Sermon: Your Galilee
Haec est dies – this is the day. For centuries, these words have resounded in Christian worship on this day and throughout the Easter season. Centuries even before Christ, the psalmist already sang of this glorious and triumphant day on which Christ would rise victorious from the dead.
Today we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord, the central reality of the Christian faith, that belief without which our faith is in vain (1 Cor 15:17). And it is not a mere belief, a mere spiritual reality that we celebrate, but a real historical event that really happen almost 2,000 years ago and continues to echo through all of history.
Yes, a real historical event that really happened, as attested by the witnesses we hear in the Gospel, but not a merely historical event that happened only once. This is that very day, here, nearly 2,000 years later; the sacred liturgy has transported us to that very day.
On this day, Christ does not merely escape the captivity of Hell. He “broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.” Christ’s freedom that we celebrate is not just His freedom – it is ours. It is the freedom of all the sons and daughters of God who have been baptized into His death and Resurrection. “We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.”
Freedom is one of the great desires of the human heart – freedom to live, freedom to discover our own path in life, freedom to believe, and to hope, and to love. And yet freedom is allusive, because the person who thinks himself the most free – free from any constraints on his ability to choose whatever he likes – is frequently the one most enslaved to sin and vice.
Freedom is one of our great desires now too: freedom to leave our homes when we want, freedom to visit our families and friends, freedom to earn a living to support our children. And yet the prison-bars of death seem to hold us bound on this ironic Easter.
This Easter, we are invited to discover the hiddenness of the Resurrection. No one was there on that glorious night when the stone was rolled back and the victorious Christ emerged from the tomb. No one heard the trumpet blasts and the joyful cries of the angelic hosts. Instead, the Resurrection takes place in silence and in mystery, because it is a reality that must be grasped through faith. It is by faith in Christ’s resurrection, in His power over death and evil, that we too can break the prison-bars of death.
Likewise, our Easter celebrations this year take place in our own homes, hidden from the eyes of the world. But the hiddenness of this Easter of the year of our Lord 2020 can serve to increase this faith in what today’s celebration is really all about.
“Now faith,” St. Paul tells us, “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith in Christ’s Resurrection, the faith to which we are invited to assent today as we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord, is not a wish. It is not a desire. It is the conviction of what we have not seen but do believe. True faith gives us the assurance of authentic hope, which does not merely wish for good things to come but knows with assurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that mercy, redemption, peace, and freedom are not just something to expect later but are present here and now. This is the day of faith and of hope. It is the day of hope not only in what is yet to come but in what is real here and now even if we have not yet seen it – Christ’s Resurrection from the dead.
The angel tells Mary Magdalene: “He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee,” just as Christ promised. The dramatic events of His passion, death, and Resurrection have taken place in Jerusalem, the holy city, the city set upon a height. But in St. Matthew’s Gospel, this is not where Christ will appear to the disciples, where He will confirm their Resurrection faith. He will meet them in Galilee, that obscure region of Palestine where He spent the great majority of the thirty-three years of His earthly life and three years of public ministry forming them and preparing them for their own mission, which they are about the begin.
“He is not here!” This is the ironic message that greets the disciples who even today come to the Lord’s tomb in Jerusalem. Christ is rarely to be found where we expect Him. The circumstances of this Easter are not what we would have foreseen or desired, but this is where the Lord has desired to meet us – this is our Galilee. He wants to break through our hesitations and fears, to appear to us behind our locked doors, to bring us the true freedom of redemption from sin.
This Easter, Christ desires to come even more into your daily life. He desires that your home, your family, be a place where His Resurrection is proclaimed, that radiates with the joy of this day. A place where no sadness can overcome the joy that comes from knowing Christ and knowing Him to be alive.
This is the source of our Easter joy: that Christ has risen from the dead and appeared to us in the midst of our daily lives. He has gone before you to Galilee. Where you least expect, He is already there. There is your true freedom.
Rev. Royce V. Gregerson
Parish Church of St. John the Evangelist, Goshen
Sunday of the Resurrection, A.D. MMXX