Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019. Rev. Scott Ramsey, preaching.
Scripture Reading: John 20:1-18
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The Entire Easter Service is recorded here. The full video runs 1:19:34. The sermon begins at 22:05.
Permission to broadcast the music in this service obtained from One License with license #A708462
Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!
Friends in Christ, the announcement and promise of Easter is that – right here in the midst of our broken and hurting world – the intimidating force of death has been decisively swallowed up by the healing power of love, and a new creation has been opened up in the world. The resurrection of Jesus launches a new creation, makes possible a new beginning, opens up a new chapter in your life, in the life of this community, and in the life of the world. Because of Easter, we are in the midst of a new creation.
New creation – new beginnings – language and imagery shows up all over the place in the Bible, because God is in the newness business. According to the Bible, disruptive newness is how God rolls. 2 Corinthians 5: “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.” Revelation 21: “Behold, I am making all things new.” John 3: “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.” We see it in the Hebrew Scriptures, as well. Isaiah 43: “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, can’t you see it?” Psalm 96: “Sing to the Lord a new song.” New creation, new birth, new song, new, new, new, new, new.
This newness of Easter is personal, and it is also communal. So, if there is some place in your life today, where you are experiencing the powers of sin and fear and death, Easter is putting you on alert that God is deeply at work there to open up a new chapter in your life. And, if there is a place in our larger, communal life, where you are particularly aware of the powers of oppression and violence and fear, you should know that God is profoundly at work there to open up new possibilities for freedom, especially for all of those who are currently being held down by the world.
The early church developed the custom of referring to the day of resurrection as the “eighth day of creation,” finishing the work of the original 7 days of creation in the book of Genesis. We can see how this theme gets picked up in the Gospel of John, linking the resurrection of Jesus to the original creation story in Genesis. In Genesis 2, the Lord God begins the 2nd creation story by planting a garden in Eden. God (the text wants us to know) is a gardener. And then God puts the first humans in the garden to till and keep it, so that God has given us the vocation of being gardeners as well.
Fast forward to John 19, where we are told that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus take the crucified body of Jesus and bury it in a tomb that is located… you’ll never guess where … in a garden. Anytime you hear the word “garden” in the Bible, your ears ought to perk up as you listen for connections to the creation story. And when Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene in John 20, she doesn’t recognize him at first, but believes him to be the gardener.
According to John, the Genesis creation story is completed and extended in the new creation story of Easter. In the creation stories of Genesis, God brings order out of chaos, God launches creation on its way and forms men and women to live in healthy relationship with each other, with the earth, and with God. In the Easter creation story, God brings new life out of death, God launches creation on a renewed trajectory out beyond the grip of sin and fear, and God brings new life to tired men and women, beaten down by the machinery of the world.
And just in case we might miss it, the Bible wants us to know that this new life is not limited to us humans. “Behold I make all things new!” says Christ in the Revelation. Easter is the announcement that all things are made new, all things are released from the claws of fear and death, all things are given new life. This is why it’s such a lovely thing that tomorrow, April 22, is Earth Day, when we recommit ourselves to caring for the earth and for all of creation. I n the midst of our policy differences and the global challenges related to the environment, Easter and Earth Day are an opportunity and a summons for us to recommit ourselves to our original vocation from Genesis of tilling and keeping and caring for the earth and its gardens and waters and vulnerable creatures. The new life of Easter is not something that we keep to ourselves, but is something that flows into us and then out of us into every part of creation.
On that first Easter morning, God raised Jesus from the dead, beginning a new creation in which fear has lost its sting. And then God called forth people to bear witness with their words and with their deeds to that new life. In John 20, Jesus sends Mary Magdalene forth to tell others about the new creation, which the text says she does immediately. Mary Magdalene becomes the first evangelist in the Gospel of John; she paves the way for the rest of us. Like Mary, we are being sent forth into our broken and hurting and deeply divided world, sent forth to embody the expectation that God is doing something new in our midst, that God is raising the dead, bringing good news to the poor, giving sight to the blind, and delivering hope to the hopeless. The new creation has already begun. Where will you expect to see it? Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Amen.