Painting The Lily, Perfuming The Violet - Easter
April 20, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Verse: Luke 24:1–24:8
Christ Lutheran Church
April 21, 2019
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Painting The Lily, Perfuming The Violet
Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb bringing the perfumes they had prepared, and they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. But when they entered it they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there perplexed about these things Behold! two men stood before them in dazzling apparel. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground and the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here! But has been raised! Remember how he told you while he was still in Galilee that, “the Son of Man must be given over into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified and on the third day rise?” And they remembered his words! (Luke 24:1-8)
As you gaze upon the Easter Lilies today is there anything you could do to improve them? Could the artist add anything to them with his skilled brush to make them more lovely, or the perfumer with his chemistry to make them more fragrant?
The women in today’s gospel got up very early on the First Day of the New Week and headed to the tomb to do exactly that. To do what Shakespeare termed “wasteful and ridiculous excess.” They went to the tomb that day to “paint the lily,“ to “perfume on the violet.”
And so it is no exaggeration when Scripture declares all men to be spiritually dead, and therefore incapable of perceiving God’s words though they be spoken to us ever so plainly.
But don’t despair O Christian! For if the disciples did not get it; and if the women were prepared that morning to “perfume the violet” then we are, if nothing else, at least in good company.
But even better let us be glad today because God has poured out his Spirit upon our frail flesh, and gives us New Hearts to rise above our circumstances, and believe the Easter gospel.
He enlightens us with his gifts so that that we can understand that: it was necessary! most necessary indeed! for the Son of Man to be handed over, crucified and raised again – so that we might be spared the terrible consequences of our sins; and stand justified before our God, even as we do this very day!
“Perfuming the violet.” How right Shakespeare was when he called it “wasteful and ridiculous excess.” But what he said about that elegant flower is so many times more true about our risen Lord.
When the women went to the tomb that day they expected to see what came down from the cross two days earlier. A battered and bloodied corpse that by now was decomposing at a rapid rate, and would be none too pleasant to inhale.
But they found a glorious Easter gospel instead! Two men, angels really, dressed in dazzling clothes as befitted their dazzling message, and the surpassing wonder of the new life we enjoy in Christ this day.
Yes, that is what they expected to find, a decomposing body, because Jesus had not yet opened the Scriptures to them; as he would later that evening for the Emmaus disciples. But as of yet no one had connected the dots of today’s Psalm (16:10) where Jesus prays,
“For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.”
Not this flesh! All other flesh, corrupted by sin and death, yes! To be sure! But not this flesh!
It would not corrupt because Jesus, though true man born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was not only man, but the God-Man and Son of Man.
Divine blood coursed through his veins! Making it impossible for death to hold him. Even as it is impossible for death to hold you, O Baptized! And so let us rejoice this day and confess aloud, “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”
In the Liturgy of St. James, prayed by many Eastern Catholics around the world this day, death personified cries out, "My power has been destroyed, for I received a dead Man as one of their dead, but I could not hold him. Then I also lost with him all those who were under my power. From the beginning I held the dead, but now This One raises them."
To this acclamation joyful worshipers respond, "Glory to your cross and resurrection O Lord."
Glory indeed for there is nothing more beautiful to behold than this Crucified-And-Resurrected-Lily that needs no paint. There is no more redolent fragrance to breathe deeply into ourselves than his Violet-That-Needs-No-Perfume. Is it any wonder then that the Lord’s death on the cross, and the church’s Eucharistic Remembrance of it, is termed by St. Paul, “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God?” (Eph. 5:2)
No, perfumes were not needed to preserve the Lord’s body because holiness cannot perish, spoil or fade away. And when we, like Jesus, are raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, then we too will be possessed of glorified flesh. We too will walk in Newness of Life. Then we will no longer need to “paint the lily” or to “perfume the violet” of our present existence.
But for now we do!
But how do we do it?
Not by kicky hair do’s, they won’t do! Nor will “ink” from the top of our heads, to the tips of our toes! Your flesh is corrupt. You are dying! You are perishing! And nothing can change that but the forgiveness of sins.
Nothing can change that but faith in the Easter Gospel that purifies us of all sin, and renders us without spot or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but beautiful and fragrant in the sight of God: even if not before man!
Nothing can change that but living the Baptismal Life. Hear this word of St. Peter’s first epistle. “Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry or of the clothing you wear. But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.” (1 Peter 3:3-4)
What does this mean? It means to do what we are doing right now, Beloved. Calming and quieting your spirit by basking in the soft, but dazzling Light of Easter.
You recall, of course, from Genesis chapter one that on the first day of Creation God created Light! But it wasn’t only photons he was bringing into existence that first Day.
But we should understand this Divine Word, “Let there be light,” as a prophecy of the Good and Kindly Light we bathe in today: the Light of Christ! For what God said on the first day of the Old Creation “let there be light,” was fulfilled on the First Day of the New Week. On Easter. THIS is the DAY that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be gland in it!
A Day made beautiful “not with gold or silver,” as we recite in the catechism. “But with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”
“So that we may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.”
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!