the greatest power

a sermon, based on Matthew 28.1-10, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on Easter Day: The Sunday of the Resurrection, April 16, 2017

Easter is about power. The greatest power in this world and the next. Power, to quote my namesake apostle, that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”[1] Power in the words of the song, “to dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to bear with unbearable sorrow, to run where the brave dare not go.”[2] Power over death. The power of love.

I behold this power in this morning’s gospel, perhaps paradoxically, not in God, who, save for “an angel of the Lord”, is absent. Nor in that angelic messenger who descends “like lightening with clothing white as snow.” Nor even in the risen Jesus who suddenly appears with words of comfort.

Where do I see it?

“After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb.”

There is power!

Mary Magdalene and the Holy Women at the Tomb (Madeleine et les saintes femmes au tombeau) (1886-1894), James Tissot (1836-1902)

Mary and Mary loved Jesus to the end. They believed in him and his impossible dream of the coming kingdom of God. They didn’t run away like the other disciples, the men. They stood by Jesus throughout his agonizing final hours. They hoped, fought against that unbeatable foe, death. They watched him die. They bore with savagely broken hearts their unbearable sorrow. Theirs was a love that endured all things.

Then, loving Jesus beyond the end, Mary and Mary went to the tomb. The entrance sealed with a large stone and guarded by Roman soldiers with little sympathy, verily, hostility for them. Theirs was a love that runs where the brave dare not go. Love that never leaves. Love that ever lives. Love that never dies. Love that raises the dead! For in their living love, Mary and Mary were the first to hear the Easter message, “He is risen!” and the first to see the risen Jesus.

Today, I pray we see that Mary and Mary could see Jesus because they, in their bearing-believing-hoping-enduring-all-things-love, mirrored and matched, embraced and embodied the love of a God who risks everything, even life itself, for our sake.

Today, I pray we, trusting that God’s love is already embodied in us by virtue of our creation –  whoever we are from wherever we come with whatever we believe – will see in the risen Jesus who we are by virtue of his salvation and, thus, that we are to be as he is, living incarnations of unconditional and universal love and justice in this world.

When we see, believe, know that, then not only can we say, “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” but also we are risen, indeed! Alleluia!

 

Illustration: Mary Magdalene and the Holy Women at the Tomb (Madeleine et les saintes femmes au tombeau) (1886-1894), James Tissot (1836-1902). Note: Tissot portrays the women peering into the tomb, which is empty save for the presence of “an angel of the Lord” clad in white, who tells them, “I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here,  for he has been raised”, bidding that they, “Come, see the place where he lay” (Matthew 28.5, 6). (Although Matthew mentions that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb, Tissot depicts three women. I believe his biblical reference is Matthew 27.56, speaking of the women who had followed Jesus and witnessed his death: Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.) Also, the soldiers Pontius Pilate had dispatched to keep watch at the tomb (see Matthew 27.62-66) are depicted having reacted to the appearance of the angel, as Matthew recounts, For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men (28.4).

Footnotes:

[1] 1 Corinthians 13.7

[2] From The Impossible Dream from The Man from La Mancha; words by Joe Darion and Mitchell Leigh (1972)

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4 thoughts on “the greatest power

  1. Thank you Paul for this sermon. I read it twice yesterday afternoon / evening but felt too powerless and too sad to respond. Easter is joyous and hopeful but I felt none of that. Today I can see and I can believe, and I know He is Risen! After spending much of yesterday hopeless and alone, this morning even after a mostly sleepless night I can feel the power of love overcoming the power of sadness. I thank you for sharing so much about the power of love, and enduring love that I can hold onto. It allows me to begin to feel as if I too am Risen!

    Much love and thanks to you!

    Loretta

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, my dear Loretta, I am sorry, very for your pain of hopelessness and being alone. I am grateful that the words of this sermon were and are of help to you.

      I believe, truly I do believe that the power of the love the two Marys for Jesus was evidenced in their embodied present witness throughout all he endured; never leaving him come what may. And, in their near and present testimony of their love, they recognized and reflected the Love of God that, indeed, Who never leaves us. So, I pray that you sense that you are surrounded always by that Love no matter the day or hour or how you feel.

      Love

      Liked by 1 person

      • YES I do feel surrounded by love! I had invites to go with a variety of folks but knew I wouldn’t be good company. I know these days will occur and I do my best to care for me when they happen. I even tried to do a simple stir-fry and that was bad too but I ate it anyway and gave myself credit for trying.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, amen, you – and, truth be told, we all – do what you can do, when and how, and take credit for (indeed, I will attest and assert, joy in) it!

        So good, verily, grand for YOU to love yourself, for me, evidenced in your being aware and present to your state of being, and then caring for yourself.

        Love

        Like

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