April 15, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
Great Easter Vigil
Romans 6:3-11; Matthew 28:1-10


Yes, it’s great to be with you on this night of the Great Easter Vigil yet my salutation of “Greetings!” is more than just a word of welcome. I’m following the example of Jesus. In Matthew’s telling, this is the first word shared by the resurrected Christ. When I realized this, it surprised me!

It’s John’s resurrection story that usually comes to mind. In it Jesus speaks with compassion to Mary Magdalene as she weeps outside the empty tomb. She mistakes him for a gardener when he gently asks, “‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” Then, calling her by name, “Mary!” she recognized him.

In Luke’s version, Jesus’ first words are shared with two unnamed disciples on the road to Emmaus. They’re discussing the recent events of Jesus arrest and death, and an unrecognized Jesus asks, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?road2emmausAfter they tell him, he proceeds to explain how obvious it is that all these things were necessary to fulfill what Moses and the prophets said about the Messiah. Even so, they still didn’t recognize him, that is, until he broke bread with them at dinner. This shared act caused their eyes to be opened to the risen Christ.

Mark’s gospel gives no words to Jesus at all. An angel at the empty tomb instructs the women to tell the others that Jesus has risen and that he’ll meet them in Galilee. But we’re told that these who were to share the good news went silent. It says: “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

But, that’s not at all what we see in Matthew’s gospel. In his version Mary Magdalene and the other Mary get the enthusiastic salutation, “Greetings!” from Jesus. This isn’t the only difference in the story.

Unlike the other stories, in this one, as the two Marys are arriving at the tomb, there’s a great earthquake and an angel descends and rolls away the stone. The guards that had been placed outside the tomb to ensure the body of Jesus wasn’t stolen, are shaken and left temporarily incapacitated – as if to be dead. The angel tells the two Marys what has happened, and then says:

Come, see the place where [Jesus] lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’

So, having seen the empty tomb, they rush back to tell the others. And, as if Jesus just couldn’t keep it a secret any longer, he suddenly appeared to them, saying “Greetings!”

I love this image of the risen Christ. Bursting with such excitement for what has taken place, so much so, that he can’t even contain himself. Sure everyone’s going to be in Galilee soon, but he has a secret and just can’t hold it in any longer, so he bursts upon the two Mary’s! Perhaps he was eager to see them again. Eager to dispel their anguish and erase the pain and confusion of the past few days. He just wasn’t going to make them wait another second. So he pops out and says: “Greetings!”

When was the last time you felt that joyful about something, so excited that you just had to share it with others? If you didn’t let it out, you were just gonna burst!?

It happens for young children all the time.

Exuberance – Jimmy a few years later

One of my favorite family stories is about my brother’s son, Jimmy. It was little Jimmy’s 3rd birthday, and they rented a big blow-up water slide for the party. Just before the party started, so did the rain. While this could’ve put a damper on things (wonk, wonk), since they were going to get wet anyway, they made the most of it. After taking a few runs down the water slide, little Jimmy ran up to my brother, his dad, and said with every joyful fiber of his being, “This the best day ever!”

Kayleigh and Lola will likely have similar exuberant moments in their young lives, with or without the water of baptism being tossed upon them!

And tonight we remember that Easter is our season of exuberance! Not just one day, but 50 days – starting tonight! May we be as exuberant as a child, or as exuberant as the resurrected Jesus himself, in expressing the joy of living our life as people of resurrection. May others see and hear this joyful exuberance in every fiber of our being.

Greetings! Christ is risen!  The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!


Gospel Text:

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Mt 28:1-10)

One Response to “Greetings!”

  1. jg3potomac said

    Happy Easter! Love, Dad

    Jim Greenwood


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