The disciples huddled fearfully in a locked room. Terrible images of the crucified Jesus drove away their sleep. Overwhelmed by waves of abandonment, they hid from their enemies. Equally grief-stricken, but free to come and go, the women walked to the cave early in the morning with heavy hearts. Abandoned. Abandoned.
At the tomb, instead of their own throbbing sorrow, they felt the earth shake under their feet. Lightning bolted from heaven and deposited an angel, brilliant with glory. The angel rolled away the stone from the tomb and sat on it, which caused the guards to quake like the earth and to fall down as if dead.
No wonder the women were afraid, for their world had instantly turned upside down. The living guards appeared to be dead, while the crucified and very dead Jesus was alive! The most fearful joy of all was the freedom. Freedom: Abba God had not abandoned Jesus after all, and had not abandoned them. Clearly dead and buried, Jesus now stood before them, very much alive. Their own weight of abandonment vanished in the blink of an eye. For in that flash of lightning, Jesus showed up.
When the disciples felt most profoundly lost and alone, Jesus came back. God would not leave them comfortless. When the women’s foundation crumbled, Jesus showed up. When we face defeat, when sorrow seems to overwhelm us, who shows up but Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord. For the fearful freedom of Easter is that God does not abandon us: Jesus keeps showing up.
We often experience God’s faithfulness most vibrantly at moments like those of Mary, the other Mary, and the disciples, don’t we? When in your life did Jesus Christ lead you from death to life? The Risen Lord has shown up in various guises in my life. At age sixteen, I could easily have become a suicide statistic, but God showed up. In my early twenties, nervously holding my mother’s hand and walking to look death in the face for the first time, my eyes narrowly focused on the floor of the funeral parlor, I slowly lifted my gaze and discovered with a start that Grandma wasn’t there. She had left her aged body. In that Easter moment I knew beyond knowing that Jesus had shown up to receive one Annie Skeels, my grandmother.
Jesus does not show up only when we feel abandoned. For each moment is an Alleluia moment. Jesus showed up when I met Andrea, when each child was born, when we drove a U-Haul truck 3,000 miles across the country to seminary. Jesus shows up whenever I walk on the beach or hike along a trail. Jesus showed up when I was called to All Saints’. And he showed up this morning.
Éleuthère had been a monk for over eighty years by the time I asked how he would summarize the Christian faith. He paused, thought for a moment, and responded, “Paying attention.” Pay attention: When in your life has Jesus shown up?
Jesus keeps showing up in our lives, because early in the morning, with the two Marys marveling, an angel bolted from heaven and announced that God had kept his promise. In their astonishment, as they ran to tell the news, Jesus greeted the women.
Our Easter joy is that the risen Christ appears today. Invisibly, without lightning bolts or earthquakes, but all the same most profoundly, Jesus greets us this morning. Jesus shows up in our singing, in this sermon, in the sacrament, when the children are searching for eggs, and when we return home. God shows up in our lives, because Jesus Christ is risen, and this is Easter Day. Alleluia. Alleluia.
The Rev. Rick Matters, preached at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Carmel