Easter Sunday April 21, 2019

The Rev. Janet Campbell


Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians, 15:19-26;

John 20:1-18


Christ Episcopal Church

Tacoma, Washington

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Rev. Janet Campbell



Alleluia! Christ is risen!


Mary Magdalene crept to the tomb

while it was still dark . . .


and stepped into Easter light.



She came to the tomb

to grieve a death . . .


and found new and risen life.



She came to the tomb

empty of all hope . . .


and was filled with resurrection joy.



She came to say goodbye

to a friend and teacher . . .


and was greeted by her risen Lord and savior.



She came,

all alone in the world . . .


and was overcome by Love.



Today, we have come

with Mary,

seeking not the dead

but the living . . .

because we know how the story ends . . .


but perhaps we’re still unsure

what we will find . . .


for we may come

with our own darkness,







but resurrection

will find us,



is finding us

in one another,

the Body of the risen Christ gathered . . .




is finding us

in the Word of God proclaimed . . .


[Good News so gi-normous

it has escaped from

the pages of the Gospel book

and flung itself

onto the great Gospel banners . . .]



is finding us

in symbol and Sacrament . . .

baptismal font brimming with water,

Easter candle burning bright,

bread and wine prepared for the feast . . .


and all around us,

light and hope and companionship and love.



Mary Magdalene came to the tomb

while it was still dark . . .


and it was gaping open . . .


Shock, fear, dismay, confusion . . .

and a lot of running back and forth.


As one Biblical scholar said,

“more running in these verses

than in all the rest of the gospels put together.”


  1. T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part 2
  2. Nicholas Thomas Wright, Westminster John Knox Press, p. 141


Simon Peter

and the beloved disciple

in a footrace,


Peter lost.


But when he arrived,
in typical fashion

he blundered right on into the tomb,

not knowing what

he might find . . .


and there was nothing . . .


the final, crushing blow . . .



their friend’s broken body somehow gone . . .

and, more bizarre,

its linen wrappings

neatly laid aside,

the head cloth rolled up,

carefully set apart.


What grave robber

would unwrap a body first,

and tidily arrange the linens

before absconding?


What had happened here?



Then the beloved disciple

went into the tomb

and, the gospel tells us,

“saw and believed.”


But what did he believe?


Just days earlier,

he and the other disciples

had seen Lazarus raised

from the dead . . .


brought out of the tomb,

brought back from death,

to return to the life he had shared

with his sisters Martha and Mary.


This was not at all like that.


When Lazarus

staggered from the tomb

at Jesus’ command,

he needed others to

unwrap his burial cloths.


Someday he would die again;

others would wrap his body

once more.



Jesus had simply left his grave-cloths behind.


He had not returned to life,

but gone on through death,

never to die again . . .

alive in God’s new creation

life beyond this life.



The beloved disciple

saw and believed . . . something,


but as yet did not know

that when he went into the tomb

he had stepped over the threshold

into .  .  .




Task oriented,

he and Peter went home

to figure it out . . .


Go figure . . .


Mary, however,

stayed at the tomb weeping,

then dared to look

into the tomb herself  . . .




two angels were there,

sitting where the body had been . . .


Wings softly rustling,

stirring the air,

they were

contemplating the wonder

of resurrection.


“Why are you weeping?”

they asked her.


She turned

(her turning the beginning of con-version)

for there stood . . .


the gardener perhaps? –


We, of course, already know

it was the Risen One


in resurrection’s strange guise . . .


perhaps not so strange, after all,

to find him a gardener

tending the new Eden

resurrection was bringing into being.




“Whom are you looking for?”

he asked her.


We’ve heard those words before . . .

addressed to the soldiers

who came to arrest him . . .


and now to the woman

who has come to mourn him.


And then, her name:



Again she turned,

turned toward belief;

in her heart

a stone rolled away . . .


Her name,

the word that sums up

who she is.


This man knows her name.

This man knows her,

knows her as no one else ever

has known her.


And now she knows him.



In joyful surprise,

she reaches out to touch him,

but, no . . .

“Do not hold on to me.

Go, go to the others,

and tell them . . .

tell them . . .



A strange and stirring story,

and we tell it anew this Easter morning.


Resurrection . . .

confusing, perplexing, improbable . . .


Guess what,

beloved disciple?

Guess what,



You can’t figure it out.


Because it doesn’t make sense.


Since when must God “make sense?”


for God’s ways are not our ways . . .

and God is not governed

by our concept of the possible . . .


How limited life would be,

if bounded

by what we think is possible.



What? Where? When? Why? How?

are questions reporters

must ask and answer.


But the gospel writers

were not reporters

standing outside an event.


They were swept up by the event

into the event,

and proclaim it to us

in all its improbability,

for they were living its reality.


We can ask our questions,

but in the end

there is resurrection.


“There have been times,”

wrote Welsh poet and priest

R.S. Thomas,

a man whose struggles with faith were lifelong,


“there have been times

when, after long on my knees

in a cold chancel, a stone has rolled

from my mind, and I have looked

in and seen the old questions lie

folded and in a place

by themselves, like the piled

graveclothes of love’s risen body.”      from the poem “The Answer”




“a stone has rolled

from my mind, and I have looked

in and seen the old questions lie

folded and in a place

by themselves, like the piled

graveclothes of love’s risen body.”


“a stone has rolled from my mind”


and resurrection has called us by name.



What will we tell

about this Easter morning

when we go from this place . . .


Easter finery on display,

festival music stirring the heart,

pageantry and ritual action,

Easter bread and wine,

the body, the blood,

the very life

of the Risen Christ . . .


followed by

a scroll dug up from

its Lenten grave in the garden,

Eggs to find,

Treats to share . . .


Was that what

we were looking for?


Yes, of course!

But there is more.


“Do you not know,”

the apostle Paul asked us last night

at the end of the Easter Vigil,


“Do you not know that all of us

who have been baptized into Christ Jesus

were baptized into his death?


“Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism

into death,

so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead

by the glory of the Father,

we, too, might walk in newness of life.


“For if we have been united with him in a death like his,

we shall certainly be united with him

in a resurrection like his.”                      [Romans 6:3-11]



Resurrection will find us,

is always finding us,

even when cannot find

our belief.


But we cannot hold on

to resurrection . . .



Go and tell them,

says the gardener of the new creation.


Go and tell them . . .

the struggling and suffering ones,

the lonely and abandoned ones,

the hungry and homeless ones,

the sick and the dying and the grieving ones . . .

tell them a new creation is at hand.


I have put my joy, my hope,

my life, my love within you,

says the Risen One . . .


Now go and give it away.




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