Friday, April 1, 2016

Today's Good News

John 20:1-18  

The frazzled woman sits at her desk.  Her eyes were the size of white saucers with little black dots in the middle.  She is surrounded by stacks of papers, she can hardly see the door.  It looks like she is sitting in a hoarder’s den.  This cartoon is one of the cartoons that appeared years ago in Speedbump, a daily cartoon by Dave Coverly.  In the bubble above her head it says “I love them all”.  The caption at the bottom of the cartoon say’s ‘Editor’s Block’. 

Is it coincidence that I think of this cartoon the weeks before Christmas and Easter?  I don’t think so.  The bubble hovers over my head like a red tailed hawk hovering over its prey.  And at that moment I get it, I have editor’s block, not writer’s block.  And so began this Easter Sermon. 

It’s not that there is nothing new to say about the resurrection story, it’s that’s there’s everything to say about the resurrection of Jesus.  There is so much that all of the Gospels record it, hence editor’s block.  Which one?  Which one?  My eyes get as large saucers with those little black dots in the middle.  Each Gospel account is different and each one gives us distinctive information.  Today’s good news is sponsored by the Gospel writer of John.  Matthew, Mark and Luke were cohorts in recounting the event. But John, he goes maverick and writes a very human and endearing story for us to reflect on today.                  

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.  Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 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.  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.” 

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  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.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 

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.’”  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.

Just like the beloved birth narratives of Jesus that we so adore and long to hear on Christmas Eve we love to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection story over and over and over again each year because this story, even more than Jesus’ birth story is the heart of our Christian faith.  We read into Jesus’ birth excitement and wonder because we know the end of the story.  And the end of the story is today, Easter Sunday. And it’s all good however we know that the Easter story is only the beginning of our journey.  It is a model for how we can view life.

Can you imagine the fear that Mary Magdalene felt when she got to that tomb?  She awakens early, it was still dark.  She grabs the fragrant oils to anoint Jesus’ body because she wanted to complete what she couldn’t accomplish on Friday because it was the beginning of the Sabbath.  And when she arrives at the tomb she sees that that huge stone that had been rolled in front of it had been rolled aside. 

Impossible!  Who could have done such a thing?  Why would someone do such a thing?  She came expecting one scene but instead she found another.

All she could assume was that someone had stolen Jesus’ body.  So she wastes no time and runs back to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the beloved one to tell them the news, or rather exclaim to them that Jesus simply was gone.  I would have high-tailed it out of there too, because when my original expectations are not met I find it a comfort to tell others about my experience. 

Well upon hearing this news Simon Peter and the other disciple don’t waste any time.  They also run to the tomb, yanking each other out of the way but the beloved one reaches the tomb first.  He looked in and saw the linen’s, curious.  Then Peter arrives seconds later and goes directly into the tomb and also sees the linen’s and the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head.  It was rolled up neatly and lying aside, so curious.

The beloved decides to follow Peter and enters the tomb.  And right then and there he believed.  Resurrection sight unseen! A tomb that should have had a body in it now was filled with glorious, dazzling, sympathetic angels. And incredible as it may seem the text, matter of factly says that they go back home and leave poor old Mary weeping at the tomb.

Faithful Mary.  Loving Mary.  Grieved Mary just stands there and weeps.  They just left her!  She peers into the empty tomb and now she too sees the angels gently sitting in the place where Jesus should have been.  I wonder what went through her head because something really out of the ordinary had occurred. 

Even though she still wept.  But they angels ask, “Why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?”  Well she was fixated on the cavernous void of the tomb, who wouldn’t be, and the dazzling of the angels and in between the tears she expresses her deep concern.

But someone appeared behind her and for some reason she thought that that someone was the gardener so she pleaded with him to tell her where he had taken Jesus’ body.   Why would she think it would be anyone else?

But he calls her name.  She turns. At that moment with that simple exchange, that very tender moment she knew that it was Jesus.  She didn’t understand how but she knew that Jesus was no longer dead but alive.  She knew at that point that she was not left alone in this garden but had Jesus beside her, even though he commanded her not to touch him.  He was there.  Resurrection had occurred.  She came expecting death but instead she had encountered life!

In that moment the tectonic plates of the world shifted and it has never been the same since.  That’s why you are here today; in fact that is why this church is here today.  You cannot deny that the resurrection event did not change the world.  Out of the tomb came life.  He who was tortured and maimed was now made whole. He who was once dead was now alive.  Indeed, if you believe like Mary then it has the power to transform your life and the way that you view life in ways that you can’t even imagine.

We are no strangers to resurrection really.  We resurrect things all of the time.  I resurrect an old dress that I haven’t worn in years, I buy some new shoes, perhaps a new necklace and what do you know, that old rag of a dress that has taken up space in the back of my closet is like brand new.  You resurrect a book or a movie that you haven’t thought about in ages and it brings you new insight that you hadn’t envisioned before.  We clear out the debris in the garden to allow the green tips of the daffodils and other early bloomers to peep through promising yellows and pinks and lilacs…..we practice resurrection all of the time.   That is, if we are mindful to it.  It’s a matter of changing our expectations like Mary at the tomb and choosing to see life in all of its glorious forms.

Resurrection…it’s a beautiful thing. It’s too bad that we can’t read resurrection into our lives on a daily basis and fully enjoy it as a gift of grace from God.

This past week has been a reminder of the brokenness in this world.  If ever there is a time that we need to see some resurrection hope, it’s now.  The bombing in Brussels is a reminder that hatred and violence exist.  The list of what’s wrong in this world, the ways in which we hurt one another, devalue one another, hate one another is tremendous.  In fact it is overwhelming.  Each time something like Brussels happens, which is all too often, I come away weeping in my heart for the lives that have been lost, the fear that has been instilled and the continued anger that is released.  O Lord – help us to see a new way that speak life.

At times like these we desperately need to remember and retell the Easter message of resurrection and new life.  We need to use an Easter lens to view the world.  It’s not a lens of pastel bunnies but a lens of realistic expectations for what this world longs for.  We need to resurrect this vision of peace, inclusion and equity that we like to sing about.  The source of new life for us is believing, sight unseen in the overwhelming redemption of this world, thanks to Jesus Christ.
The lens of resurrection is like a kaleidoscope.  You look through the view finder and witness the most beautiful arrangement of jeweled fragments.  And then at the twist of the other end you have another exquisite configuration enfolding before your eyes.  All the while you didn’t know that you had the kaleidoscope pointed at a trash heap.   There can be beauty that arises from the most despicable of places. 

Easter proclaims the mighty and redemptive love of God when we can no longer see it for ourselves.  Believe this.

“Hold firmly” as the Apostle Paul commands us, (1 Cor 15:2) that, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain.” (1 Cor 15:13). 

There is no tomb dark enough or deep enough that we cannot climb out of and overcome because Christ has claimed victory.  Hold firmly to it.

Easter gives us hope and resurrection promises all things new.  This is OUR proclamation.  Hold firmly to it today and each day and then be a witness to God’s great and mighty acts. 

May the sheer joy of resurrection reside in your hearts and minds today.  Amen, and AMEN!


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