There is an old Irish liturgy for Easter that begins not with the traditional acclamation “Alleluia Christ is Risen,” but in this way: “A Hundred Thousand Welcomes to the King of Sunday!” I have always liked that beginning. It not only expresses our joy at the resurrection, it welcomes the Risen Lord into our midst!
Indulge me this morning and let’s say it together: “A Hundred thousand welcomes to the King of Sunday.”
Easter is the happiest day of the Church year. The music is glorious. Flowers are blooming. The burdens of the winter seem lighter. Churches are filled.
It really is a clergyman’s dream come true. Have you every wondered why so many people come to Church on Easter? What’s the draw? Tradition?
Hope? Mystery? A place to show off our Easter Bonnets?
I have some suspicions. I suspect that some of us are here because there is something haunting us deep in our souls that makes want to believe in Easter. We are drawn by a mystery we do not fully understand – even those among us who are C’s and E’s. Do you know what a C and E is? It is the person who when he leaves Church on Easter you wish him a “Merry Christmas,” because you know that’s the next that you’ll see him.
I suspect some of us are here to heal deep and abiding hurts. I suspect some of us are here because we don’t know where else to go on Easter and we want to go someplace. I suspect all of us are here because somewhere in our being we are trying to make sense out of life…and out of death.
Jesus lived his life in response to a Holy love. That Holy love, God’s love, is also in us just like it was in Jesus. The message of Easter Day is not that good things will happen to us when we die, but rather good things will happen to us the moment we decide to live life in response to God’s love.
When we let that Holy Love control us, then we belong to that world where God is in control and the priorities of our lives become new and different.
Jesus was willing to live life in response to God’s love because he dared to love life, and people, and God. .
Most of us are skeptical about the reality of this Easter message because the world can be so cruel. We are afraid to believe it because we cannot prove it.
Woody Allen, the infamous comedian summed up our human ambivalence so very well when he quipped, “I don’t believe in the after life but I’m bringing a change of underwear just in case.”
The truth is that most of us are here this morning to pick up a change of underwear. Just in case there is something to all of this, more than we can grasp at any one time, more than any of us know.
Anna Pavlova, the famous ballerina, following one of her magnificent performances, was asked by a reporter to explain what her dance meant.
She replied, “If I could explain it, I would not have danced it.”
The resurrection calls us to dance with the Lord of the dance instead of trudging through life, to get up and on the dance floor of life moving with an enthusiasm that knows no boundaries. A lot of us are as embarrassed by our dancing skills as we are by our faith. I think there may be something to this metaphor because to truly believe in Jesus you have to discard you inhibitions and dance through life. And it is a little bit like the first time you ever tried to dance. Do you remember how self-conscious you were? But I’m here to tell this morning that you can do it. Dance that is!
Aren’t you intrigued by the story of the resurrection we read today? It is from the Gospel of John, and recounts a very moving and intimate scene between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. If you the study the New Testament long enough, I think you come to the inescapable conclusion that although hidden between the words, Jesus was as close to Mary as any of the other disciples. A church run by men didn’t like this and tried to hide it, but it is still in the scriptures. Why else would Jesus come to Mary first, before any of the others, and why would it be Mary Magdalene who is the first one ever to know that He is the Risen Lord?
Notice Jesus tells Mary, “Go to my brothers and say to them…” She is to carry the news to the others who are lamenting Jesus’ death, the first one to know that life has prevailed over death, light over darkness. It is no accident that in every tradition of the resurrection Mary Magdalene is first at the tomb.
Jesus challenged the assumptions and authorities of his day by counting women among his disciples. He brought them into the closest and most
privileged circles of those gathered around him, and they were recipients along with the men of his message and love. Isn’t it amazing that it took us almost 2000 years to get back where Jesus started?
There is this strange piece of this resurrection story when Jesus tells Mary not to touch him. Mary must grow and pass from the dimension of her old relationship to Jesus to a brand new relationship. All relationships are changed and filled with new possibilities because of the resurrection. She is the first one to live this extraordinary new event. Nor should we miss that this extraordinary Resurrection appearance takes place in Garden. Mary Magdalene is an unmistakable symbol for the new Eve just as Jesus becomes the new Adam. No longer are women to bear the extraordinarily narrow and oppressive notions associated with Eve and Adam’s fall. Mary is the first of all the others to know and in the resurrection there can be no separation of people based on gender, race, or prejudice of any kind. It is a different world that Jesus brings.
In Thomas Cahill’s book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, which is a wonderful history, he talks about how the vast Roman Empire could have collapse in upon itself. He says in effect that Rome fell because people like us became consumed with …doing what was expected as the highest value and the second highest was like it, receiving the appropriate admiration of one’s peers for doing what was expected. Now if that does sound like Richmond and the culture we live within I do not know what does. When our eyes are on ourselves and what others think of us, there is no room for the kind of resurrected life Jesus represents. Jesus breaks the traditions, the boundaries, the opinions of others and says to us what counts is God’s love.
God’s love is not traditional and rarely acts like we expect.
I found my own version of Mary Magdalene this Easter in a woman from Kentucky by the name of Nadine Stair who was 85 years old when she wrote this:
“If I had my life to live over. I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax. I would limber up. I would be willing to be sillier than I had been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones. You see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments and if I had to do it over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had to do it all again, I would travel lighter than I have. If I had my life to live again, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daises.”
Today, Easter Day, the King of Sunday is inviting you to dance. This is dangerous day. It could change your life if you let it. So please let it.
And say with me again, “A Hundred Thousand welcomes to the King of Sunday.”! Alleluia Christ is Risen The Lord is Risen Indeed!
Let us pray;
For this day of days, O God, we bless Thy name.
With angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we rejoice.
That death is finished
That love prevails
That Christ is here.
Open our hearts to welcome our Risen Lord.
Give us dancing feet, O God, that we may see thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
worship thee more nearly,
day by day.
For today we rest in the sure and certain knowledge that neither death nor life, things present or things to come, or anything else within the whole creation can separate us from Thy love, we laud and magnify Thy Holy name. Through Jesus Christ our Risen Lord! Amen.