This April Fools’ Day, join us for a celebration of the greatest and most joyous surprise of all! The great possibility that is Easter dares us to hope even when all seems hopeless. Our Easter celebrations will include amazing music by the Calvary Choir, brass, and organ.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
A PDF of the sermon as distributed at Calvary is available for download and printing.
Happy Easter! It is a joy to celebrate this day with all of you.
And I love that today is also April Fool’s Day.
I thoroughly believe that God has a sense of humor.
And if Easter isn’t a day when we can laugh and experience pure, unexpected joy, I don’t know what is.
Scripture tells us in First Corinthians, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are,” (I Cor 1:27-28).
Friends, ours is an upside-down, backwards gospel message where the last shall first and the first shall be last, where followers of Jesus find hope in the most hopeless of situations, and where death leads to new life and resurrection.
It may seem foolish to not hedge our bets on what is the most powerful or the most practical or even the most lucrative, but the story of Holy Week, the story of Easter, is one where what the world considers foolish, weak, and impractical comes to not only win the day, but to save us from ourselves.
Easter is about the transformation of all things, even death.
And it is about a foolish hope that will not give up, that will not give in, that even when it is buried, it springs eternal.
There is a Mexican proverb that first originated in Greece that says this, “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know that we were seeds.” “They tried to bury us. But they didn’t know that we were seeds.”
Recently, I heard a story from my spiritual director that shook me to my core. A family welcomed a new baby into their lives. The big sister was only three when the baby was born, and she was loving and doting and sweet.
But she kept insisting that she needed to sleep with the baby in his crib. She was adamant and unrelenting about this.
And of course, the parents had their misgivings about this. But she would not let it go.
So they made a deal, that she could take one nap in the crib with the baby. And that she had to be very careful and gentle and aware. And that once she fell asleep, dad would come and get her out of the crib and put her in her own bed.
Very excited, big sister agrees, and both the kids are put down for a nap in the same crib. And her parents have this little nanny cam where they can watch what’s happening in the crib. And they are watching it like a hawk, right? Making sure everything’s ok. And here’s what they witness.
Big sister, not sleeping, but looking intently at baby and whispering to him, “I’m starting to forget what God looks like. Can you help me remember?”
Mary Engelbreit calls babies, “they who are so fresh from God.” Perhaps we are all born knowing the face of God, knowing we are loved by God, knowing that life and light overcome death and darkness. But with every disappointment, each failure, and unrealized dream, that starts to get lost, to get buried deep within us. We forget. And in so doing, we get a little lost.
In today’s scripture, Mary, who knew Jesus so well, is so lost in her grief and mourning, that she doesn’t even recognize him until he calls her by name.
Mary thinks he’s the gardener, but then he says her name. And finally, she recognizes Jesus. That is what is possible on this Easter morning. We, too, can recognize and remember the face of God. It is in that newborn baby. It is in that dying matriarch or patriarch. It is in your neighbor; it is in your gardener, and it is in that person huddled around all their belongings on the corner of Fillmore and Jackson.
But here’s what else is possible on this Easter morning.
We, too, can be found.
Just as Mary was found in the midst of her grief, in the midst of her weeping, we, too, can be found. No matter how deep you feel buried in the quiet desperation of life; no matter how far you feel from the love of God;
no matter where you’ve strayed or stumbled, Through Jesus, there is no place where we can go, where God has not already been.
Even unto death, through the person of Jesus Christ, God has been there.
And wherever we are, no matter how dark or how deep, God’s light can break through. You can and will be found.
So have hope, as foolish as it may seem.
God can find you. And God has a purpose for you.
As L.R. Knost writes, “Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”
Friends, the broken world waits in darkness for the Light of the World who is risen this morning. Carry that light forward, bringing hope and joy and love everywhere its shines.
Christ is Risen. All bets are off; all things are possible. Nothing and no one is lost for good.
Thanks be to God. Amen.