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04.12.20 The Dawning Matthew 21.1-10 Sermon Summary

by on April 17, 2020

Act 1 of the Bible has seven scenes which are presented in Genesis Chapter 1. The Act might be entitled “The Week of Creation”. In Scene 1, Day One, God introduces light into darkness. In Scene 7, Day Seven, God creates the Sabbath and ceases from the work of creation.

God commanded the Sabbath to remind us there is more to us than our work, than our leisure, than what’s going on in the world. Sabbath helps us to refocus that beyond all these we are children of God. Sabbath means not so much to “rest” as to “cease.” And if we don’t take a Sabbath life has a way of forcing one on us. Today we see that the whole world has been forced into Sabbath.

So it’s hopeful that Matthew begins the account of the Resurrection with the words, “after the Sabbath.” After the stoppage: That’s when God reveals something new. Maybe God is revealing something new today.

“After the Sabbath,” Matthew begins, “when the first day of the week was dawning.” As in Act 1, the darkness of night yields to the light of a new dawn. But there is more. An angelic messenger appears “as a flash of lightning” with “clothes dazzling like snow” on a sunny hill.

Mathew is clueing us in. A new week is beginning. God is creating again, creating anew. It is the beginning of a re-creation. A new act is about to start. For Matthew, this is not just a make-over, not a work-around for a damaged creation. This new act of re-creation is a transformation. “The old has gone, and the new has come” in the words of Paul.

And just so you don’t miss it there’s an earthquake. The solid ground upon which we stand and build our lives, all the assumptions we make about reality and the future, whatever we say our foundation is—that’s the earth that quakes in this new act. Nothing you think you know, Matthew is telling us, is unaffected by what is happening in this new act.

By now you may well be afraid and how could you not be? Matthew is saying the world is about to change. God is shaking the world down to its foundations. It is being re-created. This is the first Easter in perhaps a very long time where we might actually be able to appreciate what Matthew is hoping to convey.

Is not the world changing before our very eyes? The things we’ve long taken for granted are now in jeopardy. And we don’t know for how long. We don’t know what “normal” will look like. A new world is dawning and many people are afraid.

They were afraid in Matthew’s story also. There was some number of guards and two women who are both named Mary. All were afraid. But they had different reactions. The guards “shook and became as dead.” But the women appear to be more open, for the angelic messenger spoke to them, beginning as always when God starts doing something new: “Do not be afraid.”

Telling someone who is afraid not to be afraid is like telling someone who is worrying not to worry. Or someone who is having trouble falling asleep to just fall asleep. It doesn’t work, which indicates that the messenger must mean something else. Probably the message is, “There’s no need to fear. There’s no need to worry.” If we believed this message, we might actually fall asleep!

“There’s no need to fear,” is the message. “I know why you are here, to anoint the body of Jesus. I know your disappointment. I know your grief. I know your anxiety. I know your fears are real and that they are based on real things. But there are other things that are also real.

“Come see the place where Jesus’ dead body once lay. And see the beginning of the re-creation, of the new reality God has begun.”

Now the women have something more than fear. They still have the fear, for Matthew tells us they leave with fear. But now they have joy. That’s the crucial difference between guards and the two women.

Our devotional puts it this way: “Today we celebrate this key moment in our faith–the powerful moment Jesus is raised from the dead, inviting us to recall again that we have a God who is stronger than death and who even out of death can bring new life.” (Becoming a Beloved Community, p. 36)

Today we remember that there is no need to be ONLY afraid. When God is doing something new it IS full of fear, but also full of joy.

So where are Mary and Mary going in this dawning of a new creation? They go to tell the other disciples. “Jesus has risen, and we will see him back in Galilee.” It’s not the whole picture. It’s not the full answer. But it is a next step. They’ve seen a glimpse of purpose in the death of Jesus. So with fear and great joy they take that next step.

And here’s what’s really interesting. After they take that next step—with joy, yes; but also with fear—Jesus appears to them. THEY don’t have to wait to return to Galilee. THEY’VE taken the next step given to them by the messenger and Jesus appears to them.

We’re all called to a next step. It might be your first step of faith, it might be the next step in a lifetime journey of faith. But we’re all called to a next step. I don’t know what your next step is, but since you came to the tomb this morning, if you can endure the earthquake and let former things come to pass, if within the darkness of your life you can welcome a blinding light, if you can at least listen to the message that there’s no need to fear, then you’re in the right place to hear your next step.

And I don’t know after how many next steps you take, but according to Matthew, when you take the next step of faith, even if joy is mixed with fear, Jesus WILL appear to you. And he will assure you again, “There’s no need to be afraid. Take another step and follow me.”

A new week starts today. The dawning of a new world has begun. It continues in the resurrection of Christ. May God give us the courage to take the next step of faith, that Christ may appear to us and we may have joy, even alongside our fears.

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