What is the most important truth of Easter?
A few years ago at St. Ann, the eighth grade class acted out the Stations of the Cross ‘tableau style’ – taking an element of the station and ‘freezing’ into that position as the story was proclaimed. At the thirteenth station, Mrs. Kenny, the first grade teacher, was touched by the tenderness of the Pieta scene – where Mary holds the dead body of her son – and some tears began to flow. The student right next to her noticed and her eyes grew as big as saucers. She pause, wrapped her hands around Mrs. Kenny’s arm and rested her there as a kind of hug. After a bit, she looked up and said: “Mrs. Kenny, can I say something to help?” [A classroom management skill in the 1st grade] “Of course.” “He didn’t stay dead.”
Out of the mouths of babes, there is the deepest truth about Easter. He didn’t stay dead. And if there is anything that anyone can say that might help this broken world of ours, isn’t it precisely that stunning little bit of news. He didn’t stay dead. Because of that one, tiny, little, important detail – everything has changed, hasn’t it?
You see, if Jesus did not remain in the grips of death, if the tomb could not and would not hold the risen one, then it will not hold us either. And though we tend to think of that, usually in an ‘end of my life/days’ type of scenario –‘not staying dead’ is so much bigger than that. So much more immediate!
You see, ‘not staying dead’ means that there is a power within us that we can draw upon in any situation. And that power is full of LIFE. Of Growth. Of Change. We’re not stuck in our past mistakes or failures. And, we have an ability to walk into the places of death and bring life, bring change, bring growth. It is why college grads give up a year of their lives to serve in Africa or Central America. It is why I am so excited about this Faith In Action group beginning here at SJM. It is a way we say to each other – in our community and beyond – we are there for you. Whether it is Room at the Inn or our service day, or combining with a few other parishes of differing demographics, we have the power and opportunity to bring life to many different places.
‘Not staying dead’ means that there is an URGENCY to our life – a preciousness to each moment, each opportunity to proclaim good news. That is what we hear in Matthew’s account – a kind of breathless excitement. “Go quickly and tell the disciples”, the angel says. It records that the women “went away quickly from the tomb, fearful, yet overjoyed” and that they “ran to announce” this good news. Not staying dead means that we run to all the places of the world that need good news spread to them. (and we don’t have to look far to find those places, do we – just flip open the papers… or sometimes, just look across the dining room table.)
‘Not staying dead’ – means that forgiveness is our first, middle and last name. It means we can’t waste another minute of our life or someone else’s holding them in the prison of a grudge we won’t let go of, or of worrying about whether they’ll forgive us. Sin, mistakes, wounds that we’ve received or given – they can hold no power for those who will not stay in their power. And there’s such a resurrection freedom in that, isn’t there? Such a JOY in that. Let it go – the wound or the wounding. Let it go.
But you know, we’re pretty used to being partly dead or mostly dead. If we are honest, there is a fair amount of ‘tomb-ness’ to most of us. And whether you had an amazing Lent or a humdrum one addressing those habits of sin and smallness of heart that trap us, tonight (today) invites us to leave ‘mostly dead’ behind. In a few moments, we’ll have the choice to make that journey – that choice ‘not to stay dead’ in our sins and our lives – by the renewal of our Baptismal promises. As you make those ancient promises again, let the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead be breathed into your own life. As you experience the water splashing over you – let it be the cleansing of all that is death from your heart and life and hope.
What is the most important truth of Easter? Jesus didn’t stay dead. Neither should we…