My brothers and sisters in Christ, happy Easter! On an occasion like this, there are always so many people to thank: the musicians who have worked so hard to prepare the beautiful music that lifts our spirits to the Lord today, those who decorated the church and those who contributed for the Easter flowers, and all those who have helped out behind the scenes. Thank you!
Throughout the season of Lent, we focused on the journey of discipleship. We heard about the beginning of our being disciples by baptism, leaving our sins behind to follow Christ, the reward promised to disciples in Heaven, and the joy that comes from being a disciple. Today, Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord, is the fulfillment of that great journey. However, “to make an end is to make a beginning.”
A high school or college graduation is frequently called a “commencement.” On such an occasion, there are many accomplishments to be celebrated, but the real journey, we know, is only beginning. Likewise, hopefully, each of us have many accomplishments to point to from this Lenten journey, ways that our practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving have brought us closer to the Lord, spiritual practices that we have taken up like more frequent confession or regular prayer, sins that we have purged from our lives, practices that should continue rather than being left behind with the end of Lent. The journey is not ending, but only beginning.
What we hear in the Gospel of St. Mark today, describing the Lord’s Resurrection, is not exactly the triumphant scene that one would expect. We might expect trumpet blasts, blinding light, and choirs of angels. But rather, St. Mark presents us with three women, “utterly amazed” at an empty tomb. The Resurrection requires our faith, it is an invitation from the Lord to believe in Him, to rely on the testimony of His faithful witnesses, and to continue the journey to seek Him.
The three women expect to find the Lord in the tomb, but instead the angel tells them, “He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.” Galilee is where the Lord spent his three years of public ministry, growing in friendship with the disciples and forming them to be the Apostles who would spread faith in His name throughout the whole world. He will not show Himself openly in Jerusalem – there will be no “I told you so!” moment before the Pharisees, the chief priests, and Pilate. Rather, He goes before them to Galilee, to His friends, to His disciples.
“He is going before you to Galilee!” These words should echo in our own hearts as well. We too come before the empty tomb and wonder, “Where is He?” He has gone before us into the Galilees of our own daily lives. The words of the angel invite us to renew our own commitment to find Him there, to search for Him amidst the sorrows and joys of everyday life.
Christ’s resurrection changes absolutely everything. The timid, scared, and confused Apostles will soon be gathered together, given the power to forgive sins and govern the Church, and sent out to all the corners of the world. And so too, our own celebration of Christ’s Resurrection ought to change us as well. We have lived Christ’s death throughout Lent, we joined the crowds shouting for His crucifixion on Palm Sunday, but today we too are called to rise to new life. St. Paul tells us today: “Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough? Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, for our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Faith in Christ’s Resurrection is that little yeast that transforms the whole mass of dough, that transforms the rest of our lives. So Christ goes before us into the Galilees of your life, inviting you to throw out the old yeast and follow Him with reckless abandon. St. Paul likewise told us last night at the Easter Vigil: “We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.”
If we have begun the great journey of discipleship, we know that St. Paul’s words apply to us as well: Death no longer has power over us. Having turned away from our sins, He invites us to follow Him with new zeal and vigor into Galilee – into our families, our workplaces, our friendships – bringing everywhere the joy that comes from “being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.” May the Lord bless you with a very happy Easter!
The Rev. Royce V. Gregerson
Parish Church of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, Goshen
Sunday of the Resurrection, A.D. MMXVIII