Tourists and Pilgrims

Easter Day

Matthew 28:1-10

Let’s set the scene: Jesus has been crucified and buried. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are at the tomb early on the first day of the week. There are some tired and bored guards there as well so the two Marys are keeping their distance. They have come very early in the morning, so there is a slight chill to the air and dew still clings to the leaves.

For many of us, that is as far as we get into the story. Oh, we’ve heard the rest. We know about Jesus appearing in the locked upper room. We have heard of Thomas and his doubts. There was also a breakfast of fish on the beach, and a long walk to Emmaus with a couple of disciples. Most of us have heard the rest of the resurrection story, but have we experienced resurrection?

Resurrection is more than a story. Resurrection is a way of life. Resurrection life is rich and full. Resurrection life has a profound and joyful meaning and purpose. Most importantly, resurrection life is available right now.

You can live a transformed life. You can experience the peace and joy of knowing God – and more than knowing – you can feel and experience God’s loving presence in both good times and bad. You can have deeper, more beautiful and more satisfying relationships, at home, at work, in your marriage, with friends and even with enemies. You can live in a way that brings life to the world. Your life can be full of God’s love. You can bring love and healing and hope to the poor and the suffering of our world.

That is a good way to live! You can live that way. We all can live that way. Jesus did not come to prepare us to enter heaven after we die. Jesus did not teach and heal and love so that we would pass some sort of test after we die. Jesus is not as concerned about whether you get into heaven as he is with whether you experience heaven now.

Jesus came to give us a new kind of life. Jesus lived to show us that we can live – truly live – right now. Jesus lived a life fully connected to God. Jesus loved God and proclaimed God’s love even when his life and his proclamation offended the powers and authorities. Even when they set out to trap and kill him, Jesus continued to love. He was never separated from God’s love and he never stopped giving that love away. Even hanging on the cross, Jesus was giving love to anyone who would accept that love.

That brings us back to the tomb, on that early morning. There is a chill in the air and dew on the leaves. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are there. The temple guards are there. What comes next? What will happen? What will come from this moment?

This is a critical point in the story and this is a critical point in your life. This is the moment you have come to, right now, right here, on this Easter morning. What comes next? Will you hear a good story and then go to brunch with the family – or will this be the moment of resurrection?

The answer to this question depends on how you are here, or perhaps, why you are here. Let me explain.

Some of us are here as tourists.

Some of us are here as pilgrims.

Some of us came as tourists and will leave as pilgrims.

The tourists will enjoy the story. They will see the tomb and the guards and the women. Maybe they will snap a few pictures to remember the moment and then they will move on. There are other attractions to see and the tourist is on a schedule. After all, we only get a couple weeks of vacation a year and we can’t go someplace interesting every year, right? So you have to keep moving, taking in the sights, sampling the food, maybe sending a postcard back home. Now-a-days you might take a picture with your phone and post the picture to Facebook:

“Here we are at Jesus’ tomb. The guards are very life-like!”

For the tourist, this is the end of the story.

The experience of the pilgrim is very different. The pilgrim is not looking for entertainment or novelty. The pilgrim is looking for life, meaning and purpose. The pilgrim will see the same tomb, the same guards and the same women waiting. The pilgrim will feel the same chill in the air and dew on the leaves.

For the pilgrim, this is the beginning of the story.

The earth quakes because love has defeated death! The angels roll the stone away from the tomb because they are filled with wonder and joy: Look! The tomb is empty! Love has defeated death! Resurrection has begun!

The guards run away in fear. For them, this is not good news. They serve death.

But the women stay, even though they are very frightened, because for them this is good news. This is resurrection. Jesus has defeated death and a new kind of life is now possible. Resurrection life!

The pilgrim invests him or herself in the story. For the pilgrim, there is much at stake. This is more than a tale. This is the beginning of resurrection life. This is the real presence of God. Here is the wonder and the joy of encountering love – true love – love in human form. God’s love incarnate and resurrected in Jesus.

The pilgrim does not go to see the empty tomb and say, “I was there.” The pilgrim goes to share in resurrection.

Christ is risen – be a part of that!

Christ is risen – share in the love that defeats death!

Christ is risen – accept the love that God is offering and then give that love away. That is what you were born for. You were born to live in God’s love and to take that love to the poor and the suffering of the world. You were born to live in God’s love and to give that love away. You were born for resurrection life!

 

Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

 

 

The Rev. David Marshall

St. Dunstan’s Church

April 24, 2011

 

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