Psalm 118:22-24 I will give thanks to you, God, for you answered me and have become my salvation. The same stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is God’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. On this day God has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
What Death tried to seal in a tomb, God liberated with one proclamation: “Let there be life!” And life burst forth, sentencing Death to its own tomb. Nothing gets between God and God’s beloved!
Happy Easter! Christ is Risen!
What a day. It’s the singular time in the Christian liturgical calendar where the resurrection of Christ is told in the present tense and not as some distant future mythology for a special few who get their faith just right. Today, resurrection is for everyone. Today, God is for everyone. We declare today that God shook heaven and earth and liberated God’s beloved from death as the first born of all creation, the enduring symbol that death is not the final word for anyone. (Full stop.) Today we proclaim that life wins, love wins, liberation wins. Hallelujah!
Today in our encounter with this story of God’s radical activity in the world through the resurrection of Christ, I get to remind you that not only does life, love, and liberation win, but these become the foundation under our feet, the thread holding together the fabric of our existence, the substance of our individual and corporate life together, and the motivation for our activity in the world. It’s this message that makes the church the Church—visible and invisible. Without it, the church doesn’t exist. This awkward, weird, scientifically baffling, nonsensical, proclamation—Christ is Risen!—is meant to be the very characteristic establishing the church—yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
What’s haunting me is how quickly we prefer to move on from Easter Sunday into this makes more sense Monday, and let’s be rational Tuesday, and that’s just mythology Wednesday, and so on. We are too quick to truncate the possibility of this announcement, relegating it to the simplicity of premodern people, some single historical event, a “picture painted on a wall.” I think I’d be fine with this if we, as “enlightened” and “scientific” people, didn’t have so many of our own beliefs that don’t make sense, that are “irrational”, and that qualify as “mythology”. We have our own versions of the very things we criticize previous eras of human existence for. So, I’m wondering, what if… What if this ancient, whacky story of divine activity in the world, the overruling of death, the radical reordering of actuality and possibility has meaning for me, for you, for us today?
What if it can actually recenter and stabilize? What if it can create space and hold time to find identity? What if it can shatter alienation and encourage relationality? What if it can break through false expectations and give us ground to build community? What if it means—no matter what—we have solidarity? What if it’s true?
Now, the angel answered and said to the women, “You, you do not fear! For I know that you are seeking Jesus the one who has been crucified. He is not here; for he is raised just as he said. Come (!) and see (!) the place where he was laid. And quickly go and say (!) to his disciples that he is raised from the dead; and behold! He is going before you to Galilee, there you will see him. Behold! I bid you!” Mt 28:5-7
Matthew seems to have a flair for the divinely dramatic side of story telling that seems, to me, absent in the other three gospel accounts of the resurrection. Mark, Luke, and John have the women (of some number) showing up and the stone already rolled away. But Matthew? Nah. That’s not his style. Let’s go big, or let’s go home!
Matthew tells us that the women, the two Marys (Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary”) came to look at the tomb. Now, while our text makes it sound as if Mary and (the other) Mary were merely there to express their silent condolences, there was a purpose for this “looking”: to confirm Christ’s death. These two women came assuming they’d affirm the actuality of death; they weren’t expecting to leave declaring the possibility of life. Then, out of the blue…
[B]ehold!, a great earthquake happened; for an angel of the Lord descended out of heaven and drew near and rolled back the stone and then was sitting upon it…and from fear of [the angel] the guards shook and they became as dead.
A massive shaking of the ground, an angel in dazzling brightness descending and rolling back a massive stone, and big guards falling over, stiff as boards because they are terrified. Matthew skips no beats here in adding scientific perplexity to vibrant narrative pizzazz; he’s got a point and it’s not just for entertainment. What’s his point? This: Jesus didn’t need the stone removed to leave the tomb. The Angel does it for pure divine dramatic effect. So, this is Matthew hollering at the top of his lungs: JESUS IS RISEN! And God had everything to do with it! this isn’t a “resurrection” story, it’s a “he is not here!” story. It’s a “No one gets between God and the Beloved!” story.
The angel beckons the two Marys to come and see, because the angel knows they are seeking Jesus, the one who has been crucified. Then the angel charges the women to go and proclaim to the disciples that Jesus is not dead, that he has gone on before them into Galilee, and that they’ll see him there. These humble women, dismissed by much of society, are charged by the angelic visitor, a representative of the celestial estate, to be the first to proclaim good news to the sorrowful, to the regretful, to the ones who ran off, to the one who denied three times. It’s these very ones Jesus declares as “my brothers”; they in the midst of their alienation, isolation, loneliness, shame and regret are summoned unto God, affirmed as the beloved because nothing…not-one-thing can separate them from the love of God.
Today, we celebrate, let our voices ring out with the splendor of heart felt Hallelujahs!, throw our hands up in the air, dance with delight like children, and rejoice that death doesn’t triumph over life. When everything looked as it if was dead and gone, God stepped in and breathed life into dry bones. When our hostility toward God felt like an eternal fracture, God bent low and mended it. When our tongues grew parched from reciting unfulfilled promises, God brought us the water of heaven. When our bodies grew exhausted under the constant threat of the thunder of doom creeping about our lives and relationships, God cleared out the clouds and let the light of God’s countenance shine over us. Today, in the resurrection of Christ, God comes near to you, to me, to all of us and is for us.
Today God is in our hunger for stability; we are stabilized.
Today God is in our hunger for identity; we are irreplaceable.
Today God is in our hunger for relationality; we are with others.
Today God is in our hunger for community; we are seen, known, and loved here.
Today God is in our hunger for solidarity; we are not nor ever will be forsaken.
Today, in the resurrection of Christ, sola suspicio, reaches its limit; it has nothing to say to a people who are aware of their hunger, no longer satisfied with consuming themselves to death. Today, in being confronted with this radical story of divine love, life, and liberation we are awakened in our spirits. Today our hearts quicken with possibility, with what if and why not. Today our imaginations are reinvigorated, daring to dream of a world filled with justice, peace, mercy, love, and life. Today, wrapped up in the story of He is not here! we have the audacity to defy nothing with something, what-is with what-could-be, captivity with liberation. Today we come face to face with our hunger, with the reality that resurrection is not of the past but is right now, that we desire more than what we have grown accustomed to accepting and receiving. Today, we realize that our hunger is God’s hungering divine passion for the beloved; thus, today, we see that Jesus’s resurrection from the dead is a summons to us to rise from the dead and join the living and God’s divine revolution of love, life, and liberation in the world for all people.
“The word of love lives, it happens, it is spoken and it is heard. As this word, Jesus is raised from the dead. The story of love does not end on Calvary but begins there.”
Today we taunt death with the fullness of life and dare to follow Jesus out of our tombs; today we are bold to say beyond the limits of reason and suspicion:
“I believe in the crucified Lord who is alive, the failure which didn’t fail, the defenceless man whom God did not forsake, the man who loved, with whose cause God identified God’s self. God says yes to what we usually, with good reason, deny. God makes him the lifebringer, whom we thought of as lost in unreality. … God did not arm the defenceless man, God did not let him come to grief, as reason would suppose, but God approved of his defencelessness, accepted and loved him and raised him up. To believe in [Christ] means to follow his way. He who seeks him among the living, seeks him with God and therefore on this our earth.”
(for part 1 click here, part 2 click here, part 3 click here, part 4 click here, part 5 click here, Good Friday click here)
 Luther qtd in Soelle, The Truth is Concrete, Trans. Dinah Livingstone. New York, NY: Herder and Herder, 1969. 58.
 Translation mine unless otherwise noted.
 ἠ ἄλλη Μαρία
 Θεωρῆσαι τὸν τάφον
 Anna Case-Winters Matthew Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible Eds Amy Plantinga Pauw and William C. Placher. Louisville, KY: WJK, 2015. 336. “The effect of these visits was to confirm death. The women who come to perform this sad task of confirming death instead find themselves running tor Joy, announcing life. Waiting and watching in sadness, they have become the first witnesses to the resurrection. Once again the last are first. They are also first to worship the risen Lord.”
R. T. France The Gospel of Matthew The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Gen. Ed Joel B. Green. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007. 1097. “The action of the angel in removing the stone from the entrance to the tomb draws attention even more clearly than in the other gospels to the fact that Jesus has already left the tomb, while the stone was still in place.”
 France, Matthew, 1098. “This is not an account of the resurrection of Jesus (as some editors still unaccountably describe it in their section headings), but a demonstration that Jesus has risen. We are not told at what point between the burial on Friday evening and the opening of the tomb on Sunday morning Jesus actually left the tomb, though the repeated ‘third day/three days’ language (and even more the ‘three days and three nights’ of 12:40) presupposes that he was in the tomb for most of that period. What matters to the narrators is not when or how he left, but the simple fact that now, early on Sunday morning, ‘he is not here’ (v.6).”
 Ἰησοῦν τὸν ἐσταυρωμένον
 France, Matthew, 1101. “The women are not only themselves the witnesses of the empty tomb, but also the chosen messengers to convey the amazing news to Jesus’ male disciples.”
 France, Matthew, 1103. “my brothers” “This time, however, it follows the abject failure of the Twelve to stand with Jesus when the pressure was on, a failure which was hardly less shameful because Jesus had predicted it in 26:31. But now it is time for the second half of that prediction to be fulfilled ( 26:32), and that Galilean meeting will eventually restore the family relationship which they must surely have thought had come to an end in Gethsemane.”
 Reference to Lent 5 Sermon, Ezekiel 37:1-14.
 Reference to Lent 3 Sermon, Romans 5:1-11.
 Reference to Lent 2 Sermon, Genesis12:1-4a.
 Reference to Lent 1 Sermon, Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7.
 Reference to Good Friday Sermon Isaiah 53
 Soelle, The Truth is Concrete, 80-81.
 Soelle, The Truth is Concrete, 59-60. The masculine pronouns for God rewritten as God/God’s