Easter Sermon

It was an all-seminarian Tridduum (+Easter Sunday) this year. Here’s what Jake Bitner preached on Easter Sunday. When Tyler sends it to me, I’ll post Tyler Simon’s Good Friday sermon:

Easter is here, finally here, and I have to be honest: I’m really tired. Not just the physically tired that comes with being a U of C student. But tired emotionally, and tired spiritually. Exhausted from a long Lent of introspection, of question and examining my faith and what I believe, trying to figure out what I’m called to do. Exhausted from the anxious anticipation of Holy Week. And here is Easter, this amazing relief. He was dead, and we were worried, but he’s alive again! Alleluia! This day brings rejuvenation, renewal, rebirth… resurrection. After the long desert of Lent, this is paradise. And I want to stay here; I want to wrap myself up in this day and keep living in it continually. Every Sunday is a little Easter, but no Sunday is Easter like this Sunday. I want to hold onto it.

But I’m drawn to look at our Gospel lesson from John, specifically to Mary Magdalene. Now, who she was, what she was, and what role she played are conversational questions. But what is sure is that she followed Jesus with great devotion and loved him very much. And so his death… his death must have just devastated her.

She was exhausted, tired, and we find her at the tomb, early in the morning. She’s come to be near the body of Jesus, and it’s gone. She runs to Peter and John, they follow, find the empty tomb. John and Peter leave, maybe believing, maybe worried sick, maybe just scared as Hell. But Mary, she stands outside the tomb weeping. She lost everything at his death, and now even the body was gone! Even two angels appear, a site that has to be disturbing, no matter how often it happens in the Gospels. “Why are you weeping?!” they ask her, but she’s too grief stricken to answer. Then a man appears behind her and asks, “Woman, why are you weeping?! Who are you looking for?!” She begs him, “Did you take his body? Give it to me, I’ll keep it!” All she has is her grief and pain and she wants to hold onto it.

But he calls her by name and suddenly she sees that it’s Jesus and he’s alive! Can you even imagine her feelings?! He was dead and they were worried, but now he’s alive! She reaches out to hold onto him… and he says no… NO?! She’s just had the first Easter high, the most amazing experience… and he says no “Don’t hold onto me… go and tell them.” She can’t stay there; there is more to do. And she does it, she goes and tells the disciples that she’s seen Jesus, and everything that he’s said. She doesn’t get to stop and hold onto it.

Just like Mary, Jesus calls us by name. And after all this, why can’t we just stay here? He was dead and we were worried, but now he’s alive! Can’t we hold onto it? And Jesus tells us no, don’t hold onto me here… there is so much more to do.

So, what has to be done? We read in Isaiah that God has promised to make a new world, where everyone works and gets fed, where the lion eats straw like the ox, and the wolf and the lamb can eat together peacefully. And I look around and… yeah… wolves eat lambs, lions eat beef, and people are working and starving and the world… it’s just so weary… there’s so much more to do.

So I read Paul’s Corinthians letter. How I understand the passage “until he has put all his enemies under his feet,” these enemies are not governments or people or supernatural demons. They are the oppression, starvation, inequality, and divisions that plague our world. These ‘enemies’ need to be faced and wiped out. We must bring this promise to reality, insuring that those who work will all be fed, that no one will be tortured or killed because of their differences, that not one more child will starve to death or die from a disease that could be cured if they only had the money. “And the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Because when we claim the resurrection of Christ as ours and as belonging to all the nations, we are really, fully alive in God. And we take part in an eternal life, in the communion of saints that stretches from eternity to eternity, embracing all those who live out their status as children of God and sibling to each other in God’s renewal and revival through our resurrection to divine humanity. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His mercy endures forever!”

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