The Resurrection of Jesus
20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look[a] into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14 When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew,[b] ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
It’s Easter morning, we are here for many different reasons. This church has gone to extraordinary measures to have services and other options online…and even a short drive in on this Easter morning. We’ve asked other clergy, community leaders, and so many folks in the church on if this is the right thing to do. There has been lots of back and forth and here we are.
I’m not sure how history will judge this particular moment in time, this time of pandemic and our collective response to it personally, locally, nationally, or globally, but I do believe that we have been called and given a gift of this moment in time to be together in some ways, even while maintaining physical distance, and to be reminded that Jesus carrying us and forgiving us in this race we call life. We come to hear the story once again that Jesus has risen and is rising up in us and in this crazy world we live in.
With this season and in other seasons, we come to Easter morning and are filled with some internal conflict, some questions. This season of lament, more than ever. How could God allow this pandemic to happen? Is it punishment?
Other questions that we may have had for a long time are: How could God let his Son die on the cross, how could God allow this to happen? Why didn’t God the father do the dirty work instead of sending his son?
Jesus did not go to the cross to appease a vengeful heavenly and seemingly distant parent. Jesus was nailed to a cross because he challenged a system that excluded many, while maintaining a status quo that kept some on top of the proverbial heap…yet, those on the top and even many of those on the bottom were not living the full lives that God desired, that God created us for. Jesus came and demonstrated radical inclusiveness and called us into lives filled with freedom, love, purpose, and deep Presence with others and with God. Jesus invited us, and still does, to deeper lives that are good for us and for others. What does it mean to truly love everyone, including ourselves? Oftentimes we settle for the status quo, even if the way we are living isn’t working, it’s what we know. We live in fear and anxiety at times and that fear and anxiety can lead us into making harsh decisions or having opinions shaped that do not lead to deeper life or understanding.
Challenging the system, asking different questions, resisting labels, and living life in a deep sense of relationship and friendship to all, lead to Jesus’ death. A violent and humiliating death, and a lonely death. Everyone deserted him except for his mother, Mary Magdalene, and John. And, in that moment on the cross, Jesus was lost…he had no hope or certainty for a resurrection. He didn’t know where this was heading, only that he was facing his deepest, darkest moment. He cried out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me”, a psalm of lament. Many of us today have been disoriented by this pandemic. We feel lost. We are in a season of lament, of not knowing. Yet, it gives me comfort somehow that God is in this lostness with us, because God has gone through lament and even death with us.
Yet, here we are on Easter morning. What did we just share with each other? What phrase? Christ has risen! Christ has risen indeed! Jesus’ love for us, Jesus’ promise of a full life filled with purpose and presence could not be kept in a grave. As CS Lewis says, there was a “deeper magic” at work. Love won.
Mary finds the tomb empty! She runs to tell the disciples, they go to the tomb and find it as she said…but, they go home…the easter reality had not yet risen up to their consciousness, their awareness. They didn’t know what to do.
But, Mary, she’s overcome by grief…she stays, she is weeping. She embraces her lament and disorientation and sits with it at the empty tomb. And, then she sees this man…she thinks he’s the gardener, but he gently says her name once more, and she recognizes the voice of her friend! Then, the joy of Easter possibility, Easter imagination, Easter reality rises up within her!
What happens next? Well, the story gets out, the new reality sets in, people begin to see Jesus and to experience new things. Life as we know it is never the same, and it becomes filled with imagination, new possibilities, strength, confidence in the face of incredible odds. Something begins to form in these early believers that moves them to change the world, starting with their own awareness.
Friends, we are all here this morning and are a part of this ongoing story of Easter.
This Jesus is inviting us to join together as a more loving and radically inclusive community marked by our identity in Jesus to go the distance in the hard, but worthy and beautiful work, together, of loving ourselves, loving others, and loving God.
Friends, John ran to an empty tomb…Jesus could not be found and his friends were a bit lost, disoriented, not knowing what was going to happen next. Friends, I love this story, as you know, I’m an obsessive runner! Some of the best runs that I’ve had is when I’m lost, exploring, curious, and excited to see what I will find around the corner. We may be in a lost season, we are running in the wilderness on trails that have no markers, but, we are not alone, may we trust where God is taking us, that the risen Christ is on this journey with us, and that this risen and universal Christ, is running with us, and ahead of us, and behind us as we live into God’s story that is rising up within us!
Sound good? Christ has risen!