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Easter Day, 2023

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

This is the joyful day of resurrection. This is the eighth day, the day of new life and new beginnings. This is the day we celebrate Christ's victory over death and when we look forward to a life changed, not ended. Hell has been vanquished. Death has been destroyed. We have entered Christ's joyful Eastertide.

This is what we proclaim – Christ resurrected. This is the good news of the gospel – that Christ wins. We have come through the events of the Passion to the other side where life in and with God reigns. And regardless of the church, this is what we ultimately proclaim – Christ victorious over death and Christ resurrected.

Holy Week puts death squarely in our sights.

Rather than hiding from it, or trying to hide it from us, Holy Week reminds us that death is ever-present. On Palm Sunday we turned on Jesus and cried out for his crucifixion. Maundy Thursday sees us sharing a last meal and watching as the symbols of Christ are removed from our presence, signifying our own betrayal of Christ. Good Friday we once again relive his crucifixion and death. Holy Saturday was spent in mourning as Jesus lay lifeless in the tomb. We also walked the Way of the Cross, from Jesus' trial to his burial, on most of the days of last week. All of Holy Week we are mired in shock, death, and loss.

On Good Friday I touched on the silence of Jesus during his trial and execution. By his silence he refused to play the expected role of victim in an act of state-sponsored torture. By his silence he maintained solidarity with the oppressed and abused. By his silence we were shown that his kingdom is not from this world, so committing violence to protect it is not needed. By his silence he took away their power. And, as Brian McLaren wrote in a recent book, when we find God with us in our suffering and death, we find they no longer have any power to terrorize us.

This is something we see in today's gospel story with Mary Magdalene at the tomb and with her encounter with Christ. She walked with Jesus in those last, tortuous hours of his life. The gospels differ on who was present, but they are unified in stating that Mary Magdalene did not desert Christ and was the first one at the empty tomb. In today's story from John we see that she has been emotionally terrorized by the events of Holy Week. She saw the bruised and battered Christ as he hung on the cross and as he was placed in the tomb.

But even through all that, Jesus was with her.

Jesus not only dealt with his own suffering and death, but he was also with Mary in her suffering. And when she realized that, when she realized that the person she was talking to was the risen Christ, she also learned that those sufferings no longer had any power to terrorize her; they no longer had any power to keep her captive.

In this moment in the gospel, Mary learned that life in Christ is indeed changed and not ended.

As we say in a variety of places in the Prayer Book: by his death he took away the sting of death; he has brought us out of death into life; rising from the grave he destroyed death and made the whole creation new; life is changed, not ended.

The past three years have been an ordeal. For those killed due to COVID, life is changed, not ended. For those touched by COVID, life is changed, not ended. As we continue to move forward in our own personal lives and in our communal life here at Saint John's, life is changed, not ended. For those who have endured this past week, life is changed, not ended.

Christ has taken away the sting of death. Christ has destroyed the gates of hell and freed us. Christ has loosed the bonds of death and brought us into new life.

This is the joyful day of resurrection. This is the day of a new creation, the eighth day, the day of new beginnings.

Let us now give thanks and praise for this joyful Eastertide and let us with all creation shout

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

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