Sermon
Easter Sunday, 2003
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
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Scripture Reading

Mark 16:1-20

1 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you." 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

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Sermon

“For they were afraid” “For they were afraid” That is how Mark ends his resurrection story – “they were seized with terror and amazement and they fled”. “For they were afraid”

Is there anything that is bigger than fear? It has the power to grip our hearts and focus our energy into the action of self-protection. Fear can paralyze us, preventing us from acting. Fear can obliterate joy. Is there anything bigger than fear?

The mother of James, Salome and Mary Magdalene, went to the tomb just as the sun was rising in the east. And after they are told by a young man, all dressed in white that Jesus was raised and they ran away. “For they were afraid.”

What were they afraid of? a young man who gave them the news that they most hoped that they might someday hear? No, that isn’t it.

Were they afraid that they would see Jesus, resurrected? I don’t think so.

They were afraid of the authorities – the Romans -

They had good cause to be afraid. They were afraid that maybe grave robbers had pilfered the tomb, looking for riches. In those days it was common for families to tuck all that the deceased might need in their journey in the afterlife. This had been going on since the Egyptians began to bury their dead in tombs. If a grave robber had removed the body they were in big trouble.

An important piece of the puzzle was the Romans suspicion that one of Jesus’ followers would steal the body so that the disciples of Jesus could claim resurrection. In Matthew we hear that the Romans were so suspicious that they planted a guard at the entrance to the tomb. Then the Romans would have to act, arresting all the followers, to make sure that this little band of devoted wouldn’t grow to be an even greater threat.

They were afraid for their lives. So, they ran away and they hid.

Fear can so grip our lives that we run and hide. What is it that you fear?

Any one here ever have an argument with their younger brother or sister? Anyone ever get in trouble with their parents because of it? I was a young girl, maybe in 4th or 5th grade. Easter was early that year… On Good Friday we had a one of those early spring, heavy wet snow falls, the kind that can bring an auto to a halt.… But my mother hadn’t finished all of her grocery shopping for the Easter dinner. She decided to leave my younger brother and I at home, dying Easter eggs, while she walked the mile between our house and the grocery store. And we did fine for a while – but as was the usual case, it didn’t last. I don’t remember what was said, but I do remember that it must have been my brother that first took his egg dipper and used it to throw Easter Egg dye at me. And I do remember the way I picked up a spoon and threw dye at him. And I remember the way the new curtains in the kitchen looked. They had been turquoise – splattered with dots of every color and I really remember the look on my mothers face when she walked in and found colored egg dye on everything, including her brand new curtains. I think that I – at that moment, was afraid for my life. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next, but I was old enough to know what could happen.

What Did the disciples think was going to happen after they discovered the empty tomb? How could they have known that 2,000 years later we would all be sitting here celebrating in spite of their panic. It is a miracle that Christianity survived those first days.

How could the early Christians have known that their resistance and determination in the face of persecution would be a model for our us, today. It is a miracle that faith in Jesus as the messiah didn’t fade into history the first time Christians were thrown to the lions. It can only be by God’s intervention that we are sitting here today.

That is what we celebrate today - God’s continual intervention into our lives. The miracles that lead us each to know that our faith is true and that it can be trusted. We celebrate that - time and time again, we survive that which we thought impossible. We celebrate that our lives are put back together again, after the tragic loss of a loved one. We celebrate that in the face of the worst possible news about our health, we can still find peace and comfort. We celebrate that we can still find our hearts and souls healed of wounds that have caused us to lose our way. We celebrate that God’s Holy spirit dwells in our hearts and in the face of trial, we are given courage. We celebrate that despite our mistakes, forgiveness is offered, amends are made. And by the way, that is the end of my Easter egg dye story, I was forgiven. And my mother still loves me.

Listen carefully, this is what I want you to leave with this morning!

We don’t just celebrate the resurrection of the dead, we celebrate the resurrection of the living. We celebrate the miracles that surround our lives, the joy that comes in the morning after a night of sorrow. . We celebrate that God’s mercy and grace are with us always.

We celebrate that as disciples of Jesus Christ we find that the ultimate fear is overcome.

Is there anything greater than fear? Yes, Love. Love leads us into the light of God, Love keeps us on the right path. In the light of God’s love all fear is vanquished, only mercy and peace remain.

Christ is risen. Say it with me, Christ is Risen – Christ is risen. Love has conquered the world. Alleluia and
Amen.

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