Grey Maggiano, Easter Day Homily 2021

This sermon is part of the Patheos 2021 Easter season sermon series. Watch his sermon hereSee all sermons in the series here. 

 

Easter Day Homily 

2021

Memorial Episcopal Church

Rev. Grey Maggiano

 

“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.”

 

So, if you were expecting to anoint the body of your dead friend and instead you found an empty tomb and a strange man sitting inside saying “Don’t worry, your friend is not here, but he will meet you back at home,”  you might be scared too. 

 

I mean -- they saw him die!  They were the only ones who actually saw him because they didn’t run and hide. And now,  they were ready to perform all the ceremonial rituals they couldn’t do at the burial and…. he’s just gone! 

 

What I am trying to say is that it is hard for us 21st century American Christians to understand the Easter narrative as being connected to fear.   We live in a world of stark polarities- good and bad,rich and poor, Republican and Democrat, Ravens and Steelers. Easter is supposed to be about hope, not fear. 

 

Well, what is Easter really about for you? 

 

Easter for me as a child was uncomfortable clothes,  a longer than usual church service, lots of incense and then some kind of buffet meal involving multiple trips to the omelette station.  

 

I have seen Episcopal Churches that will pop champagne for communion wine on Easter Day. 

 

I have served at churches that turn out a huge Easter potluck after services, one even with a lemonade fountain. I love a good lemonade fountain. 

 

The reality is, in our tradition the only ‘fear’ most of us might face on Easter is “will someone eat all the cucumber tea sandwiches before I get to the table?”

 

‘And they said nothing to no one, because they were afraid’ 

 

It is possible that the 21st century American Church has lost touch with the significance of the Resurrection moment, quite possible

 

We have lost touch with the amazing, life-changing new reality that Mary, Mary and Salome encountered in the empty tomb. The absence of a body meant that resurrection was real; that there is life after this life and that that man Jesus, their friend was they key to eternal life.  Consider a moment in time when with stunning and instant clarity you are aware that everything after this moment will be different. A moment that will not just change you, but reorient and challenge your relationship to the whole world and to everyone in it.  

 

All of a sudden a voice speaks, a young man in white, not Jesus, not quite an angel but also not earthly tells you what you already know “you are looking for Jesus, he is risen, he is not here.” If we allow ourselves to idle in this moment - when Mary and Mary and Salome are deciding if they will follow through on the commands from this young man - ‘Go and tell Peter and the disciples’ - what might they be thinking? 

 

Peter is never going to believe us. He already denied Jesus at the cross.

They are going to think we are crazy. 

What will our families say?  

Wouldn’t it be easier if we didn’t. 

Why would they believe us?

 

‘And they said nothing to no one, because they were afraid’ 

 

There is another emotion evident here, and one we don’t often contemplate. disappointment.  This was supposed to be their time to care for Jesus’ body! They went out early to buy all the right oils and perfumes. They were going to bathe the body, preparing his body and soul for transition.  

 

This peaceful early morning gathering at the tomb was also their time to be together.  In a male-dominated society, one where these three disciples of Jesus are never named as such because of the pervasiveness of the patriarchal structure, this is one task they are allowed to do. One way they are able to be of service to Christ. 

 

In the midst of a terrible and awful situation this is, perhaps, a comfortable place to be. 

 

And then it doesn’t happen. 

 

We have all been there, right?  Moments when you were just so excited about the task before you, be it a professional, personal or communal effort. A moment  where the responsibility was yours and when you showed up you find out  it had been cancelled or someone else had done the job, or it wasn’t nearly as big a deal as you had made it out to be.  Outwardly you might say something like, “Oh no big deal, I’ll just go get a coffee” but really you want to say “this mattered to me! This was an opportunity for me to contribute and belong, and you took it from me!”

 

‘And they said nothing to no one, because they were afraid’ 

 

What do we do with this mix of amazement, fear,isappointment and insecurity? What if that is what the Resurrection is about? 

 

As these women stand at the entrance to that empty tomb, the words of the strange young man dressed in white ringing in their ears —- the whole of our salvation hinges on what happens next. 

 

What are these woman going to do? Run? Hide? Go and tell? 

 

This is, to borrow from TS Eliot, the still point of the turning world. 

 

Among all the people God could have entrusted with the most sacred message — ‘Tell Jesus’ disciples that He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” — God chose Mary, Mary and Salome. Three scared, disappointed, amazed, and hopeful women were entrusted to carry the story of Christ’s Resurrection to the world. 

 

What message has God entrusted you with in this season? What is that thing in the pit of your stomach that makes you excited, amazed, fearful, inspired, but you are a little too scared to give voice to on your own. 

 

You don’t have to worry about  cucumber sandwiches today. There isn’t even an   omelette station!  Many of our Easter traditions are paired down or gone entirely this year, along with a whole lot of other things we used to do.  It’s okay - there were no peeps in the empty tomb, either. 

 

Maybe, just maybe we don’t need all of that. Maybe we can hear God better when we aren’t so worried about all the other things. 

 

‘And they said nothing to no one, because they were afraid’ 

 

The last year has been awful in too many respects to count.  But among the small rays of light this year has offered is it has allowed us to pare back significantly the things we feel we NEED to do.   As we do that in our personal and professional lives, we also have to think about how we do that in our spiritual lives and in our spiritual home. 

 

What has to happen here and what do we just do out of habit. More importantly what things do we do out of habit that stand in the way of deeper spiritual growth, transformational ministry, and authentic relationships? 

 

Thinking about that can create a lot of wonder, and a lot of fear. But that is exactly what the resurrection is all about. 

 

‘And they said nothing to no one, because they were afraid’ 

 

What do Mary and Mary and Salome do with their fear and wonder? They eventually tell someone. Word gets out. And we know because we are sitting here!  That is the brilliance of Mark’s Gospel — he begins by telling us about a man sent to proclaim the Good News, and concludes with a trinity of women sent out to do the same.   

 

They waded into their fear, wonder , trepidation and amazement, and came out to the other side and told Jesus’ story.  And that is the reason you are with us today.  Because someone told you the story. 

 

‘And they said nothing to no one, because they were afraid’ 

 

What will we do with our fear and wonder? 

 

Will we stay quiet?  Or will we dream?  Imagine and practice resurrection together?

 

A long time ago at an empty rock hewn tomb, three women were paralyzed with fear. 

 

But fear wasn’t the end of the story. 

 

Your fear is not the end of your story. 

 

So go out and practice resurrection.

 

Amen. 

 

The Rev. Grey Maggiano is the Rector of Memorial Episcopal Church in Baltimore. Prior to his service in Baltimore, he was the Associate Rector of the Trinity Cathedral Miami, where he also served on the board of the Friends of the Biscayne Bay. Grey lives in Center-West Baltimore with his wife Monica, two children and a new puppy.


4/5/2021 5:21:54 PM