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3/31/24 Easter Sunday Sermon - 10 a.m.

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John 20:1-18 (New Revised Standard Version)

20 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. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 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. 13 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.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 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.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 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.’” 18 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.

“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” 

—John 20:15


--Jan Richardson

You had not imagined 

that something so empty 

could fill you 

to overflowing, 

and now you carry 

the knowledge 

like an awful treasure 

or like a child 

that curls itself 

within your heart; 

how the emptiness 

will bear forth 

a new world 

you cannot fathom 

but on whose edge 

you stand. 

So why do you linger? 

You have seen, 

and so you are 

already blessed. 

You have seen, 

and so you are 

the blessing. 

There is no other word 

you need. 

There is simply 

to go 

and tell. 

There is simply 

to begin.

Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed! 

I believe in the mystery of that morning nearly two thousand years ago which ushered in the dawn of a new day, a new era. 

Today is Easter Sunday! The story doesn’t end here. It begins here. Easter morning beckons us to enter into the fifty-day season of Pentecost, we call it Eastertide. We let the mystery wash over us day after day, as we join with apostles past, present, and future interested in exploring what our faith means. 

During these fifty days of Eastertide, and during the remainder of our lives, we will experience doubts and confusion and fear right alongside of our amazement, right alongside of our faith. That is okay. We are in good company. Our Holy Scriptures make it abundantly clear that one need not be perfect or without doubt to be a follower of Jesus. 

The Holy Spirit of Christ descended on the apostles as tongues of fire at the first Festival of Pentecost. As we empty ourselves and make room within our hearts and minds, that same Spirit inhabits us.

The God of Love is present. The God of Compassion is with us. The God of Hope is leading us onward to the time when there is no more suffering in this world. It does not happen in a single day. It is happening over the course of many seasons. It was begun that morning two thousand years ago. It is our work to continue; to keep moving forward, to bring God’s promise of salvation and justice to all. 

Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed!

In the Gospel of John resurrection narrative, Mary Magdalene went out while it was still dark to anoint Jesus’ body as was the custom of the Jews at that time. She found the tomb empty but did not go in. Mary Magdalene immediately ran to tell Simon Peter and the other disciple the startling news. The two men immediately ran to the tomb. 

John then tells us that after seeing the empty tomb for themselves; Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved went home. Mary Magdalene stayed at the tomb, weeping. Why was she weeping? Because she did not yet understand; did not yet believe that good could come of this tragedy, this travesty of justice. She was weeping for what was lost. She was weeping for all that she feared would never be, the as yet unfulfilled promises made by Jesus, his promises for a just world for all. Mary was completely lost in her grief, but she has a moment of clarity when Jesus calls her by name. She recognizes his voice. Mary is overjoyed. She has seen Jesus! She knows that he lives! But how he lives has changed. 

We know that the hardest thing when someone dies is to let them go. Jesus tells Mary, do not hang on to me, do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended. We can imagine her experiencing great joy and tremendous grief in the very same moment. There will be grieving as she lets go of the old way of knowing Jesus and learns to understand the new way of knowing Jesus. 

Christ is risen. We know this. We know Christ is risen because we experience him in our lives. Christ is there in our joy and our sorrow, in our grief and in our gladness. Where there is love and hope the spirit of Christ is there. Where there is death and destruction, the spirit of Christ is there, too. We know this from Mary’s testimony, we know this from our own experiences. This morning we celebrate it as a community of believers. 

In John’s gospel, the two men went home but Mary Magdalene stayed. She wanted to be close to where Jesus had lain. She let herself weep. Belief came upon her gradually as she struggled to understand the message of the angels and then the bewildering turnabout when the one speaking to her was not a gardener but her beloved teacher. Mary experienced Jesus as that of familiar presence and a future promise. She had faith in what she was seeing, what she was hearing, even if she did not yet understand. For the second time that morning, she runs to the others, this time proclaiming, “I have seen the Lord!” 

More than two thousand years later we come to our faith in ways uniquely our own and yet remarkably similar to these first believers. Our individual life experiences, our culture, our gender, our privilege or lack of privilege all shape our encounters with the risen Christ. 

In a span of minutes or hours Mary Magdalene moves from deep sorrow and grief at not finding Jesus’ body in the tomb to surprise and overwhelming joy at his presence outside the tomb.

As it was for Mary and the disciples, may it be for us. In our darkest hours may we be comforted and consoled by Christ’s presence with us.

I wonder if Mary met the risen Christ first because she was open to experiencing Jesus in a new dimension. The others saw when they were ready. We will see when we are ready. My hope, my prayer for us, is that we recognize the risen Christ when we encounter him, or her, or them. Not once but over and over again. When our hearts are open, we are able to see Christ among us in the world, each and every day. When we practice seeing not only with our eyes, but with our hearts, then we will be open to meeting the Christ spirit in others. 

Mary proclaimed to the others, “I have seen the Lord!” My hope and prayer for us all is that we can say “I have seen the Lord!” with confidence, with incredulity, with regularity, with faith. My hope and prayer is that we not only see God in the usual people and places but that we also see God in unexpected people and places. 

I pray that we see the Living God engaged in ministry in our cities, in our rural communities, with our youth and our elders. You will find the Living God with our people living on the margins of society, those struggling with addictions, those experiencing food insecurity, those without a place to lay their heads at night. You will find the Living God wherever there is injustice, standing with those suffering, and standing beside those working to right wrongs and bring the new world order to fruition.

I have seen the Lord; the Living God! I have seen the resurrected Christ in the most unexpected people and places. And I see him in you, and in me, in all of us.  

We are here this morning to celebrate the glorious, unexpected, unlikely turn of events that defy logic and yet cannot be denied. We are here to celebrate the mystery of our faith. 

This morning as we celebrate the risen Christ among us may your hearts be open to it all – the grief, the wonder, the joy, the awe, and the mystery.

May you know the presence of the risen Christ; today, tomorrow, and in all of your days. 

Christ is risen. Christ is risen, indeed!


Rev. TJ Mack – March 31, 2024

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