Old Testament: Isaiah (65:17-25)
I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.
The Response: Psalm (118:1-2, 14-24)
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; *
his mercy endures for ever.
2 Let Israel now proclaim, *
“His mercy endures for ever.”
14 The Lord is my strength and my song, *
and he has become my salvation.
15 There is a sound of exultation and victory *
in the tents of the righteous:
16 “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! *
the right hand of the Lord is exalted!
the right hand of the Lord has triumphed!”
17 I shall not die, but live, *
and declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me sorely, *
but he did not hand me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; *
I will enter them;
I will offer thanks to the Lord.
20 “This is the gate of the Lord; *
he who is righteous may enter.”
21 I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *
and have become my salvation.
22 The same stone which the builders rejected *
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing, *
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 On this day the Lord has acted; *
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
The Epistle: Corinthians (15:19-26)
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
The Gospel: Luke (24:1-12)
On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
[The two messengers asked the women,] “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
That is a question that the Easter gospel continually asks us and all of our fellow believers in every age. Why do we keep looking for the living one among the dead?
Our connection with our past is a complex one. In relation to our life of faith, our life in the risen Jesus, we can approach the past in two very different ways.
The first is a nostalgic attempt to escape the present by idealizing the way things used to be and fooling ourselves into thinking that we can somehow turn back the hands of time. It is an attempt to recreate a time and an experience that was either a real or an imagined part of our lives in years gone by. That attempt is inevitably futile and leads only to frustration. More importantly, it blinds us to the risen one who is alive and living among us and in us, and who is active and working in the church and the world today.
The second approach to the past is the one taken in the gospel passage that we just heard. In describing the events of Easter morning, the gospels according to Mark and Matthew portray Jesus as instructing his disciples to go back to Galilee; because it is there that they once knew him, and it is there that they will see him again. But Luke takes a totally different approach. For him, Galilee is not the future but the past. It is the place from which Jesus and his disciples have come, and they will not return there again. His followers’ mission is now to the rest of the world and is part of God’s new future.
Instead of seeing remembering as a way to try to retreat into the past, Jesus calls on his disciples to remember in order to transform the past and, at the same time, to transform the present and the future as well. In our reading, the two messengers at the tomb urge the women, “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” “Then,” Luke notes, “they remembered his words and, returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.” They remembered, and then they told others what they had seen and heard. Their act of remembering began to transform their understanding of the present; and it impelled them to begin to approach their future in a new way: in a way that would lead them to tell the story and to proclaim the risen Christ.
Fred Craddock (Luke, page 283) has observed, “Faith does not usually move from promise to fulfillment but from fulfillment to promise. Remembering is often the activating of the power of recognition.” It was in the act of remembering that the women allowed God to transform the past: the meaning of what Jesus had said and done years before. And it was in the act of remembering that the women allowed God to transform both the present and the future, enabling them to recognize that God had opened up new and totally unexpected potentials — for them, for Jesus’ other disciples, and for the world — by raising Jesus from the dead.
Luke notes that, when the women told the others what they had seen, the rest of Jesus’ followers did not believe them. That’s not surprising. Most Jews at the time expected that someday, at the end of time, God would raise up all God’s people to a new and greater life. But no one seemed to have expected God to raise up just one person. Not only that but, after all the horror that Jesus’ disciples had experienced over the previous few days, they certainly saw no future for Jesus or for his movement. As the same author points out (Philippians, p. 42), for them “The grave of Christ was a cave, not a tunnel.”
But our endings are not always God’s endings. By remembering Jesus’ words and deeds, the women who had come to the tomb, came to a new recognition. It was a recognition, not only of what Jesus had said and done in the past, but of what God was saying and doing in Jesus now. And it was at least the beginning of a recognition of what God was going to do through Jesus for all the world in the future. Remembering transformed their understanding and their life — in the past, the present, and the future.
It certainly wasn’t the case that they in any way could have foreseen what the rest of their lives, and the lives of their fellow followers of Jesus, would be like. But the experience of that day, and their act of remembering, opened the eyes of their minds and their hearts to new possibilities. It opened them to a new boldness: to the willingness to proclaim to others the strange and marvelous new thing that God was doing. And it emboldened them to live in the new creation which God had begun in Jesus, even in times that they could not see the way forward; because they knew that, wherever they went and whatever God called them to do, the risen Jesus would be there with them.
Martin Luther King captured the essence of that new attitude, of that new boldness, when he declared, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” The first step for the women who had come to the tomb was to remember and, in remembering, to begin to envision life in a new way. Gradually, in the act of repeated remembering and reflection, they and the other disciples would come to commit themselves to walking the way of that unseen staircase. They would come to understand that, as St. Paul put it in our second reading, Jesus had become the “first fruits“ of God’s new creation and that now they and we are coming to share in that life of the new creation with him.
That perspective transforms our entire vision of who we are and of what we are about in the present. And it transforms our futures as we rededicate ourselves, just as we did in renewing our baptismal promises here last evening, to being the agents through whom God is and will be transforming the world.
On this Easter morning, as we and the rest of the church throughout the world continue our celebration of Jesus resurrection, we gather here to remember. We remember Jesus’ death and resurrection and the new life that it has brought to the world. And, in remembering, we allow God to transform our past, our present, and our future, as we join with Christ, the first fruits, in the work of bringing to its fullness God’s new creation.