SERMON TITLE: “While It Was Still Dark”
SERMON TEXT: John 20:1-18
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: April 12, 2020 (Easter) at First United Methodist Church
Preachers everywhere have been trying to figure out how to talk about Easter this year. With sanctuaries empty, the coronavirus killing more than 100,000 people worldwide, and the pandemic affecting everything we do, it’s much harder to proclaim the good news of resurrection.
One article I read this week was written by a Catholic religious worker named Rose Marie Berger. She wrote, “In 2005, on a spring trip to El Salvador, I wasn’t expecting to find Easter. It’s definitely a ‘Good Friday’ kind of country, one that has carried the cross for a long time.” Then she went on to tell about the 1981 massacre of 900 men, women, and children in the village of El Mozote. She was convinced that “there was nothing . . . of resurrection in [that] place.” Because the massacre was denied and covered up, two decades went by with no positive action. But finally, the persistent voice of a lone witness was heeded, the mass graves were opened, and the truth came out to the world. Quoting one of the grave workers, Ms. Berger noted that the village of El Mozote became “‘a place with a peculiar, yet complicated, sense of hope.’”1
As deaths in the U.S. have topped 20,000, medical equipment and supplies are in desperately short supply, and millions of people have become unemployed—even we Christians in the United States face Easter with “a peculiar, yet complicated, sense of hope.” While the glad alleluias of Easter certainly ring, and while we joyfully sing “Christ the Lord is risen today,” there’s a hint of darkness that hangs over Easter this year that must be acknowledged. That’s why—instead of Matthew’s “as the first day of the week was dawning,” Mark’s “very early . . . when the sun had risen,” or Luke’s “at the early dawn”—I chose to focus on the peculiar words of hope found in the Gospel of John: “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb.”
I know many of us are eager for the sun to rise. Many of us can’t wait for the daylight at the end of the tomb-shaped tunnel to appear, so we can return to our church pews and our normal life activities. But the best scientific and medical wisdom is that, before we can all rush back into that light of day, we have to acknowledge that right now, we’re still in the dark. While our collective social distancing has made incredible progress in flattening the curve of sickness and death, and while amazing efforts are being made to research and develop tests and treatments, there is still so much we don’t know. There is still so much we have to figure out. We have to be patient, because this Easter story and its message of life is going to take some time to unfold.