Whenever you miss Easter, for whatever reason, Jesus always comes to where you are, calls you to life, and sends you out.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Second Sunday of Easter, year A
Text: John 20:19-31 (with references to 1-18 and chapter 21)
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Mary Magdalene missed Easter. The tomb was open and empty when she got there.
She didn’t know where else to go in her confusion and despair at Jesus’ death. So even before it dawned after the Sabbath, she was at the tomb.
Her confusion and despair only deepened at the ominous emptiness she found: an open tomb, Jesus gone. She ran to the others and told them, came back, and then stood there confused, alone, sad. She had no idea what to do next.
Then she heard her name. The voice of her beloved friend and teacher said, “Mary.” Jesus came to her where she was. And then Mary knew Easter. Then she knew resurrection life.
The other disciples missed Easter. Some didn’t come. Others came, and left.
Apart from the women, the rest of the disciples were locked away in fear. Fear that, since Jesus was dead, they had nothing to live for. Fear they might be next in line for arrest and death. Peter and John heard Mary’s frightening news about the empty tomb, ran to it, looked in. Then they went back and re-locked the door.
And then they saw Jesus. Jesus came to them where they were, locked away, and breathed peace on all of them, men and women. Then they knew Easter. Then they knew resurrection life.
Thomas really missed Easter.
He wasn’t at the tomb Sunday morning or the Upper Room Sunday night. He missed it all.
His doubts were legitimate. He wasn’t going to raise his hopes just because the others thought they saw Jesus or had an experience he dearly wished he’d had. He didn’t dare hope again without something he could touch and see and know himself.
Then Thomas saw Jesus. Jesus came to him where he was, took his hand and drew it to his side saying, “touch me, Thomas. Know for yourself.” And then Thomas knew Easter. Then he knew resurrection life.
Well, we just missed Easter.
We worshipped where we were, sang along, prayed, heard each other proclaim that Christ is risen indeed. It was a blessed gift in our time of separation, our staying at home for our own safety and the safety of our neighbors. But for many of us, myself included, we could not remember another Holy Week in our entire lives where we weren’t at church, an Easter Day when we stayed at home. I can’t begin to tell you how I missed seeing you all, being with you.
We were closed up in our homes, worried about loved ones who are ill, anxious about ourselves. Despairing at the breadth of this plague on this planet. As locked away as the disciples, as confused and afraid as Mary and Thomas, we missed Easter together.
But listen, dear one. Do you hear? In your disappointment and sadness, Jesus comes to you where you are and calls your name. You are known, beloved, God’s dear child, wet with baptismal water, and Christ is calling your name. So you can know Easter. So you can know resurrection life.
If you miss Easter for any fears that lock you away, Jesus will come to you.
You fear being hurt, so you lock your heart away from others. You fear threats that fill this world, so you hide behind your garage door and your locked front door, and don’t engage. You fear the sacrifices it might take to follow Christ, so you lock away your mind and imagination so you don’t think about it. You have no idea what Easter could do to change this.
Look, dear one. Do you see? Jesus comes through all your locks and breathes God’s Spirit of peace into you. You are filled with God’s love and forgiveness, and that takes away your fear. There is no place you can lock yourself away that Christ can’t come in and say, “Peace be with you.”
This is what resurrection life means in your life. The risen Jesus always comes to you where you are. The Spirit is breathed into you, and you don’t need to be afraid, or lock yourself away again. You can risk love, risk witness, risk reaching out. Risk life.
If you miss Easter because your doubts feel so strong you can’t get around them, Jesus will come to you.
Doubt is part of faith. But what if it seems like all you have are doubts? There’s so much death and destruction in our world, does what happened on that Sunday morning long ago really matter, change anything? Is there really life in Christ for the world? For you? If only you could touch Jesus and know for sure.
But look at around at this community of faith, dear one, these loved ones who walk alongside you in Christ, even at a distance these days. Jesus has come to you where you are, and says, “These ones, they are me. For you. In them, you can touch my wounded hands and feet and side, and trust me.”
Don’t fret if sometimes you feel you’ve missed Easter.
Jesus will always come to where you are and call you by name, breathe peace into you, take you by the hand. So you can know the resurrection life that lies on the Christ path of vulnerable, sacrificial love. So you can have Easter.
And then Christ sends you to take it into the world. Mary was sent to be an apostle, to tell the others the good news. All the disciples in the Upper Room, men and women (even Thomas), Spirit-breathed, were sent to forgive, to love, to feed Christ’s sheep.
You are sent with resurrection life in you, as Christ, to others who’ve missed Easter, to be with them where they are, even as others have been with you as Christ.
To tell them they are loved and known by name to the Triune God. To offer peace and hope to those who’ve locked themselves away. To reach out and embrace those who struggle in doubt. To be life for those who are facing death’s touch. To bear this life as Christ did, for the healing of the world.
So everyone can have Easter.
In the name of Jesus. Amen