The sermon for Easter Sunday, 2016, at Holy Trinity in Charlotte.
Barbara and Pauline had a cat named Buddy. He had been with them for a long time and was like the third member of their family. Once after they had been away on a trip, as they were returning home they saw something on the side of the road that made their hearts sink. It was a dead cat. And it looked a lot like Buddy.
They pulled over and got a closer look only to see that it was their beloved Buddy the cat. So they wrapped his dead body in a blanket, brought him home and buried him, shedding more than a few tears at the loss of their precious friend.
The next day, Pauline and Barbara were out in the yard and they saw a cat come walking up their driveway. Sure enough, it was Buddy the cat. Apparently they had buried the wrong cat.
It made me think of all the times I get myself all worked up over something that seems to me like the end of the world, only to discover that it wasn’t the end of the world at all.
I imagine that might have been the way the women felt when they went to the tomb. These were not the sniveling little disciples who ran like scared rabbits when the going got tough. These were the faithful, courageous disciples of Jesus who didn’t leave his side even as he died on the cross. They followed those who took Jesus’ body and saw where they laid it. Early in the morning while the whole world was sleeping, they took their spices and returned to the tomb to honor the body of the one they loved. Even in death, they couldn’t abandon him.
When they arrived at the tomb, the stone was rolled back and they went inside. But the body was gone. Where was he? What happened? And then suddenly two men in dazzling clothes appeared. The women, of course, were scared out of their wits. And what did the men have to say to them? Something that strikes me as rather odd, under the circumstances. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, when he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
This shouldn’t come as a complete surprise to you, women. Don’t you remember what he told you? Well, if you need any proof that these women were really disciples of Jesus, here it is. Don’t you remember what he told you? Yes, they remembered. Because they were there. They heard Jesus tell them about his death and resurrection. They remembered.
And suddenly all the pieces were falling into place. Yes, this happened exactly as Jesus had told them it would. He hadn’t been speaking metaphorically. It really happened. He was crucified; they saw it happen. He died; they saw it happen. And he was buried; they saw it happen. And now he’s been raised from the dead.
They had been stumbling through a graveyard in the dark, and suddenly they were running swiftly, leaping over gravestones with wings on their feet to tell their friends the good news.
Perhaps you can understand what it means to stumble through a graveyard in the dark, to walk the way of death. It’s easy to get caught there.
· Maybe you’re so disheartened by the political process, or ISIS or climate change that you’ve lost all hope in humanity.
· Maybe you’re mired down in depression after the underhanded way our elected leaders in North Carolina have voted in favor of discrimination.
· Maybe you’ve received news of an illness that threatens to seriously alter your life.
· Maybe you’ve been so disappointed by someone or something that you’re finding it hard to trust again.
· Maybe you're feeling trapped in a situation that is bringing only misery to your life and you can’t see any way out of it.
· Maybe you’re replaying the same destructive pattern in your life over and over so that it feels like it’s holding you captive.
· Maybe you’re grieving a loss that has taken away so much of you that you can’t imagine you’ll ever be whole again.
· Maybe you’re having a crisis of faith and you wish with all your heart that you could believe what your head tells you couldn’t possibly be true.
That’s what it means to stumble through a graveyard in the dark.
And yet, you’re here today. You came to gather with other people who have done their share of stumbling around in the dark, too.
Because we’re all here to remember. To remember the teachings of a man who showed us the way to life, real life, abundant life, what some Biblical writers call eternal life. A life that is found, not by amassing great fortune or by proving that you’re a winner in a world filled with losers. It’s a life that’s only found in denying the twisted, self-centered values of the world around us and taking up a life of compassion and mercy. We’re here to remember the life of a man who practiced this truth at every turn, even when it took him to a cross. We remember the death of the one who forgave those who unjustly executed him. And we remember his resurrection to new life.
We’re here today because we know that despite the fact that we may find ourselves stumbling through a graveyard in the dark, we remember where to look for the living. Among God’s faithful people. Singing hymns. Praying prayers. Hearing the word proclaimed. Sharing in a meal where out host reminds us that every time we eat the bread and drink the cup, it is an act of remembering. “Do this to remember me,” Jesus said.
We’re here because we know we can never find life by stumbling around a graveyard in the dark. We look for life among the living.