“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” – John 20:1
In the Gospel of John 20:1-9, we find there the story of Jesus’s resurrection and appearing to Mary Magdalene and dispatching her to inform the disciples. And friends, what a story it is!
When it appeared as if the darkness would have no end, “Up from the Grave He Arose.” When sin, death, evil, injustice, and hatred appeared as if they would have the last word, “Up from the Grave He Arose.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, I don’t know about you, but I need the good news of Easter today. I need a “Grace That Is Greater.” I need a risen savior. I need these words from Maryclare Beche:
“In the midst of a pandemic, there is Easter. In the midst of chaos, there is a source of calm. In the midst of uncertainty, there is blessed assurance. In the midst of isolation, there is a friend. In the midst of sickness, there is a balm in Gilead. In the midst of death, there is one who has risen. In the midst of dying, there is one who died for us. In the midst of crying, there is one who will wipe every tear. In the midst of loss, there is one who restores. In the midst of crisis, there is Christ. In the midst of it all, there is a Savior.”
Today, we proclaim a grace that is greater. In the risen Christ we have a life that will never die. Sisters and brothers, there is nothing left in the tomb: All human history, all of salvation history, all of creation is redeemed in this mighty act of God, which we boldly proclaim in the face of all our current darkness. We dare celebrate, even when it seems foolish to be singing the Lord’s song in a foreign land. We dare sing Resurrection’s song in the midst of darkness. We sing like the bird who sings into the darkness even before it sees the light of the dawn. It knows somehow that the light is near. We sing with an audacious faith that on this day, there is a light that overcomes all darkness, and it cracked the sky with salvation’s cry, “Jesus Christ the Lord is risen.”
On this Easter Sunday, my heart and my soul feels like singing, and there are three hymns that have been a part of my song: “Up from the Grave He Arose,” “Hymn of Promise,” and “Grace that is Greater.” Somehow I know, embedded in these great hymns is the mystery of Easter – a mystery that I still have trouble comprehending. What amazing and wondrous love is this indeed. What greater news can there be after traveling through the wilderness?
Easter is the good news that proclaims even from the ashes there is always the possibility of life. Easter is the “Hymn of Promise” fulfilled in the Risen Christ: “In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree; in cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season something God alone can see.”*
Christ, the risen Lord, is reminding us: “There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody; there’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me. From the past will come the future, what it holds, a mystery, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”* Easter is the bright hope of a future that will never be diminished. Easter is the message of the hardest things imaginable – yielding life when it seems not only improbable, but impossible.
In a season marked by fear and loss, of uncertainty and difficulty, “up from the grave He arose.” When we stand at the edge of being consumed by the darkness, the power of Easter breaks out with a marvelous shout of triumph. In the holy resurrection shout God speaks a final narrative of salvation, redemption, and reconciliation. In Jesus, the risen Christ, God still speaks a powerful Word of life, peace, love, and justice even when the world seems so often to lean into it kicking and screaming. Sisters and brothers, “up from the grave He arose” completes the greatest story ever told where all of creation is made whole.
When faith shrinks in the face of fear, Easter shines at its brightest. It lets us know that God has not abandoned us; with the risen Christ comes a grace that is greater. We are transformed and made new – and yet there are still mountains to climb, river to cross, and valleys to endure because sometimes it feels as if nothing has changed. Evil and injustice persist; war still rages. However, today we rejoice because we know the end of the story: “In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity; in our doubt there is believing; in our life eternity, in our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”*
And so, may our hearts continue to rejoice and our souls shout against the darkness: Christ has risen! Alleluia!
Lord of all life, we pray that on this Easter Sunday and on every day to come, may we find joy in your glorious rising, hope in your eternal promise, and comfort in your great grace. Grant that we may go into the world as Easter people, sharing the good news of the resurrection to all we may encounter. Amen.
Bishop Leonard E. Fairley
*Lyrics from “Hymn of Promise” (UMH 707), Natalie Sleeth. © 1986, Hope Publishing Co. CCLI License #1250028