Happy Easter! But I’m sorry, you missed the show! It was amazing. Gosh you should have seen it! The church was pitch black, like we couldn't see anything black, cause the vicar was too lazy to turn on the lights. Apparently he’s a pretty dramatic person. Loves the drama. He kept muttering how important the dark was, and how the lights needed to be off. It was so irritating. Where do we find these clergy anyways? Making us pray in silence and darkness all the time. Gah! Anyways, then- get this- the vicar lit this 26 inch fire pit into a great burst of flame, I almost burnt my eyebrows! I don't think this is how Jesus did it! Dudes got some serious pyro’s going. And then as we heard the story of our salvation again, we sat for a solid eternity in the deep dark silence for the first thunders of the Alleluias. Then before I knew it, the lights were thrown on- blinding me, the organ thundered, the bells rang! I almost fell off my pew I was so shook. I could feel the building shake! It felt like my whole body was vibrating with both excitement and terror, I’m still trying to catch my breath! But you know what the most amazing part was? I saw Jesus! It was EPIC. Like I'm talking peter mansbridge hosting a tomb side special for the National amazing, interviewing everyone as they came to the tomb with Rosie Barton giving live updates from inside the tomb amazing. And you missed it. Ah Well. Enjoy the flowers. Happy Easter! Jesus died for you. God loves ya, see you next year. ALLELUIA! Amen.
But, you know what? I saw Jesus!
The story of easter we hear this morning will not allow me walking away from you now, in the same way it did not let the disbelief of the disciples dissuade Mary from her early morning proclamation. Over these last three days, we have prayed, cried, lamented, washed, abandoned, nailed, buried, and waited. This last seven days of our life together has brought us to the precipice of a changed world, a new reality, a life altering relationship that nothing- not even death- can overcome. This morning something is new and different, because the story we hear is not a story for us. It is a story about us, and you have a role to play this morning. Easter my friends, is about you and me living as if today actually matters for the other 364 days of the year- because it does.
The writers of John's Gospel, from which our account is taken give us a beautiful lens to look into our life because of today. Johns whole focus is about the relationship between us and God, which is grounded in Christ. Unlike the synoptics of Matthew, Mark and Luke which share a similar story line with different levels of detail or synopsis, John is built on relationship. For John, the work of encountering Jesus is about a lived encounter, rather than an academic one alone. You see, the characters of our story this morning aren’t fictional, they are real living people who have the same flesh and blood as us. They cried, loved, birthed, dreamed, breathed, bled, doubted and died just like you and me, which makes the story even harder to dismiss. They lived this story as if it mattered, because for them it did and they are asking us to live the story with them.
One of these living testaments to the resurrection, Mary Magdalene is my all time hero, because she has a tenacity of spirit to stand up for what she wants in a male dominated world. But that’s also no surprise because that’s who Jesus was in his life with us, he constantly went against social norms and brought women into his closest circle of friends. I wonder if Mary’s grief at the tomb was tinged with a realization that life was about to get a allot harder because of all the men who would not listen to her like Jesus. She’s come to the tomb to try and find some stability in her life again after having walked the same rough Holy Week we just did. She just wants to see him again, feel close to him, she wants to know that everything is going to be ok! She wants things to feel like they did before, the freedom, the known, the ease of life, that sense of pattern that we all love in our lives. As humans we are made for pattern, and Jesus gave Mary her pattern, which was now gone. That feels so real, doesnt it? How often we wish stability would bring back the old comfortable ways. However Easter means that the way life was cannot be returned to! Easter is a way of life, not a moment frozen in time and Jesus reminds us of that this morning.
As soon as Mary is recognized by name, and she responds to Jesus notice what happens. He seems to push her away. Do not hold onto me! This reminder to Mary that life has changed is jarring, because yes of course scripture said Jesus was going to rise after three days- but now that he has we can go back to life before he died. Jesus, however, reminds us that life is not the same. The same God we tried to kill on Friday is now alive. The God we nailed to a tree now reigns. We can’t leave this church and pretend this was just a beautiful service with extra flowers. We were called into the community of the Cross on Good Friday to ensure we were never ever alone again. We were sent into the tomb and called by name in the garden so that we might live differently. Indeed, Jesus says to us directly that he is going out ahead of us! Meet me in Galilee he says! Jesus is alive and he's going ahead of us. The tomb is not the end of the story, Easter continues into our world today- a world which needs you and I to live like this actually matters, because it does!
Our human need for stability can and often does mean we live life differently. Our monastic traditions have allot to teach us about the use and application of stability in the everyday. In the benedictine model of life stability of place teaches us how to ground ourselves where we are, so that we are able to see where we need to go. For Benedict, a monk and founder of western monasticism, he and John were most interested in how their communities lived in relationship with one another. Benedict's rule- or way of life, is noted for the ease at which it takes itself. It's not onerous but loving and caring. For Benedict, it's about learning to listen with the ear of our heart to the needs of the world so that we can live out of our lives greatest gifts to answer that need. In his vows or promises he calls his community to live differently, just like Jesus says to us this morning. Stability, one of the vows Benedict's monks make, is about finding God here- in this moment, in our everyday lives. Its about tuning our hearts to see God in the small and big things, to know that God is present as we pump our gas or mow the lawn- just as he is present when we are in this church. Stability is about being able to stand in the midst of life and not get blown over. And Easter provides a lot of reasons to get blown over, because at its face is a story too impossible to believe.Yet at its heart, beyond all the human doubt, lies a story about you and I which calls us to live into a stable Easter- to lean into our lives as if the gospel we heard this morning actually matters- because it does.
It matters because its a way of life that takes who and what we are today and moulds us, re-forms us, re-purposes us. It's a way of life that pushes us to our greatest limits, brings us into contact with incredible people, and opens us up to a freedom for life. In the Easter proclamation, we are shown just how much we receive in this resurrected life- a life that not even the tomb could hold. Jesus is going out ahead of us to prepare the way so we never have to worry about what’s next! This sounds like fun, but how can we actually encounter this in our lives today. Here are a few of the ways I think we can do that work together this year:
- Ground yourself in community. Dare to show up and get involved. Come and struggle, doubt, share, pray, celebrate, and mourn here in this place. Help us feed the hungry, form disciples, and celebrate the mystery of this morning everyday. Bring your questions, and a healthy appetite- cause we like to eat. Dare to hear Jesus calling your name this morning from the tomb to join us on this road to Galilee. We have a big year ahead of us, and there’s ministry for us to do together!
- Stand for what you believe in. Trust that God is big enough to hold your doubts, and talk to people about what you believe, from your heart. When necessary use words, but only if it enhances the silence. Show the world what you believe with the actions of your life. Speak up for the marginalized as they seek shelter in our communities, challenge the powers of this world to see people and not profits. Make informed choices with your money because of your transformative relationship with the Risen Christ. And in all things, stand for what you believe in not as a weapon to show others your piety, but because you see and know the presence of Jesus in all aspects of who and what you are. Dare to let your faith shine in your actions, and let your actions be practiced within a grounded community.
This is the invitation of Easter my friends, the tomb is empty the show is over and the ministry has already begun. Jesus is alive and is gone ahead of us to prepare for our arrival to help us live into his resurrection. When we live a resurrected life, we no longer feel as if the joy of Mary this radiant morning is always at a distance, because we know her joy in our everyday life. We will feel this joy in the way we serve, encounter, challenge, speak, live, and love in our relationships in this world. Because that's exactly what happened on this very morning all those years ago, we are loved in and through a relationship that changes the world forever. Jesus called Mary, to bring others into a direct relationship with Him which doesn't end at the tomb- it only begins. I saw Jesus! but I'm glad you missed him, because he's already gone ahead of us! Easter doesn't end here, it's only just beginning!
Come on, let's go, join me! Jesus is going to Galilee where it all began!! Come on, let’s go! You’ve gotta see what we are going to do in Galilee this year with him! It’s going to be epic! Come and see!
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!