Easter is almost upon us. And I have been doing some thinking about my Easter sermon (yes, I do plan my sermons ahead sometimes). Since we are in year “A” of the Revised Common Lectionary, that means on Easter Sunday we can read from either the Gospel of John, or Matthew’s Gospel.
Well, I was reading through both texts this past week trying to decide which one I would like to use. Here is what I read in Matthew:
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.” – Matthew 28:1–10 (NRSV)
“Do not be afraid.” I found it interesting that we find those words at the beginning of two of the gospels – Matthew and Luke. They occur in the beginning of Jesus’ story, when the angel approaches Mary in Luke and Joseph in Matthew. In both instances, the angel tries to calm each down as he/she lets them know what God is about to do, and the role they will play in God’s unfolding plan of salvation for ALL people.
We also hear the “Be not afraid” words in the chorus of the angels’ song to the shepherds in the fields as the angels proclaim the good news of Jesus’ birth—good news told first to those who were usually left out and left behind. But have you ever really noticed them in the story of Easter, the story of the resurrection?
“Do not be afraid,” the angel tells the women when they arrive at the tomb. “Do not be afraid,” says Jesus when he suddenly meets them where they are and informs them of the next role they will play in the unfolding of God’s plan of salvation for ALL people. “Do not be afraid.” Given the fact that those words frame this entire Gospel narrative, they must tell us something of God, don’t you think?
They must tell us something of the way God wants us to understand the heart of the Holy One. They must tell us something of the way God wants us to understand our lives here in our world. They must tell us something of the way God feels about us, those whom God has created. They must tell us something about the fact that the role God calls us to play in God’s unfolding plan of salvation for ALL people, is something to embrace, not fear.
Do not be afraid. In a world that traffics in fear and mistrust, God’s constant refrain of “Do not be afraid” is challenging. And yet, what if we really lived it and embodied it every single day of our lives? I imagine it would feel like Easter every day, here and now!
Blessings and Peace,