“The men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.’” St. Luke 24:5
The Metro, as you know, is having trouble. There are serious concerns about financial sustainability, loads of deferred maintenance, diminishing public trust. They’ve recruited a no-nonsense administrator, Paul Wiedefeld, to put things in order. Earlier this month, he shut the whole thing down for a day to repair the electric cables. The grumbling was universal. It also made for a very crowded Panera in Herndon and may well have proved that we can run the Federal government just fine out of Fairfax County so long as we have decent wi-fi.
We’re told that the cables are now all ship-shape, and they will be on to additional projects. And I, at least am hoping they will soon move on to the public address system. Because if you have spent much time on Metro, you will know just how impossible it often is to understand what is being announced to you. “Next station..mmmfmfm” or “The train will be delayed…ffhghf.” I think the announcers were trained by the adults on those old Charlie Brown cartoons. It’s really pretty bad. If I’m travelling by Metro, I need to stand near the Metro map so I can tell what’s coming next.
I’m apparently not the only person who has noticed this problem—try googling “Metro public address system,” and you’ll see just what I mean. The Washington Post even did a full-length feature a few years ago on one particular announcer who has the great distinction of being easily understood. Unfortunately, he works exclusively on the blue and orange lines, which isn’t all that useful to me.
Now I can understand why the public address system can be low on the priority list. The Metro system mostly serves commuters, and after a week or so, I expect you learn when you need to transfer trains. Most of the time the announcer tells you what you already know. But there will be times when the difference between fghjgj minutes and rtyrty minutes impacts that meeting you are trying to make. And should the the train ever shudder to a halt and the lights go out you would really want to know what to do next. Sometimes you really need an announcer. Sometimes a clear message makes all the difference in making sense of what is really happening around you.
This is why God sent angels to the tomb that first Easter morning. Saint Luke calls them “men in dazzling clothes” in the passage I just read to you, but when the story is repeated a few verses later, we learn these are supernatural creatures. They have been sent by God to announce a most unexpected reversal. “Why do you seek the living among the dead,” these angels tell the women who have come to anoint the body of their dead friend. “He is not here, He is risen as he promised.”
God had sent angels before to announce such dramatic new beginnings. Angels told Abraham that his wife would bear a long-promised son. They announced the birth of heroes and called prophets into ministry. Jesus own birth was announced by an angel, and that first Christmas night, it was angels that filled the skies, proclaiming “peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
It is news they could never have pieced together on their own. It’s not a courtesy reminder, like McLean Station coming right after Tysons Corner Station. Left to their own devices, the women could only have seen a worse tragedy in the empty tomb. Their beloved, they would have deduced, was mislaid or stolen by his enemies. But the angels’ word announces a new beginning, a glorious action in which God has changed the whole course of human history.
Jesus is no longer dead, but alive and filled with power. Christ’s resurrection proclaims that His death on the Cross is a life-giving sacrifice. It proclaims that sin’s power is broken, that death cannot bind the faithful. It vindicates all Jesus’ words and deeds, pointing Him out, as our first lesson indicates, as the One through whom God is setting right the world.
And when the angels have announced this good news, they do something really quite remarkable. They command the women to go and tell this same news to others. And then they disappear from the scene. Christ’s resurrection was announced one time by angels, and millions of time by ordinary people, in generation after generation, who have become God’s own messengers to bring this good news to a sad and broken world.
The women run off to find the eleven disciples, and they share the news with them. And at first there is doubt and confusion, but then the disciples come to believe as well. They proclaim the message with power, and those who hear them share the good news with others. And on and on the chain has continued, so that here today, in Herndon, Virginia, we gather as a people who have heard and believed that Jesus is risen.
And we are bidden to go and share the same message. Because it is truly good news, unexpected news. You may be very familiar with the fact that Jesus is risen. The details of this story are etched in your mind. You know all the verses to the Easter hymns. You’ve smelled those lilies every springtime for as long as you can remember. But when you truly come to grapple with what the resurrection means for people like us you will see how the message at the empty tomb truly changes everything.
If Christ is risen, then love and mercy, not hostility and violence are the true solution to the world’s deepest problems. If Christ is risen, then there is a second chance for me. If Christ is risen, then I can live free from addiction, and sickness and pain will not destroy my soul. If Christ is risen we can pull down the barriers that divide people of different races and cultures, the walls that keep the rich and poor apart. If Christ is risen, even at the grave there can be joy and hope.
This is the message we all are called to share. And sometimes, it will be rejected, and sometimes it will be ignored. But when it is greeted with faith, it changes people’s lives in deep and beautiful ways. To share this message, to be an angel of the Easter Gospel, grows your own faith and brings deep joy. You will be amazed to see what God does when you begin to share and live the truth of Christ’s resurrection.
So then, how is your public address system? Can you announce this life-changing message, clearly and with conviction? There is good news at the empty tomb, and the world waits to hear it from us.