The Sanctuary Sermon for
Easter Sunday 2021
The Sanctuary Sermon for Easter 2021
“Unburied” Mark 16:1-7
At the end of the film classic, Jesus of Nazareth, one of the enemies of Jesus enters the tomb, observes the place where Jesus’ body had been laid but is no longer, and then provocatively says, “So it begins.”
I extend to each of you again a warm welcome to The Sanctuary this Easter morning, and not only that, but an enthusiastic invitation to the beginning. For that’s what Easter is - the beginning. The most important beginning in the history of the world. The most important beginning you and I can engage with our lives today.
Let’s look at our text:
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
Many years ago, a woman told me that her great-grandson asked why she had so many wrinkles on her hands. “I’m old,” she told him. “Do you know what happens when you get old,” he asked in earnestness. “You die and they bury you in the ground.” Before she could say anything, he smiled and added, “But that’s ok; God comes and unburies you.”
What more is there to say? He’s just told the Easter story. It’s that simple. We get buried by the circumstances of life and God unburies us. Over and over God comes to the tombs of our lives and unburies us. That’s Easter. That is the power and love of God. It is as true as it is simple.
That truth speaks louder than the reality of our burials. There are so many ways in which our life gets buried: sorrow and grief, death and loss, fear and anxiety, perfectionism, anger, guilt, regret, resentment, self-hatred, the things we have done and the things we have left undone. Those are the stones that block our way. Those stones mark the many ways in which we have suffered death, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
With each stone we ask, who will roll it away? “Who will roll away the stone? Who will do for me what I cannot do for myself?” That’s what the three women are asking as they walk to the tomb. It’s not really a question as much as it is a statement about their life and what they expect. Their life has been buried in sorrow and grief. And they expect it to stay that way. They expect a stone of death too big, too heavy, too real for them to do anything about.
I wonder how often we live not only expecting to get buried, but expecting to stay buried. We too quickly forget that for every burial there is an Easter. That’s what the women discovered as soon as they looked up. The stone of death, the stone that blocked their way, had already been rolled back.
That’s why we show up this day, year after year. We want to know that the stones of our tombs have been rolled back. We want to hear the story again and be reminded that the tomb is open and empty. We want to know ourselves as unburied. We want to hear one more time, “Christ is risen!”
“God unburies you,” he told his great-grandmother. The young man in the tomb told the women, “He has been raised. He is not here.” The Church proclaims, “Christ is risen!” However it is said, it’s the good news we want and need to hear. Those are sacred words; words of hope, life, and resurrection. Everything has changed. We are a new people, an Easter people.
Recall the stones that have blocked your way.
Christ is risen and they are removed.
Name your loved ones who have died.
Christ is risen and they are unburied.
Count your sins.
Christ is risen and you are forgiven, God remembers them no more.
So, stand before God.
Christ is risen and you are loved.
Removed. Unburied. Forgiven. Loved. These are God’s Easter words to us, not just today but every day. God has been enacting words of salvation, hope, and love to his people from the very beginning. It happened when we were created in God’s image and likeness. God’s Easter words parted the Red Sea and drew the Israelites into a new land and life. Let my people go. Ezekiel stood in the Valley of Dry Bones watching God open graves and breathe life into dead skeletons. He turns graves into gardens. He turns bones into armies, he’s the only one who can. It never ends.
Life unburied always presents itself as a new creation. So it is that the women go to the tomb on the first day of the week, the day creation began. Everything is being made new. Morning has broken. The sun is up. It’s the dawn of a new day declaring that the Son has risen. If Christ is risen, then so are we. This new day is also our day, the day of the holy and unburied people of God.
“He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” The stone has been rolled away and Jesus is waiting in Galilee, where the disciples lived. Now, Jesus is waiting for us at the place where we live too. He’s waiting there, and he has things for us to do.
So, on this Easter Sunday let me ask you this. Where do you expect to see Jesus? Here in Amherst? In your home? Among family and friends? In “those people?” In the joys and celebrations of life? In the pain and heartbreak of life? In relationships? In silence and stillness? In the attempts to live a good life? In the failings to live a good life? In the challenges of parenting? In becoming the parent and caretaker of your own mother or father? In the midst of illness? Old age? In good conversation and laughter?
In intimacy and vulnerability with another?
Yes. The answer is yes. Those and a thousand other places are where resurrection is.
Don’t you see that we are the receptacle of resurrection? Your life in Christ is a resurrection miracle.
If we cannot find and see Jesus in our ordinary everyday life, we surely will not find him here today amongst the hallelujahs, flowers and lilies, hymns and music, candles, and beauty of this sanctuary. Those things are not intended to set this day apart from all other days. Instead, this day is intended to reveal the resurrection truth and reality of all other days.
The stone was not rolled away from Jesus’ tomb to make his resurrection possible. It wasn’t rolled away so that Jesus could get out. It was so that we could see in. So we could see that there is only life. Resurrection isn’t just an event in history, it’s a way of being. It is a life fully lived.
In essence, the angel said to the ladies, “Tell the disciples to go home. Go home and you’ll see Jesus there.” So, instead of saying, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” This morning, I say, “Good morning. Now go home. And we’ll see Jesus.”
The empty tomb is not simply the conclusion to Holy Week, a divine remedy to a human tragedy. It’s the summary of everything Jesus said, did, or taught. When it comes to resurrection it seems God just can’t help himself. Resurrection is just who and how God is. There is nothing but life. There is only life.
After all this, I have only one thing to say to you on this Easter Day. And you already know what it is. Good morning. Now go home and you’ll see Jesus. Maybe that should be our new Easter proclamation. Let’s try it out. I’ll say, “Good morning. Now go home.” and you say, “And we’ll see Jesus.”
Good morning. Now go home.
And we’ll see Jesus.
Good morning. Now go home.
And we’ll see Jesus.
I wonder though. When we get there, what will we do with our new and unburied life?
So, it begins.
This is the Word of the Lord for the day.