Summary: Our Easter hope is in Christ’s victory over death and the grave. At the time of death there is no room for an "Easter Bunny" Easter.
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you." So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.*
This is the Easter text. It is a strange way to leave the story. Not an "Easter Bonnet", "Easter Bunny" kind of Easter morning. There were the disciples, filled with questions, wonderings, fear, despair. They were gathered together, looking back for words that would help them make sense of the events that had engulfed them the last few days. "What did Jesus say?" "What was he saying about hope, eternal life?" "What does all this mean?" “How can we go on?”
Easter has come early this year. The anticipation of the inevitable has engulfed all of you as family these past days. Watching Irene slowly wind down has been difficult. Amidst the impending death with all its questions and fears, there was no time for a plastic, superficial, "Easter Bonnet" sort of Easter this year. This year will be more likely a Mary, Peter, and John sort of Easter. Pain, confusion, searching memories for hope. A lot of Good Friday these past weeks.
Today, we too, stand at an empty tomb looking in and finding more questions than answers. A mother and a friend who had added so much to the lives of so many people is no longer here with us. For you, Good Friday was Sunday morning, death had done its worst. We all experienced loss and the inevitable questions.
This year Lent and Easter, has not been, and will not be, simply a re-enactment of some distant liturgical ceremony. For you as family and friends of Irene, it touches the very core of our being, the core of our faith. What do we believe? Did Jesus rise from the dead? Are the promises true? Did he rise from the dead so that we might not fear death? Can we rest in the promise of resurrection for those we love and for ourselves?
A Southern Baptist preacher once said, “It’s Good Friday, but Sunday’s a’comin!” Words for us today, “It’s Good Friday but Sunday’s a’comin’!”
Today as we stand alongside those disciples on Easter morning, we need hope, we need the promises of God, we need them loud and clear. What are we to do? We search back through our memory for assurance. We think back to the death and resurrection hope we practice every Sunday as we gather. We think of the hymns that run through our memories with lines of hope.