Alleluia! Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed!
Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, happens to also be one of those big family holidays. I remember this typical scenario: After worship, we get together, brothers and sisters, in-laws, grandparents and cousins, friends or neighbors for a delicious Easter dinner, lamb or ham in my home. Then of course there are the Easter egg hunts and Easter baskets distributed. Some of us are accustomed to reservations at a favorite restaurant for a sumptuous seven-course meal. The extra effort, the traffic jams are worth the effort in order to be with loved ones over these traditional meals. For the past 17 years We have celebrated Easter dinner with Forrest’s cousins in Huntington. Not this year.
This Easter is different. We are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantined in our homes. We have not seen loved one for weeks, except perhaps through facetime, skype, or zoom. We’re stuck at home. We may have some semblance of Easter dinner, but it will not be like years past. Those familiar faces won’t be there, the traditional dishes simplified. But Easter is here, nonetheless.
"Interesting, our Easter story centers on travel, going home, reuniting with loved ones, as well. Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected in Jerusalem, where the disciples are still staying, too, following the Passover holiday – away from home. But on the first day of the week, the women of Jesus’ entourage, visited the tomb and found it empty, claim Jesus has been raised. They heard it from an angel’s lips first. Next, they encountered Jesus himself on the road. Jesus’s first words to them were to not fear, and then to instruct the disciples to go home; to head back to Galilee where they will see him.
Galilee is nearly 90-100 miles distance from Jerusalem. In those days you didn’t do a trip like that in a day, maybe not even two days. At a decent walking clip of about 4-5 miles per hour on foot it will be 20 hours or so to get there (and since few people can walk 20 hours non-stop, it would be a trip of 2-3 days if you allow for time to eat, rest, and sleep. What would we give to be able to get into our cars, get in an airplane, and go to our Galilees, our homes, our family, our friends. 90 miles would be nothing in our day and age.
It is ironic however, that the grandest event in history happened just down the road from where the disciples were, and yet they could not celebrate Easter until they completed that 90-mile walk. Reunion came only after a long trip. So close and yet so far. Why? Why not greet the disciples in Jerusalem?
After all, Jesus was already in a prime spot after he was raised from the dead. Jerusalem was the place to make a splash. Herod was there, Pontius Pilate was there, the Temple hierarchy was there— everybody who had convicted and killed Jesus was there. The crowds who clamored for his crucifixion were there. Wouldn’t Jesus want to visit these people and prove he was right, he was the messiah, and his predictions of being raised on the third day were true? "
But true to form Jesus didn’t do it. He does not want to stay focused on the trauma and pain. Instead his attention is on Galilee, on home. The gospel ends the way it begins: in an out-of-the-way place and in a very quiet, unassuming fashion, ministering to the average, humble folk he had rubbed shoulders with for three years.
In the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, we dare to proclaim the message of life. On a day when we are told the virus is peaking, our message is one of joy and, even if it will take a long trip, a long time, to get there. So, we follow Jesus out of Jerusalem, the site of death and despair, to our spiritual homes, where our faith was born and grew.
Today our text asks us to recall the memories, the stories of what Galilee means to us. Where we first got to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. The spiritual rituals we have been blessed by. Those special friends and church families who have shared and deepened our faith. The programs, the fellowship, the acts of service in the Lord’s name we have carried out. All of this constitutes Galilee. With Jesus we have come full circle.
Today on the day of Resurrection Jesus reassures us we will make it to Galilee. Even as we still must gather in our homes, still in the tombs of quarantine, still social isolating and distancing, still missing the presence of dear ones, facing the menace of COVID-19, we celebrate that our Lord broke free from his tomb. And so will we.
We may not be able to journey physically, but Easter 2020 takes us spiritually to our Galilees. Easter this year is not easy, nor is the Easter life we are called to live. But we are not alone! We do have the Risen Jesus with us, here in our hearts after all! And we do have the gospel to sustain us.
However you observed Easter today, a scaled back dinner with just a few people you are quarantined with, take time to remember Galilee, the miracles, the teachings, the seaside, the good times, all that we learned, all that made us into who we are today.
The resurrection has transformed it all so we can carry Galilee in our hearts as we await the day we have crossed over this pandemic and are with each other again. That is more than enough for us to go on for now. So, today, through the power of the Risen Lord, we find each other with Jesus, for our memories of him can never be erased. Until we can gather in person, we still proclaim our love for each other and declare: Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed. Amen.
- With thanks to Scott Hoezee
See more at: http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/easter-day-a/?type=the_lectionary_gospel#sthash.cC93MJTj.dpuf