Easter Sunday :: Fr John 20170416
You know, there is a legend that the famous Marco Polo, the man who traveled the silk road and went deep in China, actually met a great and fearsome warlord by the name of Genghis Khan. And standing before this great and powerful warlord, he was commanded to give an accounting of the man he knew to be the greatest who had ever lived, for was there was greater than the Khan himself? Had he heard of him?
So Marco Polo began to tell the story of Jesus. How He was sent by God, how He walked on water, quieted storms with a wave of His hand, fed great hordes of people with a few loaves of bread. And, to the delight of Khan, how He always confounded and befuddled those who opposed Him with just a few words. But then, Marco got to Gethsemane. Where Judas betrayed Him, His disciples abandoned Him, the people arrested Him and Pilate crucified Him. And he paused. And the great Khan leaned forward in his chair totally enraptured with the story and said “And surely this is the part where God sends out his armies of angels and slays every last one of them? Right?”
But as we know that is not what happened. And when Marco told the Khan what did happen, it baffled him. Because what happened on Easter Sunday was fundamentally different than what the expectation of humanity would be, that it would end in a story of revenge. Everyone loves a good revenge story: the Iliad, Hamlet, the Count of Monte Cristo, the Last of the Mohicans, the Revenant, even the Princess Bride. The most memorable quote from that movie is “My name is Inogo Montoea, you killed my father, prepare to die!” The hero, in these stories, after suffering and defeat, arises again and tracks down and defeats those who had brought about a great injustice on them, and order and justice thus restored.
But this is not what happened. Yes, the people of this world had grabbed their Messiah and viciously put Him to suffering and death, but when He arose, He arose not to extract vengeance, but to loving call all people to Himself, to invite them into His great victory He won on that day, including those who had turned their backs on Him. And so He defeated sin and death not with power, though it was within His ability, but with love.
So when the tomb rolled open, and Christ stepped out into the light of day and back into the world, with the wounds still visible on His hands, and on His feet, and in His side, He was saying “Yes” to His Creation, even when it had given Him with a resounding “NO”. But His “Yes” was greater.
In His purposes for us, we say no all of the time, believe me, I would know. “God told me, you will be a priest, and I was like ‘You sure about that?’” It is so easy to say “No,” But even with our “No’s”, through Jesus, God has looked on us and said “Yes!” In every sense of the word! Yes as in He takes joy in us, Yes as in our we His????…….. And how can we be sure of this? Because the first thing He does, when He appears in the room to the disciples, is to say “Peace be with you.” When He sees Doubting Thomas He says “Come see, touch, and believe. These men had said “No never, we will never betray you!” But they did. But despite their “No”, despite the “NO” the world had given Him, He responded with a “Yes”, and called them to Himself.
And through that Yes, that ever persisting Yes that chases us and reaches out to us from that empty tomb, were are sought after until we say Yes, until we say Yes to Him, Yes to the victory over sin and death He freely offers us, say yes to the love He uses to overcome hate, and then follow in the footsteps of those disciples and to go and do likewise.
When I was in Myanmar, I may have shared with some of you the story of how I met a young man from the countryside who told me about how his village had been under attack multiple times from the military there, because they were a village that practiced a foreign religion, a foreign belief, and so they might join over with some Christian and Muslim tribes that were rebelling against the government. And mines were placed around his village by soldiers, so that they could not leave to go spread this message throughout the region. And I asked him “How…what do you do? How do, how do you deal with that?” He smiled at me and he simply said “It made me want to share the Gospel with those soldiers…”
And now, according to Archbishop Steven, now that the government has begun to relinquish its domineering control and loosen its policies…. The church in that village, and others like it that followed their example, have found the soldiers walking in their doors, to celebrate and to worship with them, side by side with those whom they were oppressing. If the people of that village had done what others had, and risen in rebellion and fought back, I don’t think that would have happened. But they answered the “No” thrown at them with a “Yes” as they walked into the minefields to speak with those soldiers who were laying them.
And we are called to do likewise. We are to respond to the “Yes” that God gives us out of that empty tomb, and to turn and take it into the world, following Mary Magdalene. To proclaim and show that the tomb is empty, that the Lord is risen, and that sin, Satan, and even death itself have been defeated and could not keep Him down. And to live lives that are a living witness to that fact. That we are not afraid of death, because Jesus rose and broke the bonds of death, and will do the same with us. That we do not hold the sins of others against them because He did not hold them against us. That we are not afraid of the great powers and forces of this world, because they tried their best to put down the King of Kings and they could not.
And when we struggle to live this way, and when fear, doubt, and worry cloud our way, and we find that we too have become doubting Thomases… may we remember that our victory was already won for us, and His inviting hands are always outstretched to us just as they were to Thoams… and that His “Yes” does not waver, even when we do. For the tomb, stands eternally empty. Amen.