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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Idle tales that must be told

My sermon for The Easter Vigil was based on Luke 24:1-12.

I love the Easter Vigil.  Apparently, in some countries and denominations, the Vigil was and still is the most important observance in the Christian calendar.  The reason being is that Jesus would have been resurrected sometime Saturday night.  Sunday morning, Easter Sunday, is just when the disciples discovered the empty tomb, but the actual miracle happened long before they ever arrived.

I love the Easter Vigil because the Exsultet is in my opinion some of the greatest, most powerful and touching words ever to have been written in all of Christendom, and we usually only get to hear it once a year, unless we go out of our way.

The first people to discover the empty tomb were some of the most important women who surrounded Jesus: Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James (whom some name as the brother of Jesus, and could therefore have been Jesus' own mother).

Not surprisingly, when they run off to tell the disciples, they call their words "idle tales".  This brings up the question of whether or not they would have called these tales idle if a man had made them, but let's face it, it is regardless an unbelievable story, so they very well may have.

I don't think we often appreciate the risk that the women were taking in recounting their experiences to the disciples.  We know the status of women was pretty abysmal at that time, and we know that women seemed to get stoned in the Bible (and still are in some countries) for pretty minor offences, so one can only imagine that at the very least the women were risking mockery and ridicule for reporting the empty tomb.  At the very worst, they were inviting punishment, hostility and quite possibly perhaps even violence if it was felt they were lying.

And who would have thought they were telling the truth?  The resurrection is by definition unbelievable, that is what a miracle is.  A miracle is something that falls outside of the normal parameters of our experience, and this would certainly qualify for most of us.

And yet there is something admirable about these women who take the risk of talking about what they have seen and what they have experienced.  They were probably afraid but they overcame that fear to tell things as they had seen it, even if it was unbelievable.

Would we have the courage to do the same?

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