Alleluia Christ is Risen!
This is our Easter proclamation. Christ is Risen!
Mary and Mary hear it from the angel, and the angel tells them to go and tell the others. The proclamation is about the resurrection, but it is also about going, and telling. This is the Good News: Jesus is raised from the dead: go and tell.
Two Sundays ago, a member of this parish, a mother of preschoolers, shared with me some very exciting news she heard from her four-year-old. He came home from school and leaned into her and whispered into her ear with delight: “Jesus goes away, but he’s going to come back in three days. He comes back!” He had just been given this amazing, thrilling knowledge by one of his teachers, and he was so excited, he had to share it with the person he probably loves more than anyone in the world. Brand spanking new News. This child is doing exactly what the women in this morning’s Easter Gospel are told to do: go, and tell.
Imagine if we all shared the Good News of the Resurrection with such purpose and delight as this young boy. Imagine what it was like for the women, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of the sons of Zebedee, to hear that exciting truth from the angel: “He’s coming back. In fact, he’s back. Go and tell the others.”
Imagine Mary and Mary in the early dawn, creeping to the tomb where they had seen Jesus laid down. They had watched it all from a distance, helpless onlookers, wordless in their sorrow. Imagine their fear and their confusion, when they feel the earthquake and see the stone rolled away, revealing the empty tomb. Imagine hearing the angel, him- or herself rather frightening to behold, telling them to fear not, and to go and tell the others.
Go and tell.
Matthew’s Gospel doesn’t show us any of this telling. We can only imagine them talking to the disciples, saying what they’ve heard and seen of Jesus, with the same excitement as our young friend telling his mom. Jesus has come back!
Jesus’ first words after being raised from the dead are the holy, crazy-making, life-changing, scary, joyful imperatives to Go and Tell. Mary and Mary are commissioned as our apostle-mothers, our apostle-grandmothers, sent to Go and to Tell, and they send us to Go and to Tell.
A few months ago, I was walking along West Highland Drive past Kerry Park. Not walking, exactly, but hobbling. I was in my sweats, with my cane, because I was about five weeks out from a total hip replacement. I hadn’t put on any make-up or had a haircut for a while, and had probably been wearing the same clothes for several days. I wasn’t seeing anyone but my PT, so it didn’t matter. But it felt great to be outside. A young woman jogged past me, then turned around and jogged back. “Are you a dancer?” she asked. I laughed. “No.” “Well, did you ever work in Santa Fe?” “No.” “You’re so beautiful!” “Thank you.” (I laughed. Believe me, I wasn’t.) Then she said: “Jesus loves you SO MUCH.” “Thank you,” I said. “That’s sweet.” She looked a little embarrassed, and at the same time had this huge smile on her face. “Well, ‘bye,” she said, and resumed her jogging. As I hobbled along I wondered if perhaps she was in a church youth group or bible study where everyone had committed, or been commissioned, to go up to a stranger once every day for a week—or something like that—to tell them how much Jesus loves them. I appreciated it. And I felt the love, I really did. She was sent—I’m guessing—to go and tell, and in her own way, she did.
Uh-oh, you may be thinking. When I go to brunch after this with my husband or my girlfriend or my roommate who doesn’t go to church and they ask: so what was the message today? I’m going to have to say: “Oy. She told us to go around saying “Christ is risen” and “Jesus loves you” all over the place.” And that would totally ruin the chances of any of those people finally coming along to check out your church, right?
There are many ways to Go and Tell. But nowhere in our stories of Jesus walking around after the Resurrection does he say to the disciples: “Say nothing of this to anyone.” Earlier, yes, but not now. Nor does he say “mull this Good News, this promise fulfilled, over in your heart for four or five decades.” He says Go and Tell.
Where would we go and what would we tell about this glorious Good News of resurrection?
We could go and tell about a community informed by being raised with Christ through the waters of baptism, the water over which the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation, the water that parted to lead the children of Israel to the land of promise, the water that baptized Jesus, the water that fills the mountain watersheds with snowmelt from the Cascades, water that fills the pipes that fill our font. We could go and tell about the water in which, earlier this morning, we baptized Chloe, the water that danced off her face, water that still clings, perhaps, to your shoulders or your hair.
Go and tell about the water that is blessed, poured, sprinkled, spilled and splashed, water that irrigates our great Yes of baptism. Go and tell about how when we say I will, with God’s help, this is our Great Yes to community, to story—yours, mine, and ours—and to breaking bread together, at this altar and altars like it, in the name of Jesus, eating and drinking together as he did with his first disciples. Go and tell about how when we say I will, with God’s help, this is our Great Yes to our vocation as servants and followers of the Risen Lord, our vocation as friends, lovers, brothers, sisters, mothers, and father. God and tell about our Great Yes to the one who defied death, this defiance his own holy and life-giving Yes to sending us out to heal and reconcile. Go and tell about how when we say I will, with God’s help, this is our Great Yes to Jesus and our Great No, no WAY to war, hatred, bigotry, injustice, indignity, prejudice, isolation, and hunger. No way to standing by in the face of fear that seeks to cast out love.
There are big, grand ways of doing this going and telling. I think that announcing with delight and boldness at age 4 or 84 that “Jesus comes back!” is one of them. And then there are the small ways we go and tell every day, as we do our work in the world of serving, leading, and loving. Whatever our work is, whatever our community is, we bear Good News if that work is informed by our baptismal Yes, such that everywhere we go we tell, in some small and probably wordless way, the triumph of love over fear, and life over death.
I came across a poem recently by Naomi Shihab Nye, called “Famous.” I won’t read the whole thing, but we’ll post the whole thing in the online version of this sermon. It begins:
The River is famous to the fish.
And goes on to describe the fame of various things in relation to their context.
The poem ends with these wonderful lines:
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.
Let us be famous where it matters, going and telling about Christ, our morning star, who gives his light to all creation, gives light to all those we pray for and care for, gives light to our childish excitement, gives light to our appetite for joy and beauty, not just gives light to all of these things but gives us these things, as we in our great Yes give them to others.
Go and tell. Go and love.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen!