1st Sunday of Easter, B
April 4, 2021
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
John 20:1-18 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=389420953)
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.
| Centering Prayer |
Last Sunday our worship started with a bang!
Joyous “Hosanna” and waving of palm branches
Was followed by the reading of the Palm Sunday
Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey.
“All glory, laud, and honor
to you, Redeemer, King,
to whom the lips of children
made sweet hosannas ring.
You are the King of Israel
and David’s royal Son,
now in the Lord’s name coming,
the King and Blessed One.”
(Tune: St. Theodulph, Author: Theodulf, Bishop of Orleans, 820 AD)
The Messiah had entered the Holy City! We proclaimed.
We were giddy with revolutionary zeal.
We knew God was on our side
And our occupation and oppression was soon to be ended.
Our taste for freedom had been wet,
And the future never appeared so promising.
But, faster than a whiplash
The wind left our sails;
Our bellows collapsed like a deflated whoopie cushion.
Jesus was arrested, imprisoned,
Tried on trumped up charges,
Sentenced to death, flogged, humiliated,
Crucified, died, pierced,
and his bloodied corpse was buried in a borrowed tomb;
All within the span of three nights and three days.
The passion stunned, froze, and traumatized us.
Hope had been replaced by despair.
Life had been stolen and replaced with meat on a slab.
Light had been replaced by darkness.
It doesn’t get much darker than defeat,
Especially when it appears that
Our God blew the lead in game seven.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
(Words: Negro Spiritual, Tune: Were You There)
Night fell on Friday.
Darkness overcame all but one candle.
We left the service in darkness and silence.
Today, Good News!
With the dawn’s early light and the rising of the sun,
We have news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!
“Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!”
(Tune: Easter Hymn, Text: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788)
Bust out the lilies.
Brush open the blinds.
Break out the Alleluias!
The embargo is over.
Light triumphs over darkness!
Life is victorious over death!
From triumph to shock,
From sorrow to joy,
The path of discipleship
Bucks like a bull that doesn’t want to be ridden.
From our Jewish ancestry
We follow a similar path from Lent to Easter;
Remembering the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ.
Our path resembles the one traveled by our Jewish sisters and brothers
Remembering Passover from a first-person point of view;
Freedom from Egyptian captivity, the gift of the Law, journey through the wilderness, and passage into the promised land of Israel.
Is to experience the journey.
We tell the story.
We live the story.
We become first-person, eye-witnesses to the story
Of freedom, redemption, and salvation.
When we become so intimately woven into the story
Of passion, death, and resurrection,
We become like the disciple,
“the one whom Jesus loved,” (20:2)
The first to the empty tomb and the first to believe.
We don’t need anything more
Than an empty grave and a pile of bloody burial cloths.
Our relationship with Jesus is so close
That we don’t have to witness his resuscitation.
We don’t have to see his face, his hands, his side, his feet.
We don’t even have to hear his voice.
We are just filled with joy!
We know that Christ is alive!
Christ is risen!
The most important divine interaction with creation has just taken place
And we’ve been privileged to have been a first person eye witness.
Forgiveness and salvation become the capstone.
Christ’s historical ministry has been transfigured into one that
Glorifies God, and
Brings to creation the gift of the Spirit.
At our Good Friday service light faded to darkness.
White faded to black.
I know some of us are so closely in love and relationship with Christ
That we’ve become one with the “beloved disciple”;
The one who just knows,
And is ready to witness to,
The resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Yes, life sometimes gets in the way of faith.
I get that.
Yes, sometimes we slide on the spectrum between belief and disbelief
Like furniture on a sinking ship.
It is sometimes true for me, too.
But, for many of us,
We need something more.
Often, I need more than just the memory or the experience.
We might be more of a kindred spirit with Mary from Magdala.
Mary Magdalene finds faith another way.
Mary’s examination of the empty tomb and cast aside burial clothing
Resulted, first, in her anger –
An assumption that Jesus’ corpse had been stolen,
To, secondly, sadness and weeping –
Over her apparent failure
To care for, and respect, the dead:
“They have taken away my Lord,
and I do not know where they have laid him.” (20:13)
Mary came and saw.
She saw the stone had rolled away.
She saw two angels in white through the tears in her eyes.
Angels! Mind you! She saw angels!
Mary hears the voice of angels, “Woman, why are you weeping?” (20:13)
Mary responds to angels from the Lord by answering their question.
Mary turns and she saw.
She saw Jesus, face to face.
Jesus! Mind you! Mary saw Jesus!
The corpse she had seen dead and buried no more than 72 hours ago
Was standing right in front of her
Fully breathing, alive, and engaged in a conversation.
Mary sees, but, as of yet, fails to recognize her BFF.
Mary hears the voice of Jesus.
He asks the same question the two angels asked,
Woman, why are you weeping?” (20:15)
One would think his voice would be familiar to her.
After-all, she had been on the road with his “Traveling Salvation Show”
For the past 3 years.
She thought she was talking to the gardener.
Resurrection was so outside her realm of understanding
It wasn’t even considered.
In her traumatized mind
She was talking to the gardener.
Mary only comes to recognition and belief
When Jesus speaks her name, “Mary!” (20:16)
Remember Jesus earlier teaching
“Very truly, I tell you,
The one who enters by the gate
is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him,
and the sheep hear his voice.
He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has brought out all his own,
he goes ahead of them,
and the sheep follow him
because they know his voice.” (10:1-4)
The Good Shepherd calls his own by name
And they know his voice.
Like Mary, many of us come to recognize the Risen Christ
Through the Word of Christ,
And by his Word,
We are see and
We are fed.
Remember the majestic opening to the Gospel of John,
“The Word was made flesh … and dwelt among us,” (1:14)
Christ’s spoken word and his broken body,
Together with his willingness to call and claim us by name
over our baptismal waters,
Is what keeps our ever ebbing and flowing faith
Confined within acceptable limits.
The Word speaking our name
Brings recognition to us.
Now we know who we’re talking to!
Now we know we are seeing the resurrected Jesus!
Christ is made known and present,
Inviting each of us to engage deeply in relationship with him
And with one another.
To experience the story,
Many will join the movement from sorrow to joy
With the proclamation, “Christ is risen!”
Others will come from sorrow to joy by another route.
We have to have our creaky scaffolding of faith
Sustained and supported by the Word of Christ.
Regardless of how we make progress on the journey
Together we can join the movement from sorrow to joy
Blending our voices this day, proclaiming, “Christ is risen!”
Christ is risen, indeed!
(Thanks for the creative insights to the Beloved Disciple and Mary Magdalene is extended to Craddock, Hayes, Holladay, and Tucker in their 1990 commentary, “Preaching the New Common Lectionary Year B Lent, Holy Week, Easter”.)