“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord!”
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark… things happen early in the morning. Mornings are mystical and sacred: the earth rises from its darkness to greet the coming day. Early, this morning, as I walked to church at 7.30am to take the 8am Eucharist, a beautiful rainbow could be seen arching over the whole of Monmouth against a dark sky. Mornings are mystical and sacred. But that Gospel morning did not feel mystical, that morning did not feel sacred. As the orange glow in the east was spreading across the sky, Mary Magdalene was still in shock. The day’s sorrowful task was calling.
The last few days seemed a blur. The Passover meal, with its prayers and rituals, family and friends gathered to recite the ancient story, seemed so long ago. Jesus’ strange words that night as he passed the bread, “This is my body. Take, eat. Do this in remembrance of me”, now made eerie sense. She didn’t really think it would happen. But he was gone. They had come for him. Right there in the garden. The garden where they often went to pray, and to talk with Jesus. The garden that held so many happy memories, so many stories. So much healing. Then he was gone.
She had followed the next day, in disbelief with the other women, as he made the slow agonizing walk to his death. Mary had stood there numb and in shock as they drove the nails, as he breathed his last. She had comforted his mother. The words didn’t come. The words couldn’t come. All she could do was hold on to his mother. She followed to the garden as they laid him in the tomb. He was dead. It was finished.
But the burial rites needed to be done. Sabbath meant they couldn’t do the customary anointing. Jesus had died at the most inconvenient time. But today, early on the first day of the week while it was still dark, she had a job to do. Surely, this was not happening. She made her way, with the other women, down the street to the garden, to the tomb. How were they going to move the stone?
The stone had been moved! The tomb was empty! How could this be? What have they done? They have taken him. One final insult from the people who had robbed her of her friend, her teacher, her Rabbouni. They must have taken his body to deny him the proper burial. The stone was rolled away.
With tears falling, Mary ran to Simon Peter. “They have taken him!” is all she could get out. The tears burned hot on her face. They have taken him. Looking into the empty tomb with the stone rolled away – there were the burial clothes. A voice came from behind her: “Woman! Why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” That voice. It sounded familiar, her exhausted mid playing tricks on her. Of course, the gardener. “They have taken him! Do you know where?”
That voice. The familiar voice of the impossible. How can this be? This is not possible. “Destroy this temple and in three days it will be rebuilt,” echoed in her head. He’s alive! Jesus is risen! “Go Mary. Don’t hang onto me. Go tell the others.”
New tears as she ran to tell the good news. “I have seen the Lord! I have seen the Lord!”
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, things happen.
Early on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene expected to find death but instead she found new life. We have all stood in Mary Magdalene’s place. We know only too well what it means to expect death, but find new life. We know what it feels like to stand staring at the bleakness of Good Friday only to be surprised by Easter Sunday. We have all stood there peering into the empty tomb with the stone rolled away experiencing the impossible. The thing is, we don’t go looking for resurrection – resurrection finds us.
The resurrection of Jesus is about experiencing God’s love when we least expect it. God is willing to go to any length to find us in all the wrong places. Our life in the risen Christ begins in Baptism. When schools come to this church for an education session, I always begin at the font. I ask them a few easy questions: What is in the font? Water. What can you do with water? Girls often say: “you can wash in it”. Guys say: “you can swim in it!” (no joke) Then I ask another question, and I ask it to you, now: “what does it feel like when you fall out with someone who means a lot to you? One girl slowly raised her hand and said: “It feels cold and lonely.”
And then I ask the question: And suppose that person comes over to you and says: “Look this is stupid. Let’s be friends. Let’s go for a coffee (… etc…)”. How would that feel? Another hand went up. “It would feel warm. It would feel good.”
That IS the resurrection. God is LOVE. When we show compassion; when we accept and offer forgiveness and bring healing by simply allowing one another to be who God made them to be; when you feel you are blessed by others enabling you to be the person God made you to be… THEN… God rolls back the stones that bind and confine us. God stands waiting with a familiar voice calling us to new life. Calling us to “Go and tell!”
Resurrection has no meaning, no purpose, no place unless like Mary Magdalene we go and tell it! Resurrection has no meaning if we cannot share the Good News of Easter to a world living in Good Friday! Resurrection has no meaning unless we are willing to live as Easter people.
(A prayer written by John Hencher, my friend and mentor; a priest, poet and teacher, who died 3 years ago at the beginning of April)
Risen Lord: Give us a heart for simple things:
love, laughter, bread, wine, dreams.
Fill us with a green and growing hope.
And make us an Easter people: whose song is Alleluia!
whose sign is Peace,
and whose name is Love.