“Living Resurrection” — Rev. Stacy Swain
With “Alleluia!” on her lips, she ran. She ran with all her might out of that garden down those dusty streets, back to where the others were.
With “Alleluia” on her lips and a face radiant with unbounded joy, she bursts through the doors and into the room where the disciples were waiting, waiting because the future they imagined was no more and they could not yet conceive of what was to come next. Into their waiting Mary comes and she announces “I have seen the Lord,” I have seen the Lord!”
Then as her words reverberate in the air …. the Gospel account goes strangely silent. This passage just stops here. If this were a scene in a movie, there would be a close up of Mary’s expectant and jubilant face and then the screen would fade to black and silence.
I find it maddening that we don’t get to see and hear what comes next? We don’t get to see if a look of doubt and disbelief gives way to unbounded joy on the faces of the disciples as they take in Mary’s words. We don’t get to see if they rise out of their chairs and begin to pass that new found peace one to another, with hugs and handshakes. We don’t get to see if they share in the communion of the bread and the cup that constitutes community not out of sacrifice but out of fellowship. We don’t get to hear if they sing out in one voice a soaring song of praise.
Or maybe it was not like that at all. Maybe there was no joy. Maybe they did not rise or sing. Maybe they just sat there blankly staring at Mary as if she were out of her mind. We don’t know. The Gospel is silent.
Instead of telling us we have a pregnant pause. For when the text picks up again it continues by saying “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week.” Much time has passed in the text. It was predawn when Mary got to the tomb and then suddenly– it is evening.
What did they do all day, on that day, when they heard that good news? Why doesn’t the Gospel author tell us what comes next?
Why? Well I think the Gospel writer does not tell us what those disciples did on that day when they heard the good news so long ago because he wants to see what those disciples in his day will do, and what these disciples in our day will also do when we hear the good news. The gospel writer, I believe is giving space for all of us who ever have and ever will hear the good news, writing us, as it were, into the story. Asking through his silence what it is that we will do with Mary’s startling announcement?
You see, the culmination of the story that is Jesus, the point of its greatest suspense, is not Jesus’ death nor is it his resurrection. The culmination of the story that is Jesus, the nail biting, cliff hanging moment of this story, is this moment when we are left wondering what will come next. For what will comes next will determine if this great story remains just Jesus’ story or if it will becomes our story? — What happens next will determine if this great story gets shelved and gathers dust or if it will becomes the greatest story ever lived.
You see up until this point in the story that is Jesus, the disciples were more like spectators to the miracle that was unfolding than participants in it. Jesus was center stage. Only he knew the script it seemed. And that was just fine. They were perfectly happy to follow along watching Jesus, taking in all that he was doing and saying. It was after all, spectacular. Jesus was spectacular. And just to be close to such wonder was wonderful. The future that was coming was wonder filled for as far as they could see it the future was full of him.
But then this great story ended. It was nailed shut on the cross. With Jesus dead and entombed, the story came to a close.
That is why the disciples were just sitting there that day in that darkened room with the drapes pulled and the door shut. Jesus had called them out of the life that they had had and into life with him. And they had come. They had put down fishing nets and dish towels and stepped out into the unfolding of his ministry. But without him, there was nothing.
I think that is a large part of why Mary was weeping that day. Weeping for the death of Jesus, to be sure, but also weeping for the death of the life she had with him.
Mary came to that garden to tend to death. To tend to the ending. To tenderly close that story forever.
How could she possibly have known that the author of life was about to do a new thing by opening up that story forever? When Jesus spoke Mary’s name in that garden, a page was turned and a new chapter began. Resurrection it turns out was not for Jesus alone, it was for Mary and for the disciples that were and are and will be. Resurrection, it turns out, is for us.
Now I do believe that there is life after death, — that resurrection is something that we are to experience after our last breath is taken, but I also believe that resurrection is now. Jesus’ resurrection is, in essence, our great commissioning. For through the power of Jesus living presence, we are to be the bearers of the good news in the world, now. Like Mary we are to run with Alleluia on our lips announcing the good news that love lives. Resurrection is our new beginning for the peace, forgiveness, and love that was Jesus – through Christ’s living presence, is alive now within us and alive in the world. Or to borrow words from the Apostle Paul “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20). As we live in the Way of Jesus healing and loving the world as he healed and loved the world, the resurrected Christ is alive in us and is alive in the world.
That is why every Sunday we come into this place not just to hear the good news but also by God’s grace, that we may be the good news. Resurrection is not just about what happened on that morning long ago, and it is not just about what will happen when we draw our last breath at the end of our time, it is about –perhaps even most importantly about — how it is that we live now. So as much as we love listening to these Gospel stories from so long ago, as captivating as they are, their truth will continue to live to the degree that we are able to step into the story and make it our own – enlivening and embodying their life giving truths through our living.
The Gospel of John does not let us in on how the disciples reacted to Mary’s announcement that day, but we do know what happened next. We know what happened next because we are here today. We are here as doubt and disbelief give way to unbounded joy on our faces as we take in Mary’s words. We are here rising from our pews and passing that timeless peace one to another, with hugs and handshakes. We are here sharing in the communion of the bread and cup constituting community not out of sacrifice but out of fellowship. We are here singing out with one voice a soaring song of praise.
And so on this Easter morning, may Christ’s living presence of love rise in you this day. May your life shine with resurrections new beginnings. May your feet be swift as you bear the good news out into what is far too often a fear bound and dead ended world. May “Alleluia!” be on your lips. And may Easter’s joy be yours always. Amen.