March 23, 2008
Acts 10:34-43 Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Today we celebrate a time of triumph. Those who had thought they could silence Jesus have failed. Those how thought everything had been ruined and their dreams crushed learned that their leader was alive again. As unbelievable as it seemed to them, Jesus was back.
Those who thought they could silence this Jesus and the movement around him have failed. On Friday and Saturday they were probably celebrating their ability to rid themselves of another one of the rabble-rousing troublemakers in their midst. Perhaps they would even have a few more days to self satisfaction until the word really got around. But the truth of the matter is that all their secret plans and machinations have failed.
As Clarence W. Hall said: If Easter says anything to us today, it says this:
You can put the truth in a grave,
But it won’t stay there.
You can nail it to a cross,
Wrap it in winding sheets
And shut it up in a tomb,
But it will rise!
There will always be people in the world wanting to do away with the truth of God. They will want to hide it. They will want to destroy it. And yet, if nothing else, the lesson we learn from Easter Sunday is that God’s truth will not be bound. In spite of what might seem like setbacks, the plan of God and God’s work in the world around us moves ahead. It cannot be stopped.
Sometimes when I look around at all that is going on in the world today, people killing each other, starvation, disease, people without clean water to drink, I can sometimes feel that God has lost the battle again. But then I think about the miracles I have seen and I know the truth of the power of God and the power of the resurrection.
In the midst of God’s triumph over the powers of darkness, we meet the first evangelist, Mary Magdalene. In the Eastern Orthodox Church Mary Magdalene is known as an isapostolos, one who is equal to the apostles. But Mary Magdalene is first and foremost an evangelist. And evangelist is simply someone who spreads the Good News. Mary Magdalene, as the first to see the risen Lord on that Easter morning received her commission directly from Jesus. She is told to go. And she goes.
The idea of being an evangelist or the practice of evangelism can be rather scary in the Episcopal Church. Like Moses, Jonah and other now famous prophets we don’t want to answer the call. We come up with convenient excuses why we can’t do the work God has called us to do. Mary Magdalene made no excuses although I can think of a few, perhaps I’m just a woman, or no one will believe me. But instead she answers the call of Jesus and immediately goes out to do the work God has called her to do.
As Jesus said to Mary and his other disciples that they were to go, so Jesus says to each one of us today, go. There are many ways that God can call each of us to be evangelists. Often we need to discover them for ourselves. One way to discover how God is calling you to spread the truth in the world around you is to be willing to take risks. Mary Magdalene was willing to risk ridicule and embarrassment in her willingness to serve Jesus.
Others, like Moses and Jonah have taken more convincing by God before they were willing to share the truth of God with others.
Many of you, like me, probably fall more into the Moses or Jonah mold. It is safer to just keep doing what we are doing. There are no risks then. But God calls us to take risks. It is I think in our weaknesses that God is most able to work.
God is calling each and everyone one of us here today to join in spreading the truth of God in the world today just as Jesus called on Mary Magdalene on that Easter Sunday so long ago. And like Mary, we have a choice. We can say yes Jesus and take the risk, or we can say no.
Our yes to Jesus can lead to many things. It can lead to inviting a friend to church. It can lead to sharing what God has been doing in your life. It can lead to serving on the Vestry or Altar Guild. It can lead to working in the food bank. It can lead to learning about world hunger and then doing something about it. It can lead to many different things. But in the end it leads to being a follower of Jesus. It leads to a willingness to take risks.
It may even lead to discovering that what you were willing to try was not really for you. And that is alright too. One thing about serving God and working for the spread of God’s kingdom is that there is always more to be done. When we discover something that does not work for us, it leave us open to try the next thing.
But like Mary Magdalene, and like Moses and Jonah as well, we have to eventually say yes to God first. Then we are open not only to the miracle that we see in the resurrection which we remember today, but we then also become open to the miracles God will work through us in the world around us each and every day.
Alleluia, the Lord is risen!