April 12, 2020 John 20:1-18 Grace Church

April 12, 2020

John 20:1-18

Grace Church


The fast is over, let the feast begin. Alleluia, alleluia. From this vantage point, I see you, all of you. You are represented by names and Easter symbols — the pews filled with memories and stories, life and death, joy and sorrow. In these days of Coronavirus there is a reordering of all of these realities, for we have time for recounting as we shelter in place. Today, however we will shelter in the arms of a loving God who has taken the mess of our humanity and redeemed it once and for all. We will abide in the shelter of each other, gathered virtually as we remember the people and the stories that are enfolded into all our Easter days.

The fast is over, let the feasting begin. So today, I invite you to remember your own Easter days. To redeem the losses of this time, many families will need special care, those of us who have simply been inconvenienced must not forget the trials and tribulations of others — patience will be required. Many who are ready to rush back into normal will need to be reminded that there will be a new normal. What all of us must remember is that this time is a great cosmic pause — we must be willing to be a new people in light of this new reality. If we do not, God will, for we are challenged our a life of offering as the beloved and redeemed children of God, and we are called to be use to God — to serve, to be people of compassion and forgiveness — this is a life of Grace. Today, we are reminded

Last night I participated in the Great Vigil — it’s the first time I’ve participated in my pajamas. The Bishop struck the new fire in the darkened Cathedral and with a burst of energy, the fire blazed and the Paschal Candle was lit anew. Last night and this morning we gather to celebrate the great good news. From George McDonald comes these words describing to us the journey of Jesus:


In the sickness of his agony, the will of Jesus arises perfect at last;

and of itself, unsupported now, declares for God,

in defiance of pain, of death, of apathy, of self, of negation,

of the blackness within and around it;

calls aloud upon the vanished God.


And on that dreadful day it seemed that God has vanished. But I have another thought. God did not vanish, instead I believe that in the sigh of Jesus’ last breath, all creation came to a standstill — shattered by the cruel human consciousness that could not tolerate the goodness of this one man, Jesus. Dragged down by the conscious defiance of humanity there was a great cosmic pause, creation groaned as Paul puts it, and then God spoke the Word again — “Let there be light!” And in the timeless eternity that is God there was light and out of the earth, newly consecrated with the blood of the crucified, Jesus rose, a new creation.

In the particularity of that dreadful death, God acted and the second Adam, radiant with light, rose and the darkness vanished and death had lost its power to restrain him. In the only words that could explain this moment, we hear that there was a great earthquake. What else could be said? For how do we recount something so wondrous and incomprehensible to mere mortals? There was a great earthquake and an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and the stone rolled back and the women at the tomb heard the words of comfort. And Mary goes to the disciples and says, “I have seen the Lord.”

What has happened? Could it be a new beginning and a new creation? Could God have stopped the whole horrific nightmare and said let there be light, and we get to start over — we get a second chance? And in this second chance, we get to know the great secret, what up to that moment had only been a wish — death does not have the last word. Can knowing this truth send us down a different path? Can this journey that started with creation and a star and angels and dreams and wise men kings and a watery baptism and teaching and feasting and serving and finally a trip down the mountain into the valley of the shadow of death, be our to take as well?

Here is the answer: That perfect will of Jesus took the whole journey for us, crying out for God on our behalf so that now we know it all — we have seen the mystery of the universe revealed before our very eyes. This isn’t the end but only the beginning. In the sickness of his agony, the will of Jesus arises perfect at last; and of itself, unsupported now, declares to God! And in a cataclysmic moment, God speaks the Word again — Let there be light! And in the moment of radical transformation, creation is reborn and this time, creation is reborn in an image seared into the hearts and minds of all humankind. Jesus, the itinerant teacher is transformed: the Christ within his shattered body blazes forth, exploding into the universe — He is risen!

The blackened tomb is filled with radiant light, like unto the sun, blazing, blinding, life giving. He is the first born of this new creation and we are the recipients of his nourishing presence. The first gift is the knowledge that death cannot hold sway over us. The great secret that eluded the children of Adam is revealed. In our quest to be God, we dared to touch the sun and fell from grace. Conscious of death, fear ruled our hearts and alienation, our days. But now, the truth has been set free and out of the darkness of the tomb, humankind is liberated by the perfect will of Jesus the Christ. Jesus is alive! It is too awesome a truth, too wondrous to believe and yet, they experienced his risen body, glorious and eternal.

And we, too, will experience such a miracle in these days of coronavirus, if only we are willing to see.

Amen. Alleluia!

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