In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void. Darkness covered the face of the deep and God’s spirit hovered over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, and God saw the light and it was good. Day after day God’s love overflows God’s own heart allowing the sky and all that it is in, the sea and all that is in it, the land and all that is in it to be. On the sixth day God creates male and female in the divine image and says, “Be fruitful and multiply.” On the seventh day, God rested. I think Genesis 1 tells the whole story of our faith with a divinely wide angle, like looking at a painting from a distance. Within the frame we see that God created everything, seen and unseen, God called it good, and when it was all said and done, God and creation rested in mutual adoration. Now when you zoom in on the painting the picture begins to change. It’s not that it’s any more or less beautiful—it’s different. Instead of the full picture you see brush strokes. Instead of seeing the sun and moon and Sabbath in one breath, you see the rocks and trees and streams and valleys. Getting even closer to the painting the picture is even more distorted. Instead of faces you see vague hints of dark and light. Going further you see globs of paint which seem to make little sense at all. For a few moments, imagine creation as a painting and the closer we get to the tapestry of day six, we see the whole of human history in the brush strokes.
With squinting eyes we peer into day six and see the Fall, Adam and Eve eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We follow the brush strokes to see the Ancient Israelites freed from Egypt. With our magnifying glass we see a Temple built in Jerusalem housing the Ark of the Covenant. The colors become gnarly and rough as the Temple is destroyed and the people are exiled. The dark globs of paint become a bit brighter as we see the exiles return to rebuild the Temple. Then we see earthy browns and reds and heavenly blues and life-giving green as a child is born in Bethlehem. We watch as the child grows and matures and begins preaching that the kingdom of God is at hand. We see him feeding thousands, healing the sick, loving the unlovable, breaking bread and pouring wine. Then the colors turn dark as the authorities hang him on a cross. The earth quakes, the temple curtain is torn and his body is laid in the tomb. The brush strokes stop. Our eyes meet the frame as we look up to see that there was an evening and there was a morning, the sixth day is complete, and God rested on the seventh day in the person of Jesus in the tomb.
Our text today reads, “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were afraid. But he said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
On the first day of the week the women go to the tomb and see a messenger from God. They react in fear, a fear which remembers the darkness and void and chaos before God spoke being into existence. The messenger calls to them saying, “Do not be afraid.” I remember when I was about five or so years old, my parents and I watched the world premiere of Michal Jackson’s “Thriller” video, you know, the one where zombies roam the streets attacking a young woman. I couldn’t sleep that night. I had to sleep with the lights on. There’s something about fear and the dark. I think it’s because we don’t know what’s out there and we typically assume the worst. The messenger says, “Do not be afraid,” which sounds like God looking at the darkness and saying, “Let there be light.” God’s first act of creation was to crucify our fear, but God didn’t stop there. It’s not just darkness which fuels our fear.
Again, when I was young I remember going to the store with my mother one afternoon. We walked into the store together. My mother went to get a shopping cart and I turned and was drawn to the quarter machines, you know, the ones where you can get silly puddy or fake tattoos or bouncy balls. Anyway, I became fixated on one of the machines that had transformer stickers. I started looking for a quarter on the ground, but found none. So, I started shaking the machine a bit, hoping that one of the plastic capsules would fall down. When that didn’t work I stuck my arm up into the machine trying to nab one of the containers myself. None of these tactics worked, so I finally gave up. I turned around to rejoin my mother . . . and she was gone. The same feeling I felt when the lights were off started bubbling up (hands out). I became afraid, not because it was dark, but because I was alone. The messenger says, “Tell his disciples that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” Jesus will be with you to the end. Christ is risen is God’s “Let there be light,” burning the darkness away. Jesus will be with you is like God saying in Genesis, “It is not good that man is alone. I will make for him a partner.” God again crucifies our fear by promising to be with us.
Sometimes it’s not the darkness nor our solitude, but our past which gives fear permission to control us. In the Resurrection, God is breaking the rules. The world wants us to believe that there is life or death. When we live as the world dictates it causes us to be self preserving, combative. It makes us think that what is here on earth is all there is, including our faults and failures and sin. The Resurrection reveals that there is more to what God is doing. There is life. There is death. There is life beyond death. God has turned the world on its head, and because our story does not end in death, there is nothing to fear.
Paul writes in Romans 8, “It is Christ Jesus who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, not things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor de3pth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Christ is Risen, dispelling the darkness. We will see him because he will not leave us orphaned. Through his death and resurrection, Christ crucifies our past making all things, including us, new.
And then we take a step back from the brush strokes and we again see the masterpiece. God creates. God says it is good. God and creation rest in mutual adoration. It is good. It is very good. Christ is risen. Do not be afraid. There is nothing to fear because the darkness is gone, Christ is alive and promises to be with us, our past has been reconciled, and most importantly . . . love wins! Amen!