Easter Service 04/01/2018 (Click on title for audio)

John 20:1-18

Will you pray with me:  Holy One, find us where we are and bring us to yourself, and may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God our rock and our redeemer.  Amen

It is Easter morning and here we stand.  Here we stand in the midst of the miracle and mystery that is the heart of the Christian faith.   Here we stand proclaiming that God refuses to let violence have the last word, that Love lives and that Love has the power to save us all.

Here we stand on this most Holy of Days, the first day of the Re-Creation, Day of Resurrection, this Easter Son-Day.  Here we sing our Alleluias, proclaim Christ Risen, and find the Hope we have been hungering for.  Today our dry bones live as we bear witness to the undying Promise that God’s Love will indeed heal this broken world of ours.

It is Easter morning.  Let the trumpets sound and the Alleluias soar.

And yet–

And yet –


We celebrate today the faith claim that Christ has Risen.  But I have found myself wondering, if that faith claim is true, then — where are we to find this Risen Christ?  A quick scan of our lives and the life of the world confirms that the death dealing ways of violence still persist and suffering continues to abound.  Does the Christ Risen have any impact on our reality and if so how?

As I wrestled with these questions this week, I kept returning again and again to the point in the text, the hinge point really, right in the middle of the passage where Mary stands and weeps.  Something kept drawing me back to her side as She stands there quietly in the pre-dawn darkness.

Mary does not leave when the others do. Peter and the other disciple have come running to the tomb, they have peered in and in doing so have only confirmed for themselves what they have already presumed.  There is nothing more for them there and so they return to their homes.

But Mary stands.  Mary does not leave with them.  Instead, Mary stands.   She stands alone in the darkness.

She stands because she feels deep within her, I believe, a bone deep need to witness to what is happening even in the midst of her inability to take it all in.  She is sad and afraid and does not fully comprehend but despite all that, she is not leaving. She is staying. She stays and stands.    She stands in that place of loss, heartache, dead ends, shame and pain.  She stands by that tomb which is to be the place where the sorrow and suffering of all humanity lies.  She stands.

She stands as Miriam stood when she planted herself there on the banks watching over what would become of her little brother Moses who was hidden, bundled in a basket, the only hope of surviving Pharaoh’s death decree, as he floated down the river.

Mary stands as Moses stood when as a grown man burning with the word of God, he stood before Pharaoh and demanded to let’s God’s people go!

Mary stands as Jesus stood when he on trial before Pilate and took the death dealing ways of humankind into his very being.

All has been lost, only suffering and sorrow remain, but still Mary stands.  Mary stands in a great line of Biblical witness that tells us that in the face of pain and suffering, loss and despair though we may not understand, though we may not know what comes next, though the way may still be unclear we are nonetheless not to flee but to stand.

And not just to stand but also to weep.

Mary stands by that tomb and she weeps. She weeps not just for her sorrow but for her deep compassion for the one she loves.  For the broken body of her Lord lost to her in life and now lost again in death.  And she weeps for the brokenness of the world. For dead ends everywhere.  Mary stands and she weeps for great is her compassion.

She weeps for great is her compassion as is the compassion of Jesus.  Mary weeps as Jesus wept at the death of his friend, Lazareth before summoning him to new life..

Mary weeps as Jesus wept as he looked upon Jerusalem.  before entering into the very heart our human propensity to use violence as means of social control to reveal that violence and transform.

Mary stands and weeps for great is her compassion.

So, what comes next in the account, should really then not come as a surprise.  For over and over throughout the Gospel accounts we have seen compassion be the birthing ground of miracles.

Is it a mere coincidence that the risen Christ appears makes himself known to Mary in the next moment?  Did she just happen to be in the right place at the right time?

I think not.  It is Mary’s standing and weeping that is, if not that which brings about the resurrection, then is, at least, that which calls it forth and reveals it.

The resurrected Christ is revealed not in the bright light of Easter day when trumpets are sounding and alleluias are singing.  It is instead made known first in the predawn darkness to one who stands and weeps.  It is there that the resurrected Christ makes himself known.

Of course this is not the only way that Jesus will make himself know to those who seek him.  The Gospel accounts tell us he will make himself known to those despairing and confused on the road to Emmasu.  He will make himself known who the one lost in doubt offering his wounds to that disciples hands to touch.  He will make himself know to those who are discouraged and hungry as he fills their nets and bids them eat of the fish he has cooked for them on the charcoal fire.  He will make himself known as he looks at Peter and with three love filled questions undoes all the shame of that threefold denial.

Appearing to Mary is not the only way that the presence of the risen Christ will be made know in the lives of his disciples, but it is the first.  It begins with Mary as she stands and weeps.

So what does that say to us?

Here on this Easter morning, if we are looking for the Risen Christ, this passage tells us that we will first find him not so much I am afraid in a sanctuary full of lilies and tulips but in the broken places in our world and in our lives. What we celebrate this morning is not that all is finally right in the world, but instead we rejoice and celebrate this day the revelation that all that is broken and wrong with the world cannot shut out the presence and power of God’s love.  This love continues to be present to us especially in our brokenness, and is seeking us there to work for the healing and transformation not only of our lives but of the world.

So what then does a resurrected life look like? What does it look like to be an Easter People?   It looks a lot like Mary.  It is to lead a life marked not so much by certainty but by compassion. Not one of hurry, but one of presence, not one of returning to what if familiar but entering into the unknown.  It is a life of standing in our places of need and looking upon the brokenness with compassion.

And when we do, The Easter Joy and Promise assures us that the Risen Christ will meet us.     We too will hear our name and feel joy rise.  We will feel the power of new life rising in our world and in our weary bones.  We will feel the warmth of the sun will be on our faces and the cry of joy on our own lips.  We will run and not grow weary when we will walk and not grow faint.[1] And our very lives will proclaim the power of Love that did not, can not and will not die.   That is our Gospel hope and promise and the Joy that we sing forth today.

So let the trumpet sound and the allelulias soar on this most Holy of Days, the first day of the Re-Creation, Day of Resurrection, this Easter Son-Day.  Thanks be to God and the Easter Hope we make our own today.   Amen and Amen.

[1] Isaiah 40:31 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.