April 1, 2018
Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, John 20:1-18
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb….” She had hoped to eat just one more meal or hear him tell one more of those strange stories that deconstruct her world, yet fills her with purpose and peace.
We all know this heartbreak at the cemetery, knowing that we will never again know that laugh or story or touch.
But there is something else that has been lost forever with the death of her Rabbi and Friend. When Jesus is proclaiming the Commonwealth of his Abba-Father, Mary knows that what he teaches is true.
When he says “love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you”, it feels real as gravity. When he sits with the outcasts it makes perfect sense that this is how one should live. When he says don’t worry about tomorrow, it is easy to focus on today. When he says the Commonwealth of God is like a certain man who had two sons, she knows he is revealing the love of God for those lost in the far country.
When he tells of a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho who falls among robbers and is left for dead, she sees a vision of a world brought together, not by race, gender, identity, job, class, or even nation, but by the presence of Jesus as the center of God’s story.
Now, Jesus is dead and all his teachings are buried with him.
Why believe anything he said or did when the best and brightest of his generation put him on trial, find him guilty, and execute him as a heretic and rebel.
All that talk about turning the other cheek and walking the extra mile, is all a bunch of nonsense.
At the tomb there is no need to believe, much less do, anything Jesus said or did.
But then Mary hears Jesus call her name and she knows that Jesus and everything he ever did has been vindicated by God.
Resurrection has brought more than Jesus out of the grave. Resurrection reboots everything he stands for.
Let’s remember that resurrection is not the same thing as resuscitation. We’ve all heard of people who died and then were brought back to life, only to have to die again—that’s not resurrection.
We all know people who claim to have seen a ghost, and ghosts are in the Bible, but a ghost is an apparition of someone who is dead, while Jesus’ resurrection transforms even death into New Life.
Many people believe that when you die you go to heaven. But dying and floating off to heaven is not resurrection.
As N. T. Wright puts it, “Resurrection was not just life after death, but a newly embodied life after ‘life after death.’” Matthew for Everyone, page 219
And resurrection isn’t just for one person but will happen at the end of the age to all.
Think about the artwork you’ve seen of the resurrection. Usually Jesus is presented standing by himself, maybe carrying a flag or with his hand raised. Mary Magdalene or Peter or the disciples may be in the painting, but the only one who has been resurrected is Jesus.
In a recent book called Resurrecting Easter, John and Sarah Crossan say those of us in the West are trained to think of Resurrection as only applying to a single individual named Jesus. Therefore, Easter is the day something interesting happened long ago to a dead Jew, but it has little to do with me here and now.
But the Crossans find a very different image of resurrection in the paintings of the Eastern Church, like the Greek Orthodox Church. In those paintings the risen Jesus is depicted, not by himself, but reaching out and grabbing others, bringing them into his resurrection: often he is pulling Adam and Eve out of the tomb. Other paintings show Jesus pulling the old and sick with him into Resurrection. Resurrection is not just about Jesus but about God who is resurrection, transforming the whole human race, indeed the whole cosmos.
On this day God who is resurrection begin the transformation of Mary, Peter, and John, from cowering in fear into ambassadors of the Way of Jesus who is Resurrection.
So what does this have to do, if anything, with your life and mine—for the life of all 7 billion of us of this spinning planet?
Each of us came into church today carrying our pasts with us. Or you could say our pasts carried us here today because our past is a force that pushes us in definite directions—parts of our past push us toward well-being, while other parts push us toward ill-being.
The times we were unloving and cold-hearted in the past, give us a momentum to keep going in that direction.
When we’ve been anxious in the past, we can expect more anxiety in the future.
When we chose to isolate ourselves and have a pity party yesterday, we are choosing today to experience more loneliness, which is said to be one of the great psychological problem of our times. Recently Britain appointed its first “minister for loneliness,” who is charged with tackling what Prime Minister Theresa May calls the “sad reality of modern life.”
Vivek Murthy, the former United States surgeon general, says that loneliness and social isolation are “associated with a reduction in life span similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/09/opinion/sunday/loneliness-health.html
It’s ironic that we, who are so well connected in virtual reality, feel so disconnected in embodied reality.
Our past has too much momentum so we “can’t stop this train”, as John Mayer sings.
We, like the disciples after the crucifixion, find that our past traumas are creating neural grooves that determine our future, so that we can say, “past is prologue”.
What derails this train for the disciples is the encounter with resurrection in the crucified Jesus. In this encounter with Jesus they learn that God is resurrection, who lures us into a transformed future.
The past scars are still there—but now they don’t recall the trauma, but of the transformation that God is doing in our lives.
Our God is stronger than death.
As the praise song puts it, Our God is an Awesome God.
Our God is resurrection—at all times and in all places.
Why does Mother Theresa pick up that first outcast dying on the streets of Calcutta in 1948?
Why does Martin Luther King, Jr lead a strike for the sanitation workers in Memphis, a move that gets him murdered on a motel balcony fifty years ago this coming Wednesday?
Why does the community of All Saints’ work with Habitat for Humanity, Food for Friends, and the Thrift Shop?
Why do we gather together every Sunday for worship, education, and fellowship?
Why does the teenage girl I saw at the Chelmsford March for our lives last weekend hold a sign that says, “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
I read that the last time Easter fell on April Fools Day was in 1956, but every Easter makes fools of us all who think our world and our lives are beyond the power of God who is resurrection.
Jesus Christ is Risen today~and so are you!