When we relegate resurrection to the murkiness of history alone, we become diminished in our faith because our questions then become small and inconsequential and serve to keep us looking behind us at history, instead of looking around us in the present moment.
Rev. Jenny Carter
Easter Sunday 2017
Based on John 20:1-18
There are moments when your heart soars. Times when you simply know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are indeed a child of God, a child of the universe – and that everything is going to be okay. In fact, things are going to be better than okay – even if “things” don’t work out as you had hoped for, or planned for.
These moments cannot be planned, nor controlled. Like the wind, they come unseen and unasked for – yet while their appearance is always fleeting – their effects can be felt for a long time to come. They change us somehow. They calm us, they help us find our soul centre – that place where our humanness meets divinity. They are true resurrection moments where all things seem possible – and where the sun seems to shine just that much brighter.
While we have all had moments where we have felt the beauty and the power of God either through moments with our families, or out in nature, or listening to beautiful music that simply lifts us to the realms of glory. Resurrection moments are different. Resurrection moments always follow hard on the heels of struggle, pain and heartache, those horrible life events that make us wonder if we are going to ever get through them in one piece, or if we will get through them at all.
Those of us who have ever had someone we love with all of our hearts die, or betray us somehow, know that the grief that comes with that is beyond painful. It takes us to a deep and very dark place. As days and months pass, the pain gradually lessens, and even though the loss will remain with us always, there comes a day when we know that we are going to be okay. That somehow life not only goes on, but life can still be really good.
That is a resurrection moment. A moment where we know we are not lost to the pit of sadness, and that we have more to see, and to do, and to enjoy in this life of ours. It is a moment where we feel God’s presence in our life in a powerfully new way – and that is when our hearts soar! That is the moment where resurrection happens – and to put it into the language of our faith tradition – that is when the risen Christ is so very close and present to us – and by this closeness lets us know that the past is finished and gone, and everything becomes fresh and new. That when it comes to the death dealing things of our lives and of this world – God has the last word, and that last word is always a big “YES!” to life renewed.
That is what happened to Mary Magdalene that first Easter. She had a resurrection moment – an experience of the risen Christ that changed everything. As the author of John tells the story, she goes to care for the body of her friend and teacher Jesus, and finds it gone. She runs to bring Peter and the disciple Jesus loved to help her cope with what she thinks is a grave robbery. They come and they see and they believe. They don’t believe that Christ had been risen, they believe Jesus’ body has been stolen and they go home leaving Mary to whatever it is she is going to do.
What Mary does is persist. Through her tears she persists in asking those angels where the body of Jesus is. When she sees Jesus, but mistakes him for the gardener, she persists in asking her questions about where the body of her friend had been taken. Mary is so busy persisting, that Christ had to raise his voice in order for her to hear him – he had to practically shout her name. He says “Mary!” and in that moment she no longer sees a gardener, but sees instead the risen Christ. In that moment she becomes the first apostle – the first to see and to recognize the risen Christ – and in that moment her heart soars and she knows that there is more to see, more to do, and more to explore in this new life that she is such a part of. She is a child of God, and she has some big living to do. She knows that things are going to be okay.
So often we moderns misunderstand what resurrection is. We tend to think that Easter is a celebration of something that only happened 2,000 years ago and that we gather to worship, share meals, and hide chocolate eggs in memory of that long ago event. When we relegate resurrection to the murkiness of history alone, we become diminished in our faith because our questions then become small and inconsequential and serve to keep us looking behind us at history, instead of looking around us in the present moment. But most importantly, when we abandon resurrection to a moment in history we miss the most integral message of our Christian faith – that God through Christ is alive and among us all. That Christ is the ultimate last word of God – the one that says, “no matter the darkness or the death dealing ways of the world” God has the last word, and the last word is always “YES!” to life made new.
That is resurrection and it is still happening and will always keep happening. So the ongoing nature of resurrection is why we gather to worship, share meals and hide chocolate eggs. Resurrection, Christ alive and among us, is worthy of the biggest of all celebrations.
Given the events of the last few days, and how our world is seemingly only inches away from a brink that none of us want to go over, where tyrants flex their nuclear muscles, we need to hold on to our trust in the power of God, the power of resurrection. We need to follow Mary’s example, that while others walked away simply accepting the tragedy and fear of that moment, she stayed. She stayed and she persisted. Through her tears, she kept asking the questions. Through her tears she kept looking, staring down angels and gardeners, until she eventually heard her name and recognized the face of Christ.
You see, that is where you and I come in to the story – we are the ones called to persist. No matter if we are smiling, or have tear filled eyes, we persist in asking the hard questions of ourselves, our church, and of our world. We persist in looking for the life made new moments – even if we’re standing in a graveyard. We persist in looking at strangers for as long as it takes for us to see that they bear the face of Christ. We persist in trusting that God in Christ is alive and among us and we keep persisting.
My Easter prayer for each one of us is a simple one – that we let Christ be alive and among us – just that. That we let Christ be alive and among us so that we might realize that resurrection is always ongoing – so that we never again miss a moment of this glorious thing called life! That even if we’re scared or sad, that we remember that “scared and sad” is merely a part of our story, never the end of it, and out of the scary, the sad and the difficult, God brings new life.
So as God says “Yes to life!” let the people say “yes!” to God! Let the people say “yes”. Let the people say “yes”. Let the people say “YES”!