’re still celebrating Easter….” And I was almost offended. A pandemic isn’t going to stop Christ’s resurrection, let alone our celebrating it.
One theologian compares it to Christmas in Whoville after the Grinch tried to steal it – it came anyway, even without all of the extra stuff. The resurrection is here even though we aren’t celebrating it in our usual way. Christ is still risen.
To be fair, Easter doesn’t feel the same today as we’re used to. On this morning, our sanctuary should be at capacity and buzzing with excitement. Instead, we’re coming out of the great Three Days with a clearer picture of what it must have felt like for Jesus’ first disciples as they mourned his death and worked on figuring out how to move forward from it.
When the women went to the tomb on that first Easter morning, they weren’t expecting anything out of the ordinary. As was customary, they were going to prepare the body of their friend who had died on Friday, and whose body was wrapped in a cloth and sealed tightly in a tomb.
But when they got there, there was an earthquake; and an angel came and rolled back the stone and sat on top of it and said to them: Do not be afraid. I don’t know about you, but if the person who I thought was the Messiah had just been executed, and then I felt the second earthquake in three days and then saw a larger-than-life angel – that’d be enough to terrify me.
But it doesn’t end there. After the angel announced that Jesus had been raised, as he said would be, he invited the women into the tomb to see for themselves. And then he told them to go quickly and tell the others what had happened.
And they rushed off, filled with fear and also with great joy. And as they did, they encountered the ultimate surprise: Jesus met them on the way, revealing himself with words of greetings. After a time of worship, he sent them on their way, back to their original work to go and tell the disciples the Good News and to send them to Galilee to see the resurrected Jesus for themselves. And they did.
This story moves fast. It doesn’t take much for us to imagine the women’s bewilderment and then their excitement and how quickly they went from one thing to the next trying to keep up with what had happened. But even while they were focused on the task at hand and hurrying along to follow the angel’s instructions, the resurrected Jesus showed up right in front of them.
It isn’t an understatement to say that it was a surprise encounter.
We’ve spent the last couple of months focusing on taking actions that keep the most vulnerable among us safe. That has been our task at hand. For most of us, it means staying home and going out as little as possible.
For some of us it means putting our gifts and talents to use making masks, and modifying headbands with buttons – or even creating new types of headbands – that help protect the ears of medical professionals who have to wear masks constantly in their work.
For too many of us, the task at hand means going to work on the front lines – which range from hospitals and clinics to grocery stores and restaurants. Trying to keep up with the demand and figure out how to do their job in new and safer ways.
In our own way, we are each focused on the task at hand as we recognize that “normal” is now a moving target and many things won’t be the same as they were before the current restrictions were put in place.
Yet even as we go on our way and move forward in this reality, the risen Christ surprises us and shows up right in the middle of what we’re doing.
Because we’re being reminded that some things haven’t changed, and this pandemic has even put a spotlight on them. Things like xenophobia as some people try to pin blame for all of this onto a specific group of people. And the inherent risk to people of color when they wear a mask in public.
And that many of the people we now consider to be “essential workers” are people in lower economic classes who can’t afford to stay at home, or whose jobs don’t allow them to work from home. And whose life situations are now even more precarious than they were before.
In other words, the risen Christ shows up as truck drivers, grocery store clerks, paramedics, and the drivers for Uber Eats and Door Dash…the list goes on. What that means for those of us who are safe at home, is that the risen Christ often meets us on our actual doorstep.
When we recognize that, we also recognize the opportunities for advocacy and outreach – opportunities to change the things that need to be changed. Like reminding folks that this virus doesn’t discriminate. And demanding that the delivery apps drop their commission fees from the restaurants, and making sure the drivers and all the other front line workers are receiving fair wages. So that when we come out of this everyone is the better for it.
This particular Easter day doesn’t feel the same as we’re used to. But Christ is still risen. We don’t only proclaim that with music and shouts of triumph, and from within the confines of this worship space. We proclaim it every time we act on behalf of our neighbor, whether we know the person or not.
As people of faith, proclaiming that Christ is risen is our task at hand not just today, but every day. It’s at the core of who we are. And as we go on our way and move forward in that reality, the risen Christ surprises us and shows up right in the middle of what we’re doing. Thanks be to God! Amen.
 Special thanks to Dana Nasby for giving me the push I needed to say these things