Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sermon, Easter Day, John 20:1-18

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Happy Easter! 

Here’s an Easter question for you:  Why are you here?  What are you looking for?

The gospel for this morning is my favorite resurrection story.  To begin with, it justifies morning people:  “On the first day of the week, while it was still dark . . .”  If any of the women of my household had known Jesus, they would have missed the resurrection.

But all kidding aside . . . Mary Magdalene goes in the morning to the place where Jesus had been laid where she is greeted with an empty tomb.  This not being normal, she runs back to tell Peter and John what she found.  They themselves run off to the tomb, leaving Mary behind.  And they themselves find the tomb just as she had described it.

Mary eventually follows them back to the tomb, but by the time she gets there, they have returned to their homes.  And here’s where the story gets interesting and very personal.

Mary stands outside the tomb in the garden crying because the body of the man she watched beaten and crucified, the body of the man who had healed her, the body of a man she loved had been stolen from his grave.  In a moment of, “I can’t believe this is happening,” she takes another look into the tomb.  The body was still gone, but now she is greeted by two angels.  Angels in front of her and Jesus behind her.

This whole sequence of the angels and Jesus wanting to know why she is crying, coupled with her still unbelief that Jesus is alive reminds me of the Star Trek episode “Amok Time” in which Spock thinks he has killed Kirk.  It takes both Spock and Mary a minute to wrap their heads around the idea that their dear friend is alive.  And it’s not until their names are spoken by the newly realized living that they celebrate.

This gospel scene is very touching.  Jesus calls her by name: Mary.  And with that personal call, he calls her into a new understanding of life and death.  It is that personal touch of this gospel story that makes it so special. 

“Whom are you looking for?  Mary, I’m right here.”

Whom are you looking for?  Jesus is right here.

But while this deeply personal story of resurrection and recognition is a vital and touching part of the story, what really makes the story is how John completes the circle begun back in Genesis.

In the second creation story, God places Adam & Eve in the garden to care for his creation.  While there, they eat from the tree of good and evil, hide from God when they hear him walking in the garden, and are sent out of the garden so that they won’t also eat from the Tree of Life and live forever.

Fast forward to today’s gospel.  The scene takes place in a garden.  Mary, unlike Adam & Eve who hide from God, comes looking for him.  And unlike in the first garden where God is afraid that people will eat from the Tree of Life and live forever, in the garden today, Jesus offers himself to us as the bread of life so that we may live forever.

Whom are you looking for?
What do you seek?

We have been trying to get back to the garden since the days of Adam & Eve.  On this day of an empty tomb and glorious resurrection, on this day when we loudly and joyfully proclaim

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

On this day we find ourselves back in the garden, back with God, and given the opportunity for life everlasting.

If you are looking for a relationship with God, or a place of community; if you are looking to get back to the garden and a place where life is not destroyed by death, you’ve found it.

We are all here for different reasons.  But behind all these reasons is the quiet call of a name – your name – and the reassurance that I am here.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Welcome to the garden.


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