Did anybody here join in the Sun Run last week?
I would ask you to tell us your time, but if it was good you shouldn't be bragging in church, and if it was bad I don't want to embarrass you.
I entered a 10K race once, but I came in well behind a friend who ran with her baby in his stroller. So when reading the story of the first Easter morning, I can identify with St. Peter. He lost the race. This must have been so awkward for the first Pope that St. Luke's version of the story doesn't mention St. John! In Luke's Gospel, Peter was running alone; pretty hard to come in second if you're the only runner.
It doesn't much matter who reached the empty tomb first. What stands out is that Peter and John were running. But why? Why did the two apostles race to the tomb after meeting Mary Magdalene early on that dark morning? If someone had carried off the Lord's body, what were they supposed to do about it?
They ran to the tomb because Jesus challenged them to. Peter, the apostle who first recognized Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, had the gift of faith. Not perfect faith—the Gospel says he wasn't sure what he'd find when he reached to tomb, since the two apostles did not understand that Jesus must rise from the dead—but faith nonetheless. Faith enough to run to the tomb.
John, the beloved disciple, had hope. Hope that came from knowing the love of Jesus. Love that would not—could not—abandon His friends, or "leave them orphans."
Was the race to the tomb a mere detail, something included in the Gospel to show another of the reasons why weak Peter was chosen to head the early Church? I don't think so, since he's only a runner-up to the spry St. John.
No, I think the racing apostles pose a challenge, a challenge to you and me.
Let's imagine ourselves huddled with the apostles that first Easter morning, still sick with grief. Mary Magdalene arrives with her news. What would be our reaction?
Would we have just a glimmer of hope, and tell her, "well, perhaps I'll just stroll over later in the day and take a quick look"?
Or would we run? Would we have enough faith in what Jesus had said to fly along the path, still uncrowded in the early dawn, panting with exertion, heart pounding with hope in God and His promises?
The truth, of course, is that we don't know. We don't know if, put to that test, we'd be Peters and Johns, or doubting Thomases.
But we do know how we came to church this morning. Did we race here in joy, eager to see and to believe? Or did we stroll in, just to take a quick look?
Maybe some of us didn't even stroll; we trudged! "It's Easter, so I guess we ought to go to church."
There may be reasons why some of us don't feel like celebrating this feast to the full. Perhaps we're feeling loaded down, like runners who've packed on the pounds since last Easter. We may even have turned away from God.
But think about Peter: three days earlier, he had denied Jesus three times. Who could blame him if he'd slunk to the tomb, or crawled to the tomb, or even just stayed put?
Yet he ran. He ran because he understood what an empty tomb could mean to him: that his failures could be forgiven. And that, dear friends in Christ, is what Easter means to us. However much we've failed, however many times we've denied Christ in word and action, our baptism opens the door to new life.
Now some of us aren't in Peter's running shoes. We've stayed more or less faithful, and we don't trudge to church on Easter morning. But have we raced here with the faith, hope and love that the good news of the Resurrection should bring?
In the second reading this morning, St. Paul offers us a spiritual energy drink. Easter is a time to get moving. He says "If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above…" Set your minds on those things—focus on them—"for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
What does this mean? Paul himself answered that question in his Letter to the Romans, which we read last night at the Easter Vigil: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death… so that just as Christ was raised from the dead… so we too might walk in newness of life."
Think of what he is saying here. Since we shared in the death of Christ through our baptism, we will share also in his victory over death.
Easter is, of course, an historic feast; we're celebrating something that actually happened. But it is also a very personal feast: we celebrate something that is happening to each of us.
Through baptism we went in to the tomb with Jesus; through baptism we rise with him. Most of us were baptized as babies, but this is not baby-talk; it's serious adult stuff, and gives us the answer to the deepest and darkest of adult problems.
In a few moments I will invite all the baptized members of this congregation to renew the vows of their baptism. Then I'll run through the church and sprinkle you with the water blessed last night at our Vigil.
This Easter morning let your hearts race with joy and conviction as we celebrate the central truth of our Christian faith: that the Lord has risen, and that "if we have died with Christ, we believe we will also live with him."