Wednesday, 23 March 2016

“An idle tale?”: a sermon for Easter Day (Luke 24:1-12)

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

Mary Magdalene and her friends went to Jesus’ tomb to perform the ancient burial rites of the Jewish faith.  On Friday, Jesus’ body was put in the tomb quickly, without ceremony.  The burial needed to be completed before the Jewish Sabbath began on Friday night.  The burial rites had to wait. 

So, on Sunday morning, after the Sabbath was over, the women went to the tomb so that Jesus’ body could receive the washing, anointing, and embalming that was expected in the culture of the times.  Mary Magdalene and the other women went to the tomb to do the decent thing for the dead body of a friend.  They were surprised to find the stone rolled away and the tomb empty, but they were still looking for a corpse.  But two strangers, attired (as Luke tells us) “in dazzling clothes”, said to them:   “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.”

They went to tell some of the other disciples, some of the men, but - except for Peter - they weren’t really interested in their story.  “...these words seemed to them an idle tale...”  

And, in our culture, there are many “idle tales” floating around … about many different things.

Some of the “idle tales” take the form of gossip; gossip about neighbours or co-workers; gossip about entertainers, sportspeople, politicians, or those vague “celebrities” who are famous just for being famous.  Some gossip is deliberately malicious; some gossip is well-meaning.  All gossip is destructive.

Some of the idle tales take the form of racial, ethnic, religious or other stereotypes.  Some people persist in attributing a wide range of faults and vices to all members of any particular group, without exception: to all Jews, to all Muslims, to all Catholics, to all Aborigines, to all Freemasons, to all Mormons, to all gay or lesbian people, … and so on.

Some of the idle tales take the form of conspiracy theories; far-fetched theories that say that widely disparate groups of people have conspired with each other to keep you and I “in the dark” either about historical events or about present realities.  People are prepared to pay good money to hear or to read even the wildest of these conspiracy theories.  Just ask Dan Brown (the “Da Vinci Code” guy).  Just ask any climate change sceptic, creationist, or holocaust denier.

In our culture, and in many cultures, there are many “idle tales” floating about.

Some of the male disciples thought that Mary and her friends were indulging themselves in an “idle tale”.  Peter, though, ran to the tomb and found it empty.    

In our own day, we too are called to look for the presence of the risen Christ in the midst of life, not death.  We often find the risen Christ in the presence of those who may themselves not be aware that he is there.

Whenever individuals seriously try to face the difficult ethical decisions of life with integrity, it is not “an idle tale”:   the risen Christ is there.  

Whenever families seek to nurture their children as people of honesty, kindness, and generosity, it is not “an idle tale”:   the risen Christ is there. 

Whenever communities, divided by fear and prejudice, seek to discover new ways of reconciliation in their common life, it is not “an idle tale”:  the risen Christ is there. 

Whenever nations reject the paths of war to explore new options for peace, it is not “an idle tale”:   the risen Christ is there. 

Whenever congregations gather week after week, not to be dazzled by the latest religious gimmickry, but to break open the Word and to bread the bread”:  the risen Christ is there. 

For some, these signs of new life may be viewed cynically as “an idle tale”, but, for us we can see these as signs of the risen Christ.  

Christ is risen, bringing us:
life in the face of death; ...
... life despite death; ...
... life in defiance of death.

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

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