Easter Sermon: Stumbling in the Dark with Mary

An Easter sermon, preached at St. John Lutheran Church of Prairie Hill, Easter 2011

Alleluia! Christ is Risen
Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia.

“After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb.”

It really is a little detail; one that we could easily overlook. On that first Easter morning, the women walked to the tomb in darkness. The four Gospel accounts of the resurrection can be a little sketchy – they seem to have a hard time describing this wonderful and amazing thing that has happened. But about this, they agree. The women walked to the tomb in the dark.

It’s not something that you and I do a whole lot of: walking in the dark.
Anywhere we go in this modern world of ours, we have light. Sidewalks and parking lots are bathed in the glow of streetlights and floodlights. If we walk away from those lights, we carry a flashlight. Rarely do we really walk in the dark.

But that’s what the women did that morning. Perhaps they carried a flickering candle, as they made their way through the darkness, but that’s all. Outside the city, away from the houses, into the graveyard. In the dark.

Can you imagine how frightening that must have been? Did they stumble as they walked in the dark? Trip on the rocks along the way?

Regardless, they made the journey. They had too. You see, the women that day were not just in the darkness of early morning. No, they were also making their way through the deep darkness of life. Trying to make sense of the events of the last few days, to find a way forward.

They were in the darkness of grief: Jesus, their friend and teacher was dead. They were in the darkness of hopelessness: Their vision of a better future died with Jesus. They were in the darkness of anxiety: What would they do next? Were they in danger too?  It could have been the middle of the day, and still they would have been in darkness.

We may have streetlights and flashlights, but this is the darkness that we still walk in. In this room, whose life has not been touched by the sharp pain of grief? Who has looked at the pile of bills on the counter and felt hopeless? Who has not looked at the lives of our loved ones – of parents, or children, or nieces and nephews – and felt anxiety about their future? Who among us has not walked in the darkness?

We know what the darkness is. We know what it is to stumble through the darkness of life, and struggle to find our way.

And so Magdalene and the other Mary walked. What else could they do? Sometimes it’s all you can do. Put one foot in front of the other. One day at a time. At least provide Jesus with a decent funeral – it’s the least we can do. Stumble on, through the darkness.
And they walked to the graveyard. And in a moment, everything changed.

The stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty – He is not here, he is risen! Those words, that fact, changed everything. He is risen!

Grief became joy.
Fear became love.
Darkness became light.
Death became life.

The only one who could show them the way; the only one who could restore their hope; the only one who could lighten their darkness; came to them – there in the dark, there in the middle of death, in the graveyard – came to them to bringing light, bringing life, bringing joy.

Sure enough, they still had to face the future, they still had a whole heap of challenges ahead, but they knew that they would be facing those challenges with Jesus at their side; they knew that they would be facing those challenges wrapped in the love of God.  He is risen! At that moment, they knew that not even death could separate them from God’s love.

And that is the promise to each of you this Easter as well. God knows the challenges we face: illnesses, work, family, money, hopelessness, loneliness, anxiety, grief, sadness, fear. God knows all about the darkness our lives.

You. God’s child. Made God’s own in the waters of baptism. You. God loves you so dearly, that nothing can keep God from coming and walking beside you, nothing can keep God from wrapping you in love.
 In the darkness of life, God is there with you. In the troubles of life, God is there with you. Nothing can keep God from your side. That is the promise this Easter. Not even death can separate God from you. That is how strong God’s love is for you.

He is risen, for you.
He battled against death and won, for you.

To paraphrase Saint Paul: If God – the God who raised Jesus from the dead – if God is for us, what darkness can overcome us? If God – the God who raised Jesus from the dead – is for us, what do we have to fear?  He is Risen!

The truth is, I don’t know what’s going on in your life. I don’t know what your struggles are. What I do know is this: God will not let anything – not even death – separate you from the love of Jesus.

Yes, there are still challenges in this life. This side of God’s kingdom there always will be. But today, we know how the story ends.

Christ is risen!
God’s love wins!
Light defeats darkness!
Life defeats death!

This is the day, Christ burst the chains of death.
This is the day, Christ broke the seal on the tomb
This is the day, Christ battled the powers of death, and won.
And he did it, he did it all, for you.
He did it all because of his great love for you.

Christ is Risen, for you! Alleluia!