Shaking the Foundations – Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020

Shaking the Foundations

Matthew 28:1-10

April 12, 2020

Easter Day

Main Idea:  Jesus brings us life.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer.  Amen

On that Easter Sunday morning long ago, Matthew tells us that there were two groups of people at the tomb.  Standing guard were men hired by the religious authorities so that there was no chance that the disciples could come and steal the body.  And then there were the two Marys; Mary Magdelene and the other Mary who were drawn to the tomb by love.  We don’t know what might have been said between these two groups.  Probably the guard held the women in little to no account.  The women probably planned to tell the guards that they didn’t want any trouble, they just wanted to pray for a bit.

But SUDDENLY, the ground shifts beneath their feet; their world is literally rocked by an earthquake as they all, the women and the guards, watch an angel of the Lord descend from heaven, roll back the massive stone from the tomb, and then sit down upon it, as if drawing up a chair.  Let’s think about the angel’s appearance which was like lightning; bright, flashing, dangerous, scary.   The big, strong guards are overwhelmed; they shake as if the earthquake continued on in their own bodies, and they fall down as if dead.  The angel does not speak to them, rather, he sweetly speaks to the two women.  “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He isn’t here, for he has been raised, as he said he would be!   Go and tell the disciples; for Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee and there you will see him.”

The women follow the angel’s instructions.  They too, are overwhelmed but they don’t let that stop them.  They quickly head out with “fear and great joy” and SUDDENLY, Jesus is with them!  On the road!  “Greetings!” he says.  “Hello!”  This is the greatest surprise.  The women fall down before him, collapsing, not in fear, but in joy and relief.  They hold and kiss his feet.  And Jesus affirms the angel’s message.  “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”. 

On that Easter morning, long ago, the world was changed; reality shifted, the foundations of life were shook up and realigned. Those believed to be powerful, no longer were, and those assumed to be powerless were shown to possess great courage and power.

The guards’ response shows us that those who depend on their own power are no match to the power of God. Their courage is a selfish, shallow, and fickle sort.   In this story of new life, the guards fall down and become “like dead men”. They have no ability to deal with the power of God.  Later, when they tell the religious authorities what had happened, they are paid off to lie about it.  They had been hired to protect the tomb from fraudulent behavior and instead they become frauds themselves. They don’t care, they are just glad the job is over! Their only interest is for themselves.  The angel doesn’t speak to them because, why bother?

The women’s response to the angel shows us that those who love the Lord are empowered by God to face life with courage. The women had come to the tomb with love and expectation.  They had listened to Jesus when he said that the Son of Man must die but would be raised on the 3rd day. They had stayed with Jesus throughout the crucifixion and had seen his body placed in the tomb.  They came back to the tomb on the 3rd day with hope.  When the angel appeared, of course they were startled and afraid. But their courage allowed them to listen to the angel and to do exactly as he instructed.  And it was when they were following the angel’s instructions with fear and joy that Jesus appeared with them.   As they embraced the new reality of resurrection life, Christ became present with them; comforting them, encouraging them, and guiding them.

We don’t experience earthquakes much here in Vermont but this past month we all have experienced the foundations of our lives shaking and shifting beneath our feet. Covid 19 has upended all of our lives, disrupting all of our normal routines, raising our fears and anxieties, and putting us in danger. It has caused many to lose their jobs.  It has taken away family vacations, school graduations, and get-to-gethers with friends. It has made grocery shopping a difficult and nerve-wracking activity.  It has weighed us down with worry and grief for those essential workers who are working on our behalf, for those who are sick and afraid, and of course for the friends and families of those who have died.   Our foundations are still shaking and it is unclear just when we will be back on firm ground.

When our foundations are shaken we have a choice; to fall over like those guards at the tomb; to curl up and give up, or to listen and act like the two Marys with courage and with joy.  Christ’s resurrection reveals that God’s love may shake us up but it is itself unshakable. The strongest powers of evil, selfishness, domination, death, or even a bitty virus are no match for Christ.  In a world where life can change in an instant, God’s love is our foundation; a constant source of life, and courage, and joy.

This means that Christ’s resurrection is not only what happened that Sunday long ago. Christ’s resurrection reflects the ongoing work of God creating life out of nothingness, bringing hope out of fear, establishing peace and justice out of chaos, and providing possibility out of what seems impossible. From that day long ago to today and out into the future, the power of Christ’s resurrection infuses our world if we would but recognize it.

Christ’s resurrection empowers us to face life with courage and joy. This does not mean that everything bad just disappears.  It means that there is nothing that can defeat the power of God’s love.  Like the two Marys, we can approach anything with hope, knowing that Christ will be present with us. Grief and hard circumstances will still arise, will still overwhelm, but we can endure, knowing that life and love are stronger than evil and death. 

In these moments of our lives, when our foundations are shaken, we can hold on to the love of God made known to us through Jesus our Christ.  When we are isolated at home, we know that we are not alone for God is with us, giving us comfort and sustenance.  When we see the reports of so many sick we know that God is with the sick and their caregivers, giving them strength and healing.  When we experience acts of kindness from our neighbors or even strangers we know that God is with us all giving us grace and joy.   In fact, we can see God working in  our greatest defense against this virus which is to act out of love, to care for each other and to serve each other.

On that Easter Sunday long ago, the two Marys were given a task along with their joy.  They were called to share the good news with the disciples who would be called to share the good news with the whole world.  This is our task as well. Christ goes on ahead of us; leading us, encouraging us, prodding us to share God’s love with all.  As we share the good news, we find that Christ is present with us. On this Easter Sunday, all the shaking of our foundations reveal to us our true foundation which is unshakable.   Matthew’s gospel ends with these words from Jesus, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (28:20) 


Let us pray,

Resurrected God, we are amazed and overwhelmed by your power of love and life and joy. In these difficult days we thank you for your great gift to us, that of Jesus our Christ who lived and died and lives again.  Hallelujah! Amen.