April 21, 2019
Pr. Michelle Sevig
The Truth-Telling Women of Easter
What’s this? A Sunday newspaper delivery here, at church? That’s weird. I wonder why? Huh? Reads: “The Idle Tale Gazette.” Never heard of it. Must be new. Let’s see what it says.
· 1,500-pound stone disappears from opening of a secured tomb
· 2 Men, dressed in bedazzled costumes terrify women
· Three delirious women claim dead man is alive again.
This seems like something the National Enquirer would report. A bunch of made up stories to get people all worked up? To encourage gossip or instill fear? Idle Tale Gazette. I wonder if this paper has a future...
People sure will believe anything. These days it’s hard to know what to believe. Real news is sometimes labeled “fake.” And news that’s fake is passed off as “true.” And there seems to be plenty of both. Keeping up, and keeping informed, is a full-time job.
Well, the Idle Tale Gazette headlines may sound sensational to us, and likely did some 2,000 years ago too. Three named women in today’s gospel reading, Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary mother of James, along with other women who were at Jesus’ tomb, ran to tell the good news to the others; but the men didn’t believe them. The guys said their report was an idle tale.
And the disciples didn’t just consider their testimony to be nonsense, a silly story or gossip. No, their response is a bit saltier, even vulgar. The Greek word is leiros and it means B.S. The women are the first to proclaim the good news of the resurrection, and their proclamation is greeted by a worldly response: Bull Excrement! / B.S.! / Leiros!
I’m not surprised, really. Even today women’s testimonies are often not believed, brushed off as exaggerations or just plain false. For most of our nation’s history, women (and men who were not white) weren’t considered credible witnesses in court cases. And still now, when people on the margins--people of color, children, asylum seekers and refugees, LGBTQ folks, Native Americans--tell the truth of their experiences they are often not believed. Their testimonies are brushed off as nonsense, exaggerations, leiros!
Those who were first to hear the testimony of the women were no different. They couldn’t believe what they were hearing. Experience had shown them time and again, that the dead remain dead. It’s not possible that Jesus is alive again. It’s leiros!
And who can blame them? Isn’t that our experience too? Many of us come today with our own leiros detector firmly in place, telling us resurrection is not possible. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not logical. It’s lerios! Maybe, just maybe, if we could see Jesus in his resurrected body, see the nail marks in his hands or look into his eyes, then we could believe.
But that’s not what we get. That’s not even what the women get at the empty tomb on that first resurrection morning. They didn’t see Jesus; they were told that Jesus had risen. What they got is no different than what we get--a word, a message, a testimony.
Had it not been for the women we might not even be here today. They stayed with Jesus at the cross. They showed up at the tomb. In a short period of time, they go from profound grief, to perplexed, to terrified, to preaching! They remember what Jesus told them before he died, that he would die and rise again. By the power of God, the dead don’t stay dead. A greater truth has broken through. Death is now the idle tale. Despite all evidence to the contrary, death does not have the last word.
And that IS the good news for us this Easter morning 2019. Not just that we who were baptized with Christ will also be resurrected with him. But as we find ourselves in these pews today we are experiencing almost every kind of death and resurrection, personal and communal. Medical test results we hope will bring a flood of relief; destruction of Black churches and an ancient cathedral, both to be rebuilt; a divorce or break up that makes way for liberation; job loss that paves the way for a new career; rampant government corruption that sends us into the streets to claim our power in protest. There is death and resurrection hope everywhere.
Resurrection is not just the promise of life after death, but the assurance that the life-giving love of God will always move the stones away; and assurance that the Holy One is with us in our own pain and grief when it seems the stones won’t budge at all. Resurrection matters for our future, but even more so for our present when our own tombs are full of grief, despair or worry.
I propose a new newspaper called the Truth Telling Times. We’ll keep our eyes, ears and hearts open to the stories of new life springing forth from death. The headlines will show God’s transformative work among us. Because resurrection--new life--is real; not just for Jesus but for you and me. Not only in the future, but here and now. So let us gather at this feast, inspired by the women who rushed from the tomb with good news. Let us eat the freshly baked bread and drink the new celebratory wine, confident that resurrection is no lerios.