Excerpts from an Easter sunrise sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Earl D. Trent Jr. of Florida Avenue Baptist Church in the District of Columbia.
Luke [24:1-12] tells us that at early dawn on the first Easter, a small group of women made their way through the fog of the Palestinian sunrise to the garden tomb. They wanted to perform a task of decency and devotion to the One they loved and had called Teacher. Mocked and scourged and killed, He had been laid hurriedly in a borrowed tomb.
I don’t know exactly what was going through their minds that morning. Perhaps one of them had lost a loved one previously and knew that something had to be done. Certainly, they all, as grown women, had seen the ritual of burial performed properly, and wanted to do so for Jesus… . Whatever was going on in their minds, it immediately left because the tomb was open. The body was gone. Two men in dazzling apparel accosted them with an astounding question: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” … The women were not seeking anything living. In their minds right then, Resurrection was impossible… .
While Jesus was there teaching them, and speaking of His Resurrection, everything seemed possible. The harsh events of the past 40 hours had driven from their minds everything they had learned from Him in the past 36 months.
Isn’t this how it is with us? During the days of sunshine, when we are young and strong, we can face the world with bright prospects, hopes and dreams. We can think positively, pledge faithfully, do kindly and walk proudly… .
But then comes a moment of struggle, a tribulation, an unexpected twist in the road, a few short words from the doctor about a bad result in our test. Then, nothing seems possible. All hope is off.
There are folks in this hospital who did not plan to be there for Easter. Some people working today did not plan to doing that job. Folks standing here know what I am talking about. Our hope can disappear in the twinkling of an eye. We know these women at the tomb. We know their walk. In their minds, God can do nothing new. They can’t even remember His words about Resurrection.
Nothing seems possible when the circumstances are not nice. When it is dark outside and inside. When a community is boarded up and broken down. Trash is strewn in the streets. When it is rodent infested, both four-legged and two-legged. When jobs and supermarkets have taken their exit. Nothing seems possible.
When your body won’t do what it used to do, or never could do. Nothing seems possible. When the HMO ties your hands. When you’re just a number on a sheet and the bottom line is how much profit can be taken. When every day you have to fight for your dignity… . Then, nothing seems to be possible. Then you tend to put down your loved ones, or tear up each other, and vilify your own people because nothing seems possible. Then you start to drink things you wouldn’t drink, or start taking drugs you wouldn’t take.
I stopped by this plaza this morning to tell you that the Resurrection is possible. We’ve gathered as a church to say it is possible. We’ve committed our time, talent and treasure because the Resurrection is possible. We have stayed in this city, we have challenged those in responsible positions. We have stopped seeking the living among the dead. You have to stop being about dead activities, negative thinking. Stop thinking about what can go wrong and start thinking about what can go right. You have to stop tearing down and start building up… .
If you don’t have the fundamental belief that God put you on this earth to make things better, to leave this world differently, then you won’t do anything differently. They say a church can’t thrive in a ghetto, but we’ve been here 87 years, and we pledge we’re going to be here until the Lord moves us. The Resurrection is possible.
Next week: a sermon by the Rev. David Bird at Grace Episcopal Church in Georgetown.