John 20:1-18

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. 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.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 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 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 around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” 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, “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. I believe that one of those reasons is that we would like to think of this Easter, this day in 2021, brings promise of resurrection!  That just as Jesus overcame death, that we too have gone through a season of loss and are being resurrected into something new.   I’m not sure how history will judge this particular moment in time, but I do believe that we have been called and given a gift of this moment in time to be together, 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. 

This season of lament, we have had a lot of questions.  How could God allow this pandemic to happen? Is it punishment? Have we grown?  What about those who didn’t make it?  Beyond the pandemic, we have issues in our country and world and no one seems to be able to bring us together.  We are so divided.  

There are deeper questions as well, questions around even this day, what we celebrate at Easter.   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 father. Jesus was nailed to a cross because he challenged a system that excluded many, while maintaining a status quo that kept some in places of servitude, while others seemingly prospered. Yet, both were trapped, enslaved to a way of being that dehumanizes us and reduces us to either consumers or producers, or both…and not as fully human…those on the top and 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? 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 and into the divided nature that we find ourselves.

Jesus’ death was more than physical pain, that moment on the cross, Jesus was lost…resurrection was not on his mind. He cried out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me”. Many of us today have been disoriented by this pandemic. We have felt lost, wondering if God has forsaken us.  

Yet, if we believe that God and humanity are together in Jesus, then God has also gone through this time with us.  

We find ourselves 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. 

Mary Magdalene, a true disciple and friend of Jesus…one of only two disciples that did not desert Jesus, goes and finds the tomb empty! She runs to tell the other disciples, they go to the tomb and find it as she said…and, I love this passage as a runner, John, who is credited with writing our gospel lesson this am, makes it clear that he’s faster than Peter!  

However, what do the other disciples do, 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. 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 TODAY, on this unusual and historic Easter Sunday 2021, 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, Mary didn’t know what to do…Jesus could not be found and his friends were a bit lost, disoriented, not knowing what was going to happen next…friends, 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 feel like we just ran through a lost season, but, what have we found out about ourselves?  I know that, as a church, we have been reminded that church is much larger than a building or being in the same room…that are connections and commitments to one another and to and from God are deeper than we could ever imagine, resurrecting new possibilities and imaginations with us.  Yes, 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! 

Christ has risen! 

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