The Terrifying Good News of Easter

by Lowell Chilton

A Homily for Easter Sunday for the people of Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church - Anchorage, AK
The primary text is Mark 16:1-8.
The video of the worship service is available on the COSLC Facebook page.
The sermon starts at about minute 25. 

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

We hear the alleluias ringing in our ears, the glorious strands of Christ is Alive! pulling us alive too. We look to the cross, which on Friday was bare and draped in a shroud, now blooming with flowers. We marvel at the stone that has been rolled away, and wonder what newness Jesus will bring today.

We expect this newness, this new life with God to be shiny and happy, we forget that new life emerging is messy and dirty and scary. New life emerging is messy and dirty and scary:         giving birth literally tears women’s bodies apart, in a violent, painful, and sometimes deadly event. Living in Anchorage, it is impossible to escape the messiness of spring here, the mud that cakes the places we park, the dog poop that emerges from the melting snow, the leaky basements and roofs.

Despite this knowledge, despite living in the messiness, we see brokenness and pain and terror in the world, we feel the pain of ruptured promises, strained relationships, shattered dreams, and too often we expect that God will fix it the way we want it fixed; that God will remake the world the way we want it to be.

We forget that just the day before yesterday we watched God die on a cross for us.
We forget that all beginnings come after an ending.
We forget that new life comes after death.
We forget that Easter is terrifying.

The new life of Christ comes only after death, a death into which all the Earth is joined through the cross. A death which is terrifying for we do not know what will emerge in it's place.

At dawn on the day after the Sabbath, two days after the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome took spices to the tomb to anoint Jesus. They expected to find him behind a heavy stone blocking the entrance, pondering as they walked how they might get the door open. They found the tomb already open, and were disturbed, probably wondering:
        I thought we were doing this, is someone already here?
        Who removed the stone?
        Oh No, did the Romans mess with his body?
        Did the others who opposed Jesus do something to desecrate his body?
        What is waiting inside for us?

They went inside and stopped dead with alarm, with terror. Instead of the body of Christ, they found only the young man who had fled naked from the garden. He told them:
         Jesus, who was crucified, is risen.
         Go and tell the disciples that he will meet you in Galilee.

But they were alarmed. They dropped everything and fled, saying nothing to anyone, for this was terrifying.

The terrifying good news of Easter is that everything is truly different now. All that we knew before, our fears and our doubts, our sins and our illusions, our expectations and our precious memories, are carried to the cross with Jesus Christ. All that we are is carried to the cross with Jesus Christ, and we die with Christ so that new life may emerge.

The terrifying good news of Easter is that new life comes from death.
          God in Christ has died on the cross for us.
          God in Christ has gone to hell for us.
          God in Christ is risen today for us.

Not only did God in Christ die for us, God in Christ dies with us each and every day.
Not only did God in Christ go to hell for us, God in Christ goes to hell with us each and every day.

The lives we lead all have pain and sorrow: broken hearts, shattered relationships, things we’ve done and things we’ve left undone, dreams we’ve held on to for far to long, and dreams we’ve not dared to dream. God in Christ is there in the middle of this brokenness, picking up the pieces with us and weeping with us.

Not only is God in Christ risen for us, God in Christ is risen with us each and every day.
God in Christ pulls us out of hell, lives in our midst, and sings, dances, shouts, and feasts with us.

When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my father was invited to preach at the ecumenical sunrise service on the top of Stone Mountain, near Atlanta. My mother, brother, and I arrived at the base of the mountain before dawn, and a joined a long procession walking the trail to the peak, following someone carrying a large wooden cross not unlike this one. We finally got to the top and dad was already there. We worshipped God together as dawn broke on the horizon. It was Easter! It was wonderful!

As we rode the cable car down the mountain, I looked over and saw my father, still wearing his alb and stole, standing in the corner, clutching a pole with a death grip with one hand, and his bible in the other, trying not to look down and praying for safety. Terrified of heights. My mother later said that the only thing that would get dad to the top of that mountain was the opportunity to testify to the good news of Easter.

This is such great good news, new life emerging from death itself, that we overcome our terror and testify as witnesses to the resurrection for all. The women at the tomb overcame their terror, and told Peter and the disciples of all that had happened. The terrific Good news spread, generation after generation testifying to the good news of Christ..

Over and over and over again, we stand in the presence of God and one another and hear the terrific good news of Jesus Christ:
                     that God’s very self dies with us on the cross,
                     goes to hell with us,
                     comes to life with us,
                     sings Alleluias with us,
                     feasts with us,
                     loves with us,
                     prays with us,
                     cries with us,
                     and brings us all to new life,
each and every one of us, each and every day, over and over again.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!