The following sermon was preached on April 17, 2022 at St George’s Transcona’s service for Easter Sunday. You can learn more about St George’s and find links to their YouTube channel by clicking here. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable and pleasing your sight O God for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

I have been going to church since before I was born and I’ve been part of a lot of different kinds of churches.  In the mid 90s I was part of what you might describe as an evangelical mega church – a least a thousand members, multiple services, large church building and even larger parking lot.

One Easter Sunday I arrived to discover some unusual things in the sanctuary – the table with the overhead projector and the screen were gone and in their place were even bigger screens -two of them – there was also a fancy projector and a man with a computer.  I didn’t think much of it.

The first song was peppy – lots of drums and clapping – but I was completely distracted by what I saw on the screen – in giant font there was one line of text repeated three times, “God is dead, God is dead, God is dead.”

It was like the screen was shouting a heresy at me.

I quickly turned by attention to the worship team who I was able to discern were cheerfully singing, “God is NOT dead, God is NOT dead.”

And then I turned to the poor man behind the computer, sweat on his forehead frantically trying to figure out how to fix the PowerPoint slide.

Christ is risen. God is NOT dead.

Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed. Alleluia.

Let’s try that again: Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed. Alleluia.

Normally as we walk through Holy Week, our liturgies make intentional choices to guide us through a series of emotions. On Good Friday, even though we know that Easter is coming, we resist the temptation to tell that part of the story. We sit in the pain and the confusion and the sorrow of Christ’s death. On Saturday we push even deeper into those feelings, and then, normally, on Easter Sunday we lean deeply into the joy, the celebration, the victory of Christ’s resurrection. We pack the church and shout at the top of our lungs “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!”

It’s been hard, if not impossible, to do that over the past few years.  This year feels a bit better but I’m not sure we’re quite at full strength. At least to me, this year feels like a cautious Easter.

I mean I am still going to proclaim, “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!” but I’m going to do it wearing a mask.  And for most of last week, I thought I might be proclaiming it online from my home.  I’m getting there, but I’m not at 110% Easter Sunday joy just yet. Maybe like 60%?

And yet, one of the most interesting things to me about Easter is that my feelings about the story and the celebration don’t change the truth of the story and the celebration.

Christ has risen, my feeling don’t change the truth of that. So this year, I want to remind us all that on that first Easter, the women who went to the tomb didn’t march there in Easter bonnets intent on a joyous celebration either.  They were in mourning, and they were afraid.

All of the feelings were felt on that first Easter and it’s fitting that we make space for them today as well.

Our gospel reading begins in darkness. We’re told that “while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed…” (1).

It’s not Easter for Mary yet.  She has come to the tomb to grieve and care for the body of a dead loved one and instead of being able to enact those healing rituals of grief, she is punched in the gut with the shock of Christ’s missing body.

Mary runs to two of the disciples and says, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (2)

Before we continue, a few details about these disciples. One is Simon Peter and the other is described as “the one whom Jesus loved. (2)” We’re meant to understand that this disciple is John, the author of this gospel.

John’s personality comes through in this story in a few interesting ways – first by choosing to describe himself as “the one whom Jesus loved,” and then in the next few lines we’re told that after hearing Mary’s awful news, the two men run to the tomb to see for themselves.  John tells us that he ran faster than Peter and beat him to the tomb.  (4)

I find it fascinating that John is cheeky enough to want us to know who the faster runner is.

The two men see the empty tomb, the linen wrappings and we are told that John “saw and believed, for as yet they did not understand the scripture that he must rise from the dead.” (9)

So what did he believe if he didn’t understand that scripture?  That Jesus was dead and his body missing?

It’s unclear.

What is clear is that these disciples are not at 110% Easter morning joy either. Maybe minus 50%?

The disciples return home, but Mary stays. (10-11)

She is weeping, and as she weeps, she looks into the tomb and sees two angels who ask, “Woman, why are you weeping?” (12-13)

She tells them she is crying because someone has taken Jesus’ body and then she turns around and sees a man she does not recognize standing outside of the tomb. (14)

This man, who she thinks is a gardener, also asks her, “Why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” (15)

Mary begins to beg saying “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” (15)

And then Jesus calls her by name, “Mary!” (16)

And when she hears him call her name, she knows who he is. And she responds by calling him one of his names, “Teacher. (Rabbouni)” (16)

And then I imagine Mary rushing to hug and cling to Jesus in relief and joy and confusion both because I think that’s what I would do and because Jesus’ next words are, “Do not hold on to me…” (17)

And then Jesus tells her to go and tell the disciples what she has happened and she does.  When she reaches the disciples she proclaims, “I have seen the Lord!” (18)

Here, I imagine, she reaches 110% Easter joy.

Mary Magdalene is regarded as the first evangelist in the Christian church and is referred to as the apostle to the apostles because she was the first person to see the risen Jesus and then to tell others about him.

Simon Peter and John went home before they could see Jesus. Mary stayed.

A few years ago, Susanna Singer preached at St Gregory of Nyssa church  – it wasn’t Easter, but I thought, “that’s a great Easter sermon.”  In her sermon she asked the question, “Am I just looking for resuscitation or do I dare to hope for resurrection?”

I never want anyone to die. The death of a person is a tragedy and should be mourned, but I do think that there are a lot of things in my life and in this world that need to die.  Ideas, habits, ways of thinking, systems. For too long we’ve settled for artificial resuscitation instead of defiantly demanding resurrection.

Early in the pandemic during a lockdown, Comedian Sinhu Vee, reflecting on her own recovery from COVID-19, said that because we can no longer go out, we must go in. This is a time to reflect on our interior lives, on who we are, who we are becoming, and who we want to be.

The pandemic isn’t over, but we are now able to leave our homes and do things like worship together.  I hope we will never have another lockdown, but life will never return to the way it was before the pandemic began, and I don’t want it to.  I want resurrection, not resuscitation.

Because a lot of my old ways, a lot of our collective old ways, weren’t working.  Sometimes we pretended they were working, especially if they were working for us – capitalism works for a lot of us, white supremacy works for a lot of us, patriarchy  and homophobia work for a lot of us.  Before the pandemic, if we did acknowledge that our systems were broken, we often also believed that that was just the way it was, that change was impossible.  That a new resurrected life was impossible.

But we were wrong.

Resurrection is possible. Necessary even.

The first thing I believe needs to die in order to make way for resurrection, is the way our society privileges hyper productivity and frenetic busyness.  At the start of the pandemic there were all sorts of messages that said essentially, “If you don’t emerge from this pandemic with rock hard abs, the ability to speak 3 new languages, the great Canadian novel, and the world’s best sourdough bread you have let the entire human race down and you should be deeply ashamed of yourself.”

No one should ever feel ashamed of slowing down during the pandemic. Or of slowing down for any reason.

Now in this current phase of the pandemic one current theme I hear when talking to other people, and I feel this myself as well, is a rising level of anxiety that we’re going to go back to being as busy as we were in 2019.   Sure, many of us are longing for increased connection, the ability to travel and socialize with friends, but we also learned to like the slower pace, having fewer things on the calendar and we’re wondering how to balance our need for social interaction with our need for a slower pace of life.

We want resurrection – a new life filled way of being – not artificial resuscitation. We want meaningful connections with others, without the hyperbusyness that used to seem to require.  But we’re not quite sure how to get there.

If you’re feeling a resistance to an increased sense of busyness, you haven’t let anyone down; you don’t need to be ashamed. In fact, this manic drive to be endlessly productive has been kept alive on life support for way too long. It’s time to pull the plug and let it die.

Resurrection might look like a slower pace of life where we all take naps without feeling guilty, make our own food because we want to and enjoy the process, and choose not to buy things that we’ll never use or don’t really need.

Resurrection might mean saying “no” to more things in order to say “yes” to the things that really matter to us.

Which means it also might mean taking the time to be curious and explore what does really matter to us.  At St. George’s for example, we don’t have to simply pull up the 2019 church calendar and try to make the rest of 2022 and beyond look exactly like that.  There are some things I know folks have been missing that I hope we will be able to return to like consistently being able to worship in person. But we can also leave some things in the past. We can try some new things too.

So we have some work to do, some sifting and sorting before we simply fill up the calendar, but I believe that this is good and worthwhile work for us to do. It’s the work of resurrection, not resuscitation.

When Jesus died and lived again, life didn’t return to normal. It changed forever.  And while I am sure it was terrifying and confusing and unsettling on that first Easter morning, we have come to understand it as good news. Incredibly good news.

Today is a day of resurrection. May we all refuse to settle for resuscitation.

Because Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!