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4/9/23 Sermon

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John 20:1-18

New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

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. 2 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.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’s head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed, 9 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 touch 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.

Christ is risen!

We know Christ is risen. Mary saw him at the tomb; we have her witness. We have the writers telling us the story in the Gospels. We hear the story in the hymns we sing.

We know Christ is risen because we see God in the people around us, no matter where we are in this world.

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, the spirit of Christ is there.

We know this. This morning we celebrate it as a community of believers. Our ancestry goes back to those that ventured out in the wee hours of the day and found an empty tomb.

Of these three witnesses in John’s gospel passage for this morning, all came to believe through different means, and at different times.

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 disciple whom Jesus loved, arrived at the tomb but hesitated to go in. When he was ready he entered the tomb, he saw for himself that Jesus was not there and immediately believed.

Simon Peter, although not the first to arrive at the tomb, charged right in. He was by many accounts throughout our gospels, the impulsive one.

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.

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.

After the two male disciples went home Mary stays at the tomb and weeps. While there she encounters angels of the Lord and the risen Christ. For the second time that morning, she runs to the others, this time proclaiming, “I have seen the Lord!”

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 we may be comforted and consoled by Christ’s presence with us.

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.

Where have we seen the Lord lately?

Some of us saw Christ this week in the woman that was compelled to right a wrong. She read about a three-year old child’s anguish because their bike was stolen. The “good Samaritan” purchased a new bike, helmet, and lock and drove for two hours to deliver it to the Police Department in the community where the theft occurred. The officers receiving the bike were moved by the woman’s story: she is recently homeless and has been living in her car.

Some of us saw Christ in those police officers who started a fundraising effort to help this woman secure housing.

Many of us saw Christ in the adults at the school in Nashville who selflessly put themselves between bullets and children.

We may see Christ in those waiting at the border, those in overcrowded boats, those traveling with nothing but the clothes on their back in search of safety, freedom, new life.

I have seen the Lord! I have seen the resurrected Christ in the most unexpected people and places. And I see him in you, and in me.

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

May your weeping be transformed into joy and belief.

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 – April 9, 2023

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