The collect and readings for Easter may be found here. The following sermon is based on Mark 16:1-8.
Several years ago a woman told me that her great-grandson asked why she had so many wrinkles on her hands. “I’m old,” she told him. “Do you know what happens when you get old,” he asked. “You die and they bury you in the ground.” Before she could say anything he added, “But that’s ok; God comes and unburies you.”
What more is there to say? He’s just told the Easter story. It’s that simple. We get buried by the circumstances of life and God unburies us. Over and over God comes to the tombs of our lives and unburies us. That’s Easter. That is the power and love of God. It is as true as it is simple.
That truth speaks louder than the reality of our burials. There are so many ways in which our life gets buried: sorrow and grief, death and loss, fear and anxiety, perfectionism, anger, guilt, regret, resentment, self-hatred, the things we have done and the things we have left undone. Those are the stones that block our way. Those stones mark the many in ways in which we have suffered death, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
With each stone we ask, “Who will roll away the stone? Who will do for me what I cannot do for myself?” That’s what the three women are asking as they walk to the tomb. It’s not really a question as much as it is a statement about their life and what they expect. Their life has been buried in loss, pain, and death. And they expect it to stay that way. They expect a stone of death too big, too heavy, too real for them to do anything about.
I wonder how often we live not only expecting to get buried but expecting to stay buried. We too quickly forget that for every burial there is an Easter. That’s what the women discovered as soon as they looked up. The stone of death, the stone that blocked their way, had already been rolled back.
That’s why we show up this day, year after year. We want to know that the stones of our tombs have been rolled back. We want to hear the story again and be reminded that the tomb is open and empty. We want to know ourselves as unburied. We want to hear one more time, “Christ is risen!”
“God unburies you,” he told his great-grandmother. The young man in the tomb told the women, “He has been raised. He is not here.” The Church proclaims, “Christ is risen!” However it is said, it is the good news we want and need to hear. Those are sacred words; words of hope, life, and resurrection. Everything has changed. We are a new people.
Recall the stones that have blocked your way.
Christ is risen and they are removed.
Name your loved ones who have died.
Christ is risen and they are unburied.
Count your sins.
Christ is risen and you are forgiven.
Stand before God.
Christ is risen and you are loved.
Removed, unburied, forgiven, loved. These are God’s Easter words to us, not just today but everyday. God has been enacting words of salvation, hope, and love to God’s people from the very beginning. It happened when we were created in God’s image and likeness. God’s Easter words parted the Red Sea and drew the Israelites into a new land and life. Those same words transplanted in humanity a new heart, a new spirit, and made us God’s people. Ezekiel stood in the Valley of Dry Bones watching God open graves and breathe life into dead skeletons. It never ends.
In just a few moments God will again enact those words of life and love in the baptism of GK. We will witness little GK be buried in the baptismal waters of death, be unburied, and made a new creation in Christ. I want you to look at him and see his life: the innocence, the possibilities, all that might be, the love, the beauty, the goodness. Those are not just about GK. He is a mirror of your unburied life. What are the very best hopes and prayers you have for him? Name them. They are the same hopes and prayers Christ has for you.
Today Christ offers GK, you, and me his unburied life. One day you look up and see that the stone of death has already been rolled away. Christ is risen. The unburied life comes to us in a thousand different ways. You overcome bitterness and anger, reconciling with another person. That is life unburied. You feel the presence of a loved one who has died but you weren’t even thinking about him or her. That is life unburied. You look at the world and weep with compassion for its pain. That is life unburied. You respond to another’s harsh words or actions with forgiveness rather than your own harsh words or actions. That is life unburied. You love without fear, holding nothing in reserve, offering all that you are and all that you have. That is life unburied. You feel a new sense of Jesus’ presence, a reality and connection that move beyond beliefs. That is life unburied.
Life unburied always presents itself as a new creation. So it is that the women in today’s gospel go to the tomb on the first day of the week, the day creation began. Everything is being made new. The sun has risen. It is the dawn of a new day declaring that the Son has risen. If Christ is risen then so are we. This new day is also our day, the day of the holy and unburied people of God.
So I wonder; what will we do with our new and unburied life?