Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
The women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and Bethany, from his first sermon to his trial and his death on the cross came one last time to see him. Luke says that after they laid him in the tomb they went home and prepared spiced ointment for his burial, then rested on the seventh day, as the Scriptures command. Then early on the first day of the week, they took the spices they had prepared, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother James, and the other women. They were making one last act of faithfulness to Jesus, paying him one last honor, the honor of a decent burial. This one who cast our their demons and healed their diseases and spoke to them to raise them up, this one lay dead in the rock. I don’t know what dreams of theirs, tied to him, also lay dead beside his body. I don’t know what hopes they also came to lay to rest, to anoint in death, to leave locked in the tomb. Their lives had already been changed by this Jesus—I’m not sure that they could ever be the same. Still—what could be their future? Jesus, the catalyst of their change, was dead. They came to anoint him and lay down their hopes and dreams and adjust to the new reality of life without him.
I wonder what we think of this kind of faithfulness, or women like Mary Magdalene and Joanna, of men like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I wonder if we think that they’re smart, or wise, or practical. I wonder if, like the disciples, when we hear them, if we are not also thinking, “This is an idle tale. A story.” Paul says to us today, “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised, the first fruits of those who have died.” We find ourselves in the same position as Peter and James and John and the rest of the miserable disciples, huddling in a room for fear of the authorities. Is this an idle tale—is Jesus risen or not? What if—he is risen? If Christ is raised from the dead, the tale is not idle, not idle at all. If Christ is risen, the tale of his rising is the most important thing we humans have.
Stories are perhaps the most human thing we humans do. I don’t know of any other species that tells stories, idle or not. I don’t know any other being on this planet that will come home and tell a funny story about work, or travel to see a relative and share family histories, or write the story of their nation in a book, or write a story in another book about the person that wrote the story in a book. There are idle tales—and even these are beautiful. As Paul McCartney once sang—“Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs/what’s wrong with that.” Maybe Easter is the greatest silly love song of all.
We tell these stories here every Sunday, silly, idle stories of the infinite God appearing in the finite, the timeless God revealing Godself in time, the everliving God dying on the cross. We tell these stories, over and over again, because we believe these are the stories of the world God made. We tell them because we believe there is more to life than pragmatism and utility, that there is a deep and abiding freshness that is the love of God residing in all things, revealing itself to us in truth and in beauty, and the glory as the glory of an only son, Jesus Christ our Lord. We believe he lives, and that the story of Jesus’ endless life is the story of our life, and there is nothing sweeter, nothing more important than that story. It is the story of the world, and it is ours to share. Amen.
The Reverend John Zachary Flack