You probably do not remember the name Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin. During his day he was as powerful a man as there was on earth. A Russian Communist leader he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution 1917, was editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda (which by the way means truth), and was a full member of the Politburo. His works on economics and political science are still read today. There is a story told about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge assembly on the subject of atheism. Addressing the crowd he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity hurling insult, argument, and proof against it.
An hour later he was finished. He looked out at what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of men's faith. "Are there any questions?" Bukharin demanded. Deafening silence filled the auditorium but then one man approached the platform and mounted the lectern standing near the communist leader. He surveyed the crowd first to the left then to the right. Finally he shouted the ancient greeting known well in the Russian Orthodox Church: "CHRIST IS RISEN!" En masse the crowd arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of thunder: "HE IS RISEN INDEED!"
I say to you this morning: CHRIST IS RISEN! (congregational response should be: HE IS RISEN INDEED!). I am convinced! I have faith that Christ was dead and he was buried. That I believe. But, this too I accept as true: He rose from the dead and will come again in glory.
This is Easter. And to stand here on this day in this pulpit and proclaim this word. . . I cannot begin to tell you how this defines all that I am.
But, you will say to me, how do you know that the resurrection is real? How do you know that it is really valid?
2. Because the Resurrection as stood the test of time
3. Because I have experienced the Resurrection
spouses, mothers, members of our church communities.
When the rest of us give up on others
- a wayward child,
- a parish group that has lost its way,
- a political movement dogged by corruption,
- a relationship that is going nowhere,
they continue to hope.
What we call the end they see as the first day of a new time,
what we call night they recognise as the first sign of dawn.
Because they are at the tomb with spices they had prepared,
they are the first to discover that the stone has been rolled away
from the tomb and the body is not there;
while we continue to look among the dead for someone who is alive,
they receive the good news that he is not there and has risen to new life.
- we had given up hope that we would ever be reconciled with a friend,
when all of a sudden we were relating as before;
- one morning a loved one gave up drink or drugs;
- a dying friend who had long refused to see a priest asked to do so;
- opposite sides in a dispute started to negotiate.
We remember how when we understood that the large stone
Which was blocking new life was now rolled away,
We were like the women at the tomb of Jesus,
We stood there not knowing what to think.
It was all so unexpected that we dared not raise our eyes in case it was not true.
Only gradually we understood that we were looking among the dead
For someone who was alive.
We remembered the words we had been told many years before,
That sooner or later we all have to be handed over into the power of evil,
To be crucified and rise again on the third day.
Thank you, Lord.
who he is and who we are.” Thomas Merton
on the first day of the week and at the first sign of dawn
is the only power that can roll away the great stone
blocking crucified ones from rising to new life.
be a reminder, however weak, of your divine presence.” Don Helder Camara
our church communities may be signs of hope for society;
that like the two angels in brilliant clothes
who appeared to the women at the tomb of Jesus,
we may announce to those who mourn that,
though it may seem that love has been handed over
into the power of hatred and violence
and securely locked away with a great stone blocking the way out,
it is not among the dead, but still alive in the world.
they look at me as if I am crazy. Idealism is alien to them.” President Aristide, speaking about government officials, 1994
- in ourselves, in other people, and in society –
that we have become cynical.
When people speak to us about resurrection and new life
Their story seems to us pure nonsense and we do not believe them.
Even when, like Peter, we go running to the tomb
and see the cloths that once kept men in bondage now left lying on the ground,
we merely go back home amazed at what happened and still do not believe.
At this Easter time we think of people of faith whom we have known
- elderly people in our communities, parents and grandparents,
teachers, founders of a movement we now belong to.
As they walked the roads of whatever peaceful Galilee they lived in,
they knew a day would come when they would be handed over
into the power of sinful men, perhaps even to be crucified,
but they trusted that with your help they would rise again on the third day.
Today we remember their words with gratitude.
- verses 1-2 are about Mary of Magdala’s experience;
- verses 3 to 10 tell us about the experience of the two disciples.
In verses 1 and 2 you might like to focus on the symbolism of it being “still dark” and yet a “first day” of a new time. The large stone symbolizes all the forces, human and other, that keep God’s grace in the bondage of the tomb.
Your experience will help you interpret how Mary responded. Did she run in confusion? Or in fear?
St John makes a point of contrasting the two apostles. If you would like to meditate on this aspect of the story, see Peter as symbol of the Church leader, while “the other disciple” is the one who, while having no position of authority, is specially loved by Jesus and, perhaps as a result, is first in faith.
Lord, we thank you for moment of grace.
We had been in a situation of death
- a relationship that meant a lot to us seemed dead
- an addiction held us in its grip
- our country was locked in civil strife.
Then the day came that would turn out to be the first of a new era.
We were mourning as usual,
Like Mary of Magdala making a routine visit to the tomb of Jesus,
But saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb.
Naturally, we looked for some simple explanation,
“they have taken the Lord our of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him,”
but it wasn’t anything like that,
it was what the scriptures teach us, that your work must always rise again.
Archbishop Romero, some days before he was martyred
Lord, we thank you for people of faith.
They believe the teaching of the scriptures
That your work may lie in the tomb for some days
But it must rise again.
of the presence and action of God in our time?”
Musumi Kanyaro, Committee of Women in Church and Society, Lutheran World Federation
we see what Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved saw as they entered his tomb.
Cloths are lying on the ground that we can recognise for what they are
- attitudes of passivity that look like fine linen but in fact kept your chosen ones in the tomb.
Whereas you have once more fulfilled what you taught us in all the scriptures
and we had not really believed until this moment:
that you will always raise up your chosen ones when the world imprisons them in a tomb.
Today they have enthusiasm, for them you are alive and present;
But there will certainly come a time when they will experience you absent,
When prayer will be like Mary of Magdala going in the gloom of early morning
To visit the tomb of Jesus.
In fact they will be like people who mourn for a spouse or a child
Without even having the comfort of the dead body to look at.
This is the way they will have to pass
because until they have had experiences like this they will not really believe
the teaching of the scriptures that your grace cannot be overpowered by evil
and that your presence within us must always, like Jesus, rise again from the tomb.
- that our prayers are always answered;
- that we are living in a way that is pleasing to you;
- that the times, gestures and words of our prayers are just right.
Teach us that we must be prepared to lose that security
and experience being abandoned, until we live in trust only
and see all those things that we considered important
like the cloths in the empty tomb of Jesus -
fine linen cloths, but they were keeping him in the tomb.
Now we see them on the ground and also the cloth that had been over his head
not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.
commits us to a way of living. The early followers were referred to as being on ‘The Way’ (see Acts 9:2; 18:26; 19:9 and 23; 22:4,14 and 22) and our oldest extant teaching manual (The Didache) begins by contrasting ‘The Way of Life’ (to be followed by disciples) with ‘The Way of Death.’
9. Happy Easter, Church. Christ Is Risen. He Is Risen Indeed.
Earlier this week, a woman was called into her supervisor's office to hear that times are hard for the company and they had to let her go. "So sorry." She cleaned out her desk, packed away her hopes for getting ahead, and wondered what she would tell her kids.
Earlier this week, someone received terrible news from a physician. Someone else heard the words, "I don't love you any more." Earlier this week, someone's hope was crucified. And the darkness is overwhelming.
No one is ever ready to encounter Easter until he or she has spent time in the dark place where hope cannot be seen. Easter is the last thing we are expecting. And that is why it terrifies us. This day is not about bunnies, springtime and girls in cute new dresses. It's about more hope than we can handle.
Craig Barnes, Savior at Large
This is the picture of our dilemma as we worship this glad Easter Day. Humankind is trapped in a dreadful situation. All around we are running low on hope, and we look for a word from beyond offering it to us. This world in which we live is plagued with war and famine, mounting debt and continual destruction. The more we try to rescue ourselves the more we seem to fall behind. We wonder: Is there any hope?
Victor Hugo once put it like this, "For half a century I have been writing my thoughts in prose and verse and history and philosophy . . . But I feel I have not said the thousandth part of what is in me. When I go down to the grave I can say, I have finished my day's work,' but I cannot say, I have finished my life.' My day's work will begin again the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes on the twilight; it opens on the dawn." Mary Magdalene came to the tomb while it was still dark "but the darkness did not remain. The dawn broke. God's Son had risen.
15. Ongoing Easter
Once a man sold everything he had and went to the coast of the Black Sea in search of the touchstone. He began immediately to walk along the shoreline picking up one stone after another in his diligent and intentional search for the touchstone. He was consumed with this dream. He wanted desperately to find this miraculous stone. However, after several days had passed, he suddenly realized that he was picking up the same stones again and again. So he devised a plan... pick up a stone; if it's cold, throw it into the sea. This he did for weeks and weeks.
Then one morning he went out to continue his search for the touchstone. He picked up a stone; it was cold... he threw it into the sea. He picked up another stone - cold! He threw it into the sea. He picked up another stone... it turned warm in his hand, and before he realized what he was doing...
|Homily from Father James Gilhooley|
|Diphtheria once was common in the United States. A tale speaks of a couple having the horror of seeing three of their children die from the foul disease. The parents were the directors of the Sunday School. It fell to them on Easter Sunday to read the Gospel of the Resurrection shortly after their children's death.|
There were many tears in the congregation from those knowing of their loss. But the parents never lost their composure. After the Liturgy, a boy said to his father, "Dad, they must really believe in the Resurrection." The father said, "Son, every Christian does." And the boy responded, "But not the way they do, Dad."
My favorite Easter announcement I found in the National Catholic Reporter. It read in bold, large letters: "Something happened that Easter morning that makes our bad Fridays good and our lives a risk worth taking."
Indeed we come here today to celebrate what one preacher has correctly called "the Greatest Show on Earth." Easter is God's way of saying to each of us with a very large smile, "Let's party!" And of course we should.
I heard of a TV reporter interviewing a group of properly excited youngsters in New York City's Rockefeller Center. He chose one six year old and asked patronizingly, "What does the Easter bunny mean to you?" The boy without a second's hesitation replied, "Jesus died for our sins and then rose from the dead." The stuttering reporter quickly asked, "But what does that have to do with the Easter bunny?" The boy said very simply, "Nothing."
The interview had not been live but obviously taped earlier in the day. One wonders why the TV channel chose to show this particular segment almost proudly on the evening news. One would think the reporter would like to hide a knockout punch from a mere child. The only plausible explanation is that the TV people in their wisdom wanted to reveal to their enlightened listeners how Christians, even the youngest among us, miss the real meaning of Easter.
Such a worthy as Winston Churchill had no doubt on the subject of the Resurrection of the Christ as well as his own. I learned this from watching the 1994 funeral services for President Richard Nixon in California on the television. Billy Graham was one of the speakers. Dr Graham reported on one of the lines in Sir Winston's will. England's one-time Prime Minister stipulated that he wished one bugler to stand in a tower of St Paul's Cathedral and blow taps. In another tower, he wanted a second bugler to respond by blowing reveille.
Nor did America's own Ben Franklin entertain anything but certainty on this question. This was the splendid epitaph he wrote for himself: "The body of B Franklin, printer, (like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of its lettering and gilding) lies here, food for worms. But the work shall not be lost; for it will (as he believed) appear once more, in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the Author."
Mr Franklin was simply exulting in what the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins would later call "the glory of Christ's body risen."
The Easter Sunday sequence from the Roman Missal sums up the entire scene in beautiful language. "Death and life were locked together in a unique struggle. Life's Captain died: now He reigns, no more to die."
Henry Van Dyke has penned, "Some people are so afraid of death that they never begin to live." Hopefully, that will never be said of anyone of us here. For "faith in Christ knows that the best is yet to come."
This Easter take time to think; it is the source of power. Take time to read; it is the source of wisdom. Take time to pray; it is the greatest power on earth. Take time to love and be loved; it is God's gift to you. Take time to be friendly; it brings happiness. Take time to laugh; it is music for the soul. Take time to give; it is too short a life to be selfish. Take time to work; it is the price of success. Take time to help the poor; it opens the door to Heaven. Take time to listen; it may be God speaking. (Author unknown)