Easter: A Sermon

Readings (Jeremiah; Psalm; Acts; Matthew)

Alleluia. Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

One of the things I love about our liturgical tradition is that at the major feasts our  liturgies say pretty much everything that needs to be said. So the sermon: it’s quite enough to add a few program notes. Notice what the woodwinds are doing here. Notice how the composer circles back to the opening theme there. So here are a couple program notes.

From the material unique to Matthew’s account, it’s clear that in his context he feels the need to respond to the the-disciples-stole-the-body story. We heard that in the verses preceding and following those assigned by the lectionary. No: the disciples didn’t steal the body—and the guards, priests, and elders know it. What actually happened matters, both then and now. I normally don’t devote much sermon time to “what actually happened.” Holy Scripture uses pretty much all the available genres (myth, legend, fable, satire, history, apocalyptic, etc.) to give us a true account of our reality. But here what actually happened matters. If some version of his disciples stole the body is true, will the last one out please turn off the lights.

But Jesus has been raised. God bats last.

Then there’s the end of our assigned reading. The angel’s instructions were clear: the next scene is in Galilee, that’s where Jesus will appear.

But then Jesus goes off script: “Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’” No need for it; Matthew’s already told us that the women are running to tell the disciples. It’s not clear that it accomplishes anything. But it briefly lifts the veil on something that’s been implicit throughout Matthew’s Gospel. At the beginning: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, ‘God is with us.’” At the ending “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Why? Because God has to (being omnipresent and all)? Hardly. Because that’s God’s job? But surely being God means writing your own job description. Because that’s what God desires. I wonder if we’ve really let that sink in.

Alleluia. Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

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