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Fear and Great Joy

Matthew 28:1-10 and The Magdalene’s Blessing (For Easter Day) by Jan Richardson from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons,

Sunday April 9th, 2023

By Rev. Nicole Lamarche

Good morning and welcome again on this beautiful Easter Sunday! I am so grateful to be here with you like this, there was a time when it was just 4 of us in the room, not too long ago and we survived! And I think we brought Jesus to life with that hymn! Thank you again to all of the volunteers who helped to make today happen! Community is something we build and create together. Thank you to our coffee makers and all who brought food! Thank you everyone for creating community together.

As we come to this part of our gathering, I invite you now to take some deeper breaths, to let ourselves arrive a bit more fully, as we hope to hear whatever word God has for us this day.

I offer this preacher’s prayer from Psalm 19.

God, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight. Our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

They sent soldiers to try and ensure their plan would be carried out. After they executed him, they allowed his body to be wrapped and put behind a rock, but a few days later they got worried. What if the body were to be taken and used to grow this movement that they were trying to put out? In the verses we get before what you heard, Pilate says to them, “you have a guard of soldiers; go make it as secure as you can.”

They were hoping to contain it all in that moment, to literally bury not just his body, but his ideas, to secure them in a tomb and secure their places of privilege and power. So it all had to be stopped.

They wanted to ensure that this whole thing was really done- that they had killed him and they wanted to kill his vision- to hide from history what he said, to cover for all time, the truth that he shared. To end what he had begun, forever.

And as I read the story this year, it actually feels quite familiar. This old story feels true for us now, too.

What I mean is that we human beings have a hard time seeing the truth when it is right in front of us. Are you with me? We often struggle to see things differently when we need to, to evolve our understanding of how we should and could share life together when it’s time.

Often when we are threatened or afraid, we try to avoid the very thing, the idea, the person, the thing that is challenging us… We humans tend to kill ideas and new visions that challenge us. And we even try to hide them from history. Because the truth can be hard to hear.

So this story feels true, especially in a year when it seems as if many elected officials have spent more energy trying to ban the truth. Ban the truth in books on subjects ranging from climate science to Native American experiences to the facts of slavery and more. When we are threatened by the truth…. What do we human beings do? We try to hide it or kill it. Like we are seeing in Nashville this week. We human beings try to get rid of the ideas that we don’t want to hear, the visions we don’t want to take in. We like to expel the truth from the conversation in the name of “broken decorum.”

Because some dared to join the procession led by the kids, peacefully protesting, begging for action after 6 people were killed by an assault rifle in their local elementary school, 3 of them kids. Instead of being willing to listen to the truth when it was in the room, instead of taking the time to hear it, or being open to evolving their understanding of how we should and could share life together, when the truth showed up, it was expelled because it “knowingly and intentionally brought disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives…” Maybe this year Jesus has shown up as two Justins?

When we are threatened by the truth what do we do?

We try to deny, disparage, degrade, cut out, cut off and even kill it?

When we are afraid and when our places of privilege and power have been made to feel insecure, we human beings do try to bury the truth, as if to secure it in the tomb, so it can all be stopped. So doesn’t this old story feel true now too?

But here’s the thing, the thing you came to hear today! These attempts will always fail! The guards attempts to stop the revolution toward more love didn’t work then and it will not work now! Are you with me?

People often make assumptions about what I personally believe about this Easter story. I totally get that because I am a Pastor. But for me this story isn’t about whether Jesus’ physical body was resurrected. When you go there you miss a whole bunch of the story. To me this story is about how you can try to kill the body but you cannot kill the truth. Love cannot be contained and it can never be buried. The truth can never be permanently lost. Love will change forms but never die. And regardless of what we human beings do, our way is not the end.

So this old story feels true for us now, too. Even when we human beings have a hard time seeing the truth when it is right in front of us, even when we struggle to see things differently when we need to, and can’t evolve, what if part of the Easter story is that nothing can stop what God is doing? Not even our own fears. What we fear can never triumph over God’s love.

That’s something we hear about a lot in this Easter story- fear. That is something we hear in each version of the Easter story. The angel appears to everyone and the guards are so afraid that they shake and freeze. And then that same angel goes right to the women and says, “Do not be afraid!” Then when Jesus himself sees the women, he repeats the invitation: Do not be afraid!”

What if this story is about what is possible when enough people, even just two people, are willing to keep going, to keep growing and keep showing up, even when they were afraid?

Because the scripture says the women left the tomb feeling both fear and joy at the same time. What if that is a sign that we are on the right path? Feeling joy and fear together. As you heard from Jan Richardson, that sometimes it seems a door “slams shut

and swings open

at the same time,

turning on the hinge

of your aching

and hopeful heart. "

As we ache and hold hope in this time right now. What if the door that seems slammed shut, is also swung open somehow too?

What if this story about how we human beings try to kill or expel the truth, even when we struggle to see things differently when we need to, when we find it hard to evolve our understanding of how we should and could share life together when it’s time, what if it’s also true that nothing can stop the revolution toward more love, more light, more truth? Not even us, not even our fears!

The guards attempt to stop it then and now, will never work. We have seen and I believe and today we know that the truth can never be contained in a tomb, it can never be buried or banned or expelled. So Beloved of God keep going, keep showing up even to the places that seem like tombs, when you are afraid, there will be great joy too, let us keep giving ourselves to our own evolution, knowing that truth and love toward God’s evolution can never be stopped! May it be so. Amen.

©Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche

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