Sermon text: Matthew 28: 1-10
Yesterday I opened an email from our church’s insurance company, and like all emails these days it was discussing the current reality of COVID-19. The first line of the email stated that we are experiencing “unprecedented changes in our world and in our community.” I sat and thought about that phrase for a moment. We are experiencing unprecedented changes. Something like this hasn’t happened since the Spanish Flu of 1918—so many articles point back to that event—but none of us were alive to experience that catastrophe 102 years ago. So now we live and cope with unprecedented changes of stay at home orders, suggestions to wear masks, social distancing efforts, and ordering groceries off of the internet.
So many people have said to me that this doesn’t seem real, that this can’t be possible. I hear questions like:
What’s going on?
What do I do now?
Where do we go from here?
Will we ever go back to normal?
These are questions of uncertainty made by people living in uncertain times who cannot predict what the future will hold. Sometimes it feels like we can’t even think what the next week will hold, or even the next twenty-four hours.
But in the midst of our uncertainty we know that the world is now different. The world we took for granted is now in flux. And that’s unsettling, because we don’t know how the reality and knowledge of this coronavirus will impact how we live into the future.
Two millennia ago, on Easter morning, the very same things was happening, albeit to a much smaller group of people and for a much different reason. Easter brought about unprecedented changes to our world.
The disciples who went to the tomb expected the dead to remain dead, but now the impossible and the unprecedented, has happened. Jesus is alive. The tomb is empty. Death has been defeated.
Every year I try to imagine how astonishing this information would have been for Jesus’ disciples. The resurrection is so tame for us, we’ve lived our whole lives with the knowledge and trust that God raised Jesus from the dead, and not only that, but one day God will raise us all up from the dust of the earth to live with God forever. We believe that because of Easter, death has no power, no finality. Instead, there is everlasting life in this unprecedented gift of God—that what happened to Jesus will happen to us all. But for the first witnesses, this must have felt like shifting plate tectonics.
Even though Jesus foretold this event, the idea of the empty tomb is simply too far outside of our fathoming. Just like society as we know it shutting down for a microscopic scourge was outside of our imaginations.
Easter brings unprecedented changes to the world. Death is defeated. The ultimate enemy is conquered. Jesus shows us that nothing in all of creation can hold back his love for us, not even the grave.
And so, one unprecedented change brings hope so that we may live confidently through another. The good news of Easter gives us hope to face all of the elements in this world that bring pain, brokenness, and death.
In Easter we witness new life in God. And now, more than ever, we see that God’s unprecedented victory over death can bring new life out of the bleakest circumstances. Just as the earth creates a natural showcase of beauty in the flowers, buds, and blooms of Spring, God will bring new life from this horrible situation. We have precedent that the forces of death will not have the last word, and that includes this pandemic. For this reason, on this Easter Day, let us boldly shout:
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Happy Easter. AMEN