Nothing is Impossible with God
21 April 2019 – Resurrection of our Lord/ Easter Day
Let the trumpets blare, and then let the preacher quietly and firmly speak assuring words that tell us Jesus calls us each by name, that God is our ever-present support, that the impossible is possible, that unlovely as we might think ourselves to be, on this day we are beautiful and magnificent because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. All of life is redeemed and made holy by his defeat of death, the one inescapable thing we will all eventually know. And yet, with the power of the God who was among us and still feeds us with the Word of God and the bread of life, the veil of fear is lifted. Today the fasting is ended and we feast in the joy of new life. –– Melinda Quivik
In contrast to the Easter morning narratives in the synoptic gospels, in John’s Gospel it is Mary Magdalene who comes alone to the tomb at early dawn. In Mark the women flee the tomb and say nothing to anyone. In Matthew, the women leave the tomb only to be met by the risen Jesus who tells them to go to Galilee and announce the resurrection. In Luke, the angels advise the women to remember the words and teachings of Jesus. … They are able to go and tell the other disciples that the tomb is empty and to interpret its meaning.
In John, Mary Magdalene herself goes and finds the stone rolled away, and goes to Simon Peter and the beloved disciples, telling them the news. It is the beloved disciple who outruns Peter and reaches the tomb first. Simon Peter enters first, but the beloved disciple is the first to believe. The two male disciples leave the tomb and return to their homes.
Mary is left alone, weeping in the garden, looking into the tomb when she encounters the angels, who ask the reason for her tears. Turning around, she sees a man she mistakes for the gardener. It is only when he calls her name, “Mary,” that she turns again and recognizes the risen Jesus: “Rabbouni!” Where the women in Matthew together glimpsed the risen Jesus on the way, and where the women in Luke together interpreted Jesus’ teachings, Mary hears her name called by Jesus himself, and is then able to go to the other disciples and proclaim, “I have seen the LORD.” –– Stephanie Perdew VanSlyke
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
“In fact, Christ has been raised from the dead…” There it is: a bald-faced assertion of something that is impossible. Paul says it is a fact. Facts are facts. Incontrovertible. Not partly true or having alternative interpretations. Either Jesus was raised from the dead or he wasn’t. Paul knows what he knows.
And in speaking the truth, Paul’s words can remind us of Mary, Jesus’ mother, hearing from the angel who announced her pregnancy, “Nothing is impossible with God.” Jesus’ nativity and his resurrection from the dead are joined in one story that is an ending and a beginning. Both his birth and his death were births.
This is the nature of the scripture’s wisdom. Inside every assertion is an improbable but true mystery. And Paul’s letter, like his others, pounds the truth out so that the church can be emboldened to say it, too. “All will be made alive in Christ.” –– Melinda Quivik
In this section of the Acts of the Apostles in which the disciples are going out into the gentile world, we find Peter in Caesarea Maritima with Roman centurion Cornelius. Cornelius will be the first gentile convert, and Peter the first apostle to convert a gentile in Luke’s narrative. Yet in this exchange Peter is converted as well. In a vision he comes to understand that God shows no partiality and that Peter can associate even with gentiles (10:15, 28). The narrative ends with 10:34–43, Peter’s preaching of the gospel message, beginning with the baptism of John and ending with the promise of forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ. –– Stephanie Perdew VanSlyke
Melinda A. Quivik, an ELCA pastor and former professor of liturgy and homiletics, is the Editor-in-Chief of Liturgy. Her most recent book is Remembering God’s Promises: A Funeral Planning Handbook (Augsburg Fortress, 2018).
Stephanie Perdew VanSlyke is senior pastor of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Wilmette, Illinois, and president of The Liturgical Conference.
Homily Service 40, no. 5 (2007): 43-54.