Did Jesus Dream?

glowing lights in darkDid Jesus dream while he lay in the tomb?

Did God send him dreams of clouds and glory
to make him sigh and smile?

Or, did Jesus dream of simpler things

Freshly baked bread
warm and fragrant

charcoal baked fish
crisp and tender

warm hands holding his
laughter
tender friends

Was there the comfort of murmuring voices
he could almost recognize
comforting to hear

a relief not to have to answer

Not just yet.

Was it cold in the tomb when Jesus woke up?

Dark?

Certainly.

Or, did his own radiance bathe the hand-hewn stone
with light

Did he know right away
where he was?
who he was?

Did he remember what had happened?

Or, did God let him lay awhile luxuriating
in the safety and comfort of the linens swaddling him
once again a new born babe.

Was there a moment of panic when he opened his eyes?

Where am I?
Who am I?
What happened?

O yeah…

O yeah…

I remember…

Them.

Will they,

remember

me?

Was there a shuddery moment of fully awake now
or,
did he shrug it all away along with the linens so carefully enshrouding his body?

Was he angry?

For a moment?

or, simply relieved to wake up

alone

at last

safe

in the dark tomb.

No reaching hands
no pain, no suffering
not even his own.

Did he draw a long breath in newly resurrected lungs
whispering a prayer of thanksgiving and praise
exhaling a sigh
of release.

Was he happy?

To still be here?

or was he longing to be there…
anywhere…
but here…

with us.

Did he look forward to the looks on his friend’s faces
when he would show up?

SURPRISE!

TOLD YOU!

YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT WHEN I TELL YOU WHAT HAPPENED TO ME
WHILE I LAY DREAMING!

YOU

WON’T

BELIEVE

IT

WILL YOU?

DO WE?

Alleluia!

Christ is Risen!

 

The Open Door

the-open-door

There was a day not so long ago when I was feeling discouraged.
Grumpy even.

I was feeling sorry for myself,
muttering around alone in the sanctuary picking up used tissues,
tossed music, broken candles, crumpled bulletins,
broken crayons, discarded inserts,
and all the detritus of weeks of winter worship.

I was preparing the way for Easter coming.
The stone rolling away.
The tomb yawning open.
Jesus set loose once again to be among us
until the end of days.

I had the church door open to bring in a breath of spring on the way.
And because the door was open,
there were suddenly two strangers in the sanctuary with me.
A young man and woman appeared excitedly exclaiming as they looked around at the beautiful wooden beams, the glowing stained glass windows, the gleaming organ pipes. They asked me if they could pray for the church. They said they were on a mission to go around town and pray.

I found myself feeling suspicious.

I wondered if this was some sort of scam.
I wondered if they hadn’t expected to find someone muttering around alone in the sanctuary and had made up something to cover their surprise.

I wondered what they were up to.

And then I wondered how I could be so cynical.
Standing in the sanctuary.
Standing in this place where people have gathered to pray together
for over 100 years.

“Yes,” I said, “Please pray for our church.”

The three of us took hands, and they prayed.
Out loud with great exuberance.
They prayed for the life and mission and ministry and people and programs and heart and soul of the church. They prayed for our neighbors and the town and the community and our country and for the whole world.

And then they asked if they could pray for me.

I felt the spirit flowing through our small circle carried by their enthusiasm.
I felt Jesus present in their great daring to pray with strangers.
The spirit was flowing and when they finished praying for me,
I prayed for them.

Tears in my eyes.
Cracks appearing in my hardened heart.
I prayed for us all.
Amen

They smiled.
We hugged.
And they bounced out as energetically as they had come in.

The spirit was flowing.

I felt peace as I basked in the warm flood of colored light streaming in through the stained glass windows. My heart was burning warm within me.

I felt full.

As if I had just finished a delicious meal of all my favorite foods.

As if I had just recognized Jesus in the breaking of a loaf of bread.

Or, in the faces of a young man and a young woman who came into my church
asking me if they could pray.

The spirit was flowing.

Jesus set loose among us.

All because

I had left the church door

open.

Sermon: Consider the Lilies

tiger lilies

Matt 6: 25 – 34

Like Advent, Lent is a time of preparation and anticipation.  We prepare ourselves to once again bear witness to Jesus Crucifixion, and we prepare our hearts for the joy of Easter resurrection.  One of our ways of preparing is with our most essential spiritual practice, praying.

That is why one of our themes for Lent is “Pray without Ceasing.”  Prayer is one of our most important faith practices and sometimes it’s also the hardest one for us to do.  So for Lent, we will be exploring many of the different ways we can pray and we will reflect on some of the things that get in the way of us praying.

Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life…”  And there is one of our great emotional obstructions.  Worry.  Too much worrying can inhibit our ability to live more in the moment, to live with appreciation, and to live with joy.

Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life….Look at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them…consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they toil not, neither do they spin…how much more will God care for you?”

It’s easy to say, “do not worry…” but it seems that there is just so much to worry about these days. We worry about our finances, our savings, our college and retirement funds.  We worry about looking for jobs and we worry about keeping our jobs. We worry about budget cuts in our towns, cities, and states.

We worry about the discord and chaos in our government especially with the animosity and chaos we are already seeing in this election year. We worry about who the next president will be and what it will mean for us as a people and as a country.

We worry about Isis, Syria, South Korea, the Saudis, Afghanistan…and our own backyard terrorists…

We worry about our health and well being.  We worry about our medical coverage.

We worry about snow and ice dams, flooding and rain, and drought and heat waves.  We worry about climate change. We worry about our kids, our parents, our families, our friends, and our neighbors.

We worry, worry, worry….

Pervasive worry can almost become a physical presence, entering and filling our whole body with darkness.  Science has proven that stress and anxiety take a physical toll on us, it strains our hearts, disrupts our sleep, causes us to eat more, drink more, and medicate more.  And worry just makes us worry more…..

Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life.”

So, let us consider the lilies of the field for a moment.  Or better yet, a field full of lilies.  Tall, bright orange Tiger lilies.  Or, lemon yellow lilies glowing like splashes of sunlight strewn through the garden.  Or luscious, white lilies that will soon fill our Sanctuary with the fragrant scent of Easter Resurrection.

There is a stand of bright, orange, tiger lilies, in my neighbors front yard.  Those lilies spend their day straining to reach towards the sun.  Each bell-shaped blossom, sitting atop a long, stout stem, follows the sun as it travels through the sky.

On cloudy days, the lilies heads droop a bit, melancholy and morose, waiting for the clouds to clear so the sun’s bright light can and lift them up again.  I have seen lilies flattened by wind and rain, rise up again with the coming of the sun.So, consider the dedication of those tiger lilies in following God’s sun.

Consider the plucky urban flower that, against all odds, burrows a way through the minutest of cracks in the hardened concrete and pokes and pries its way out into the light of day.  Consider the tenacity of the alpine flower, clinging to an inhospitable mountain side, drawn from the darkness, into the light.

A few years ago, we cleaned out our front beds and hauled the dirt and mulch into the woods behind our house.  Apparently, I had missed a few of the tulip bulbs because out amongst the pines and skunk cabbage, there are several bright red tulips that each year herald the coming of spring. Consider the persistence of those tulips, displaced as they were, continuing to grow towards the light.

Jesus invites us to trust in God, to trust that God will provide for us.  Jesus invites us to find peace in giving tomorrow AND today into God’s loving hands.  Jesus invites us to let go and let God, to release what it is that would rob our lives of peace and joy.  Jesus urges us to give it all back to God who gives us all we have in the first place.

Let us not just consider the lilies of the field, let us try to emulate them by focus ourselves on always straining towards the light of God’s beloved SON, and turning our lives to follow where ever God’s light leads us…having the tenacity to persevere against great odds, and persisting even when we find ourselves tossed into unfamiliar circumstances.

And, like the lilies….

Do not worry about tomorrow!  

The gift of this day in God’s creation is treasure enough!

 

 

 

Sermon: Heart and Soul

Doubting Thomas

John 20:19 – 31
Acts 4: 32 – 35

I went into the drug store this week to pick up a few things and I noticed that all the Easter products were on clearance. Chocolate bunnies with broken ears, bags of jelly beans, brightly colored baskets, “plastic grass”, and plastic eggs, all 70% off!

A smattering of stuffed chicks, bunnies, and even a random frog or two, looked at me hopefully from the nearly empty shelves. I could buy 1 and get one free! What a bargain! Clearly for the retailers, Easter is over and it’s time to clear the shelves for Mother’s Day merchandise.

For us Christians, Easter is just beginning! Having taken the long and challenging journey through Lenten darkness, we now bask in the glorious warmth and bright light of God’s Risen son! We look forward to seeing Jesus appear by the lakeside.

We anticipate sharing a fish breakfast with Jesus, and having him fall in beside us as we walk the road to Emmaus. We shout Hosanna and joy-filled Alleluia!

We look forward with anticipation to the Day of Pentecost when we will celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, present, accessible, and real in each of our lives and in our communal life together.

But for the earliest Christians, for Jesus’ first disciples, there is only the shadow of death and the mystery of the cross still lingering in the air around them. The tomb is empty! Jesus is gone! Mary has come to them proclaiming that she has seen their Lord, alive and risen!

And yet, they still sit in darkness, dis-belief, and doubt.

“It is evening on that day.” That day of discovering the empty tomb…that day of angel visits, that day of Jesus missing. It is evening on that day of fear and trembling …of Flight not fight. It is Easter evening, and the disciples are still hidden, still trembling, gathered behind locked doors. They are Still Afraid.

As promised, Jesus finally comes! Neither locked doors, nor the disciples doubt can keep him away! Jesus appears and now…finally, the disciples REJOICE! And again, I say, they REJOICE!

Jesus offers them peace and breathes on them with the Holy Spirit. Peace, after all the pain…peace, after all the suffering…peace, after the guilt and shame…Jesus appears and breathes on them…filling them with the peace of Christ which passes beyond all human understanding.

When he returns the following week, to assuage Thomas, he says, “Do not doubt but believe.” And these disciples whose many sins he has long ago forgiven, are sent out by Jesus into the world, to forgive the sins of others, and to proclaim the Good News!

Jesus appears to the disciples so they can finally understand what he meant when he said he was not their idea or expectation of a Messiah. They are learning what he meant when he said that he had to die, so that he could rise, so that the joy of life could conquer the fear of death.

He is giving them their final encouragement along the way, along his way, a different way…a road less travelled. He is laying the firm foundation upon which his fledging followers will build, the foundation upon which we are still building.

Jesus appears to them to bolster their conviction, to deepen their resolve, to give them what they will need to carry on without him. Jesus is preparing them to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, to open and strengthen their connection with God.

The Holy spirit isn’t a new thing. The Holy Spirit is at work throughout Hebrew scripture and throughout the Gospels…But Jesus is preparing their hearts and minds, opening the lines to allow the disciples, and us, to fully embrace and engage the spirit without a priest, without an intercessory, without a king, without an emperor.

Jesus is preparing them to connect with God and with each other through the awakening of their Spirit and to become God’s one heart and God’s one soul.

We see in Acts how the early Jesus movement is trying to create a new way of living and being together following Jesus’ teachings – they have created what today we might call, an alternative lifestyle…

It is a way of living together that flies in the face of Jewish and Hellenistic cultures which were based upon honor and community standing, prestige, accumulated wealth, patronage, and connections to important people in high places.

It actually doesn’t sound all that different from our culture today, where we too often measure human value in terms of “net worth.”

We are sometimes quick to value people based on their type of employment, which college they did or didn’t graduate from, what part of town they live in, the size of their house, brand of clothes, or the make of their car. That’s before we even get to the color of someone’s skin, their gender identity, their politics, their country of origin, and on and on it goes.

In the face of an unlevel playing field, the disciples, like Jesus, turn things around and upside down and they create a system of equality…maybe even better than equality…”No one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. There was not a needy person among them…”

It doesn’t say that they parsed out all contributions in exact measure with each person getting an equal share…it says they held everything in common, no one claiming ownership of anything, everything shared…and not one needy person among them.

Their resources are utilized to take care of each person’s needs. That is very different from sharing everything equally. And there is a big difference between what I need and what I simply want or desire.

Taking care of people’s needs means making sure everyone has clean drinking water before water is re-directed from small communities for resorts and golf courses so that they can water their grass or spray it from fountains.

Taking care of people’s needs means paying a living wage, not paying based on our judgment of the type of employment. It means paying based on how much money a person needs to be able to afford decent shelter, food, clothes, transportation, health care, and the satisfaction of being able to pay their bills.

Taking care of people’s needs means no one going to sleep hungry at night. No one. Taking care of people’s needs means knowing when we have enough and recognizing and reaching out, when others around us don’t.

When our president talks about re-distribution of wealth, he isn’t being Socialist, he is being Christian. As we can see in our reading from Acts, re-distribution of wealth is one of the earliest Christian practices.

“For as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.” The wealthy weren’t given special dispensation…they were called to share to ensure that all had enough.

Unfortunately, over the last few decades, we have become consumed with the supremacy of the individual vs. the Common good. We have forgotten our own motto…United we stand, Divided we fall.

Do you know what distinguished the earliest Christians? It was their generosity and spirit of all- inclusiveness…their generosity that flowed from gratitude for Jesus’ love and sacrifice, and God’s grace.

They cared for the beggars in the street. They brought food to those in prison. They healed and cared for the sick. They were thought to be crazy because of their communal sharing and generosity of spirit.

We human beings, sometimes forget we are generous by nature. My parents and millions like them got through the Great Depression because everything was shared. Our generosity of Spirit flowed after the terrible earthquake in Haiti, the tropical storm, Katrina, that drown New Orleans, and when Storm Sandy washed away communities in New Jersey.

Generosity of spirit sent firefighters running into the World Trade Center. Generosity of spirit and care for the common good, sent bystanders running towards the sounds of explosions on the day of the Boston Marathon, two years ago, this week.

We just need to remember in the plain old, ordinary events of every day, who we are called to be as disciples of Christ. As Christians, we need to find different ways of being together. We are called to turn things upside down and inside out. We are not called as individuals. We are called into community. We are called to empty ourselves and be of one mind, in Christ.

In her commentary, “Living Wages,” Rev. Denise Cumby Long, says this, “It is time for Christians to reclaim our vocation in the original sense of working for a fair and just society, where evil is named and oppressive structures are transformed.

Our work is to acknowledge the worth and dignity of those who work beside us, [not above us, not below or beneath us, not over or under but beside] whether it be in factory, field, office, or store. We work for the common good, so that we move closer to the day when we may all be “united, heart and soul, with not a needy person among us.”

Let us pray,

Loving God that gives us each day our daily bread, open our eyes and our hearts to make sure that our neighbor and our neighbors children also have bread on their table. Amen

Bles-sed: “Made Holy; consecrated”

donation bucket

One of my favorite signs of spring is the bucket men. I’m afraid I don’t know what else to call them. As the snow disappears, there is a group of black men who appear at a busy intersection near my church. They wear bright yellow and orange vests, their colorful spring plumage vivid against the not-yet-green of the still bleak landscape.

They carry large, plastic buckets that say, “Feed Hungry Children.” I don’t know who they are but I trust there is a good purpose that has them standing for hours in the cold wind, the drizzling rain, and the spitting, sleety mess we are calling spring this year.

They approach each waiting car with a smile and a cheerful wave, moving easily along the line of closed windows on either side of them. I imagine person after person staring straight ahead in their comfy climate controlled cars waiting impatiently for the light to change so they can speed along their way.

I always open my window as soon as I see them so they know they will find welcome along the way. I scramble for loose change in my cup holder or whatever bills I have stuffed in my wallet and I wait for a man with a bucket to come to my window and give me a smile.

Today, as I dropped all the coins I had through the rectangle hole cut in the lid of the bucket, I said, “You are one of my sure signs of spring! Thank you for what you are doing for children in need.”

He grinned at me and said, “No one’s ever told me that. I like being a sign of spring! You take care now! God bless you!”

Perhaps still raw from a hectic Holy week, some gush of emotion, some broken remnant of Easter Alleluia, came rising out of me all of a sudden, and my eyes welled with tears. Around the lump in my throat I said, “I can’t remember the last time someone blessed me, thank you.”

Suddenly serious, he looked at me from the cold, drizzling rain as I sat in my comfy climate controlled car, and he said, “Ma’am, don’t you let anybody ever steal your joy.” He leaned closer and smiled at me. And I smiled at him through the rainbow of tears in my eyes.

And the world stopped for a moment.

And then, bam! There it was! God’s kingdom!

Not in the handful of scrounged coins, or even in the bucket for a worthy cause…God’s kingdom was, and is, in that silent place between strangers who have just recognized that they are related…the silent place where you suddenly feel connected to someone else heart to heart…that sacred place beyond words where you feel the spiritual strings that attach all creation into one living organism…that consecrated space between heartbeats….that holy place of unexpected Blessing…

He leaned back and nodded to me. He tapped the back of my hand with his finger and moved on. I watched him through my rear-view mirror, shuffling down the narrow path between cars, waving and smiling. I hoped to see another open window welcoming him along the way but there wasn’t one….I watched praying…open, open, open…

Then the light changed.

It was time to move on…..

As I watched him carrying out his ministry in the world, in the cold and wet…I thought, “He blessed me?” And I thought, “Hosanna, blessed is HE…blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord with a blessing on his lips, healing in his words, and love in his heart.”

I drove off realizing I was driving on the road to Emmaus that morning…

…and I’d just run into Jesus with a bucket in his hand.

Sermon: Terror and Amazement

Copy_of_empty_tomb

Mark 16: 1-8
The first thing that God’s representatives say is always “Be not afraid.” “Don’t be alarmed.” “Fear Not.” Coming face to face with God’s emissaries, and realizing you have stumbled into God’s real presence should be terrifying.….and amazing.

Last week we read about a woman who comes to Jesus while he is having dinner with Simon the leper. She comes with an alabaster jar and anoints his living body with rich perfume and with her tears and with her blessings.

Now, in their turn, Salome, Mary Magdelene, and Mary, come. They come to wash Jesus’ lifeless body with their funeral spices and their tears. They come to tend a body broken by hatred and violence.

Their hearts are broken with horror and grief. Their spirits are exhausted and broken by the grueling vigil, and their faithful witness to the bitter end.

The women come with certain assumptions. They expect a rock they can’t move. A dead body to tend to. Rites and rituals to be performed to help them process the reality that Jesus is gone.

They expect to face the finality of death…the victory of death over hope…death over love…death over peace…and death, even over faith.

They are left carrying the weight of “What now?” They are filled with despair, not knowing what lies ahead. Overwhelmed by the belief that it is all over. Ended. Their hearts still reverberate with Jesus’ last words, “It…is…finished.”

They come, bent over by broken dreams, but what they discover is a tomb broken open. Where they expect the certainty of death, they find instead, divine mystery, and the promise of something completely unexpected, unimaginable, unfathomable…..and as it so often happens to those who follow Jesus, all their assumptions and expectations are shattered. Their world is once again turned topsy turvy.

-An immovable rock has been moved.
-A sealed tomb stands empty.

-And Jesus is gone.

A messenger of God awaits with news of great joy. He says, “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

But all these women know for certain, is that….Jesus is missing….

The rest is too much for their grief-filled and exhausted minds to take in! Jesus has gone on ahead?….Jesus is somehow loose in the world? Unable to process what is happening, “Terror seizes them, (we know, the amazement comes later,) but for now, they bolt!

“They fled from the tomb, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Seized with terror they high-tail it and run away! Wouldn’t you? Tripping into the middle of divine mystery our “fight or flight” adrenal glands would absolutely kick into high gear…and we would be running right behind them. Terror first….Amazement and wonder comes later…

The ending of Mark’s Gospel is disturbing and dissonant because it leaves us with a difficult choice…to flee in terror or to follow in faithful amazement. In order to follow, we must first believe that Jesus has risen and waits for us. We must first step out in faith, before we can meet up with Jesus where he is waiting.

That is Mark’s challenge for us today. To believe first and then we will see – to step out in faith with the belief that Jesus goes ahead of us. The choice is ours. Will we flee in terror? Or will we follow in amazement? Or like the disciples, with a lot of both?

The author “Morna D. Hooker calls Mark’s ending “theologically profound” because of the paradoxical promise to believe first, and then to see: “Mark insists that we must finish the story for ourselves, by setting out on the way of discipleship.” [Weekly seeds:”Now What”, Kathryn Matthews Huey]

What does it mean to imagine that Jesus is loose in the world waiting for us to show up? To come find him? To come running?

Mark teaches us to step out into the uncertainty of each day with the assurance that Jesus is waiting up ahead…We must step out in faith in order to discover Jesus is in the world.

There is a tacked on ending to some versions of Mark that was added some time after that first Gospel was written, In that epilogue, Jesus does meet with the disciples, and leaves them this final instruction: “Go into the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation!”

We are called to run along behind Jesus and fly in the face of hatred, prejudice, and suffering wherever we find it…because that is where we will most certainly find Jesus.

We are called to step into each new day…filled with fear and trembling, terror AND amazement…we are to proclaim…”I believe….I follow….I witness…I have faith in the risen Christ!”

We are even called to stare down death, and live our lives of discipleship shouting, “Be not afraid!” “Fear Not!” Jesus has gone on ahead, conquered death, and he waits for us to believe, so that we can see.

Many of you know that I took a two – week Winter course at Andover Newton. One morning, our Professor shared with us that a dear, close friend had passed away the previous day.

As we all began expressing our condolences, he said, “Wait, I haven’t finished the story.” He then told us that his friend had been unconscious for several days, and everyone knew her time on earth was drawing to an end. But the previous day, while her husband and family were gathered around her, she opened her eyes.

She looked up towards the ceiling, and she smiled and reached out her hand to someone only she could see…..and then she said, “Wow.”

She laid her arm back down, and still smiling, she again said, “Wow.”

And then she closed her eyes and breathed her last.

With her eyes opening on what comes next for all of us, there was no terror left, only amazement. As she stared through the thin curtain between life and death, she saw into that place between “not knowing” and “knowing”,

…that breathless, heart-stopping place between “being” and “being something else”,

…that place where God works miracles of transformation – that place where something dies and something else is born –

She looked into that holy, sacred place…and she said, “Wow.”

-An immovable stone was rolled away. Wow.

-The tomb was empty. Wow.

-A young man dressed in a white robe, signaling the real presence of divine mystery, provides comfort and glad tidings of great joy to those women so long ago and to us today. Wow!

-Jesus has gone on before us and is waiting…WOW!!

Jesus has gone on before us…..What are we waiting for?

Jesus is waiting for us to spill out from the tomb running into a breaking and broken world that needs the promise of new life,

a breaking and broken world that needs the assurance of God’s love,

a breaking and broken world that needs the peace of Christ in the worst way!

Jesus has gone on ahead…

WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?

Jesus Christ is Risen! WOW!

Jesus Christ is Risen, he is risen indeed….WOW!

Let us pray,

Divine mystery, amaze and terrify us with your power, your presence, and your love! Send us running into the world to be your hands, and your hearts! Fill our lives with Hallelujah! Help us believe even when we can’t see! Fill us with the Wow of NOW! Amen

Sunrise Sermon: Mary Comes in Darkness

woman in darkness

John 20:1-18

Mary comes to the tomb while it is still dark.

Had she slept at all in the three days since Jesus execution? Had she been able to cry herself into an exhausted, dreamless sleep…or had she lain in bed…unmoving, as if dead herself…staring at the ceiling seeing nothing but those final, terrible hours…playing over and over again and again in her head…

Were her dry eyes burning, was her head throbbing, was she feeling nauseous and dizzy? Had she tried to eat something, only to discover that she couldn’t swallow even the smallest morsel of food because of the sorrowful lump of tears-still-to-come stuck in her throat.

Had she tried to erase those terrible images by trying to remember the last time they had all gathered, the last time Jesus had spoken to her, looked lovingly at her, that last meal they had all shared. Was she trying desperately to remember the sound of his voice, the sound of his laughter, his smile, his touch…

Was she counting how many seconds, and minutes, and hours it had been since he had breathed his last breath? Was she wondering how she could live through even one more minute with the pain of the grief that she was carrying? Was it as heavy as his cross had been?

Did the pain pierce her heart in the way that the sword had pierced his side? Was it her unbearable grief and emptiness that finally sent her running out into the night, running to his tomb, looking for all that she thought was left of Jesus?

Like Mary, haven’t most of us experienced some kind of grief or loss? Pain is certainly a part of being human, and haven’t we each had our share? For some of you…more than your share? Losing a job? Watching your children go astray?

Getting bad news from the doctor? Watching parents deteriorate or slip away into dementia? Watching loved ones succumb to depression or become consumed by addiction?

Haven’t we all had days when we have stood with our dreams in shambles feeling like our lives were over wondering how we could go on? Haven’t we all stood in darkness that had nothing to do with whether or not the sun was shining?

Mary comes to the tomb in darkness, shrouded in grief. The discovery of the empty tomb means nothing more to her than someone has stolen Jesus body. She sees the stone rolled away and can only think that she has lost Jesus again…lost him once and for all.

She runs to tell Peter and another, unnamed disciple, she cries, “They have taken our Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

Now the two men set out running in the dark, but Peter lags behind. Perhaps his denials of knowing Jesus are still ringing in his ears and his steps are weighed down by his guilt and shame.

Is he afraid of what he might have to face in the dark bleakness of that night, as he now runs to Jesus tomb?

He isn’t the first to arrive, but Peter is the first one to dare to enter the tomb. It is the unnamed disciple who enters next and he “sees and believes…” Although “as yet, they do not understand the scripture…that Jesus must rise from the dead.”

You notice there are no hallelujahs, no cries of “Christ is Risen!” There is only confusion…grief…an empty tomb. And a Mystery…

The men return to their homes and leave Mary alone once again, weeping outside the tomb. She finally looks inside, and she sees two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying.

I can’t imagine the men wouldn’t have noticed two angels. So they must be there just for her…or does Mary see them because she isn’t looking for Jesus with her tear-swollen eyes, but with her aching and broken heart.

The angels ask her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” I always imagine that they are smiling and that they ask her very gently and kindly, because they already know and understand the joy of the empty tomb.

They are in on the big surprise, and they want to help her “see” the tomb for what it truly is…not an ending…but a new beginning.

Mary answers, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” She turns away from them, perhaps to begin running again…running somewhere…running no where…trying to outrun everything that has happened….

She glimpses a man she thinks is the gardener…in the darkness with tear-filled eyes, searching for Jesus stolen body, is it any surprise she doesn’t recognize him? Do we always recognize Jesus when we unexpectedly bump into him in the dark?

Jesus says, “Woman why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Mary cries out, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away!”

And then Jesus says, “Mary.” The good shepherd calls her by name. And Mary knows him for who he is.

Jesus says, “Mary.” And Mary knows him and she wraps herself around him.

Jesus gently says, “Do not cling to me…go to the others and let them know that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” The greatest gift that Jesus gives us is the assurance that God belongs to each of us and that we all belong to God.

“In the first creation story, God drove Adam and Eve from the Garden, from life to the knowledge and burden of death. But in God’s new creation, Jesus sends Mary out of the Garden rejoicing. He sends her from the certainty of death into the promise of new life.

She comes to the garden empty and she leaves filled with purpose. She is sent out to tell everyone that darkness has not overcome the Word made flesh.

She has seen her beloved Rabbi, and she now understands what she has seen. She has come face to face with Mystery. She has come face to face with God’s love in the flesh and in the Spirit.

She has come face to face with Resurrection and she can now rejoice and proclaim, “I have seen the Lord!” And in that proclamation is the promise of renewed life through Christ’s message of hope, faith, truth, peace, and love.

Mary comes to the tomb in darkness and she brings us along so that we, too, can discover that Jesus waits there for each of us. She brings us along so that we, too, can come face to face with Mystery. Face to face with God’s love reflected in all those around us. Face to face with the Spirit always present with us.

It’s hard for us to see when we are lost in the dark. We don’t always recognize Jesus in our midst. But the good news of Easter, is that even when we can’t see him, Jesus is present with us. Even in our darkest days, God is working on our behalf even if we don’t know it or recognize it or understand it.

Mary comes looking for Jesus in darkness but leaves filled with light. The light of joy and hope and love. Mary brings us face to face with the promise of Resurrection and new life.

So on this Easter day, we join in spirit with Mary as together we proclaim, “We have seen the risen Lord!” Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen indeed!

Let us pray, O great light of all lights, in us you shine, fragile lamps you made to shed your light, lanterns you burnished with love! To you we say, “All glory!” To you we say, “All praise!” We join together with all your creation and give thanks! Amen