Rev. Nick Reed
Christ Is Risen
It is possible as we gather for worship this morning with all the joy and praise, trumpets, beautiful lilies, and repeated proclamations that Christ is Risen, we forget the grief and despair of how the day started. “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…” The description of the early morning must have matched all the darkness of despair, grief, and confusion that Mary was feeling. Throughout the gospel of John darkness has little to do with a certain time of day, and instead holds a deeper meaning.
Darkness in John’s Gospel is related to all of those things of the world that is opposite of God’s glorious ways. As we hear that first line of today’s Good News “while it was still dark”, and encounter Mary’s story of darkness we might relate to how she was feeling. The setting might be different for us, but the darkness is something we experience too.
Darkness of Easter morning is the kind of dark when you find yourself in a doctor’s office trying to process all that you are learning about your poor health. The darkness of Easter morning is the kind of dark when human schemes attempting to gain power cause so much violence and destruction. The darkness of Easter morning is the kind of dark when loved ones are no longer by your side. Darkness in John’s gospel is death. Four times this Easter passage tells us that Mary is weeping and grieving the darkness that surrounds her. It was dark, and she is alone.
As we encounter Mary’s story with our own story may we remember that in the moment when she is crying so hard with grief that she is bent over, that is the exact moment she experiences the Good News of God’s love through Christ. In the midst of her own darkness and grief Christ is present with her, and stands before her and being the Good Shepherd he calls her by name. As we hear the story transform from dark grief to resurrection light, it is hard not to connect the very opening of Good News of John’s Gospel in chapter 1, “The light shines in the darkness, and darkness did not overcome it.”
Since that very first easter morning there is no denying that God’s children continue to have our moments of brokenness, pain, and grief in this world. We have our moments when we see the world through tears. It is in those moments that we can remember the significance, the hope, and the joy in fact that Mary found an empty tomb and experienced Christ’s comforting presence. It is in those moments we can let hope overwhelm us like it overwhelmed Mary. In the moments when life is difficult we can remember what the good news of the empty tomb means for God’s children. It means that He is Risen! It means Jesus is the Lord over all things. It means that if death can not separate us from God, nothing will ever stand between us and God’s love. It means that God through Jesus Christ is always present in the midst of pain, grief, and confusion.
Mary’s encounter with Christ tells us all that Christ’s presence knows no boundaries. Christ resurrection is not just a story of the past it is a story of the now. God through our risen Christ has revealed a new creation, an unimaginable future in which God’s love endures all things.
A resurrected Jesus is present before Mary, and all she wants to do is hug him. Do you blame her? Jesus is tells 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.”
The Easter stories in the gospels proclaim God’s love is present with us always through Christ, AND they are also commissioning stories for followers of Christ. In these resurrection narratives whether the setting is an empty tomb, a winding road, or a locked door, Christ not only appears, but sends believers out into the world to tell everyone that God’s love through Christ reigns over all things.
Unlike Peter and the Beloved Disciple, Mary does not remain silent, and she lifts up words of hope in the midst of darkness. She tells all the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.’ Mary is is the first apostle, the first one sent to share hope and Good News with others. Her words might have been the first proclamation of Good News, but since that moment so many faithful have joined the chorus lifting up hope to a world in need.
That is what today is about. It is about joining the chorus and proclaiming hopeful Good News to one another, even when a broken and fearful world wants to tell us others things. Mary’s story reminds Christ’s followers that we have a role as Easter People to point one another to God’s hopeful promise of love. Like Mary, we are commissioned by Christ to go and share with one another the hopeful Good News that even when we feel overwhelmed with the darkness of the earthly things of this world, God’s love through Christ will always be the light that shines in the darkness.
This worship space this morning is full of so many people who faithfully have joined the chorus in sharing the Good News of God’s love through Christ that endures all things. In this community of faith Christ’s faithful for generations have been sharing their own hopeful proclamations of God’s love for us through Christ. Like a rock flung into water each one of our hopeful proclamations of God’s love of will ripple and reach out and bring hope and love to those around us.
Today we are witnessing the impact of all those years of responding to our calling to faithfully proclaim as a church the hopeful Good News of God’s love through Christ. Eight youth from our church are professing their faith today that Jesus Christ is Lord of All. Eight youth that you have taught in Sunday School, shared your faith with at VBS, shared the good news with for years as you worshiped next to them. For the last eight months they have been studying scripture and theology along with pastors and elders of the church to prepare for this day.
As part of their confirmation journey they were asked to write a faith statement proclaiming what they believed about God. When they met with our church’s session seeking to join the church by profession of faith, they each openly shared their faith statement with the elders of the church. I must say that the highlight of my week last week was reading their faith statements that they faithfully and sincerely prepared. Since our proclamations of God’s love bring others hope I wanted to share a portion of their proclamations of faith with you all.
“I believe that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are each separate and all one. The alpha and the omega. The beginning, and the end.“…“I believe in God, Jesus and the holy spirit to be our protectors.”…“I believe that I am created by God, and that I am loved by God.“…“I believe I am a child of God, and that nothing I can do good or bad will change that.”…“ I believe that humans are imperfect and we do sin but we will be forgiven.“…“I believe Jesus is God’s son who teaches me God’s will through his actions and stories.“…“I believe that Jesus lived a sinless life and died for our sins.“…“ I believe that God sent Jesus, the Messiah, to save us from our sins, and that he is the light of our world.”
Our proclamations about our faith in our “God who is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” these proclamations mean something. They are a source of hope for us.
As you witness these eight young people profess their faith in the Good News of God’s love for us through Jesus Christ may their experience be one that brings you hope, and be a light to any darkness in your life. May witnessing their profession of faith make you even more eager to share your own testimony of hope with others.
Today may we proclaim together the good news that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. May we proclaim together the good news that the tomb was empty, Jesus is risen. May we proclaim to one another the good news that nothing can stand in the way of God’s love; not a stone, not evil, not our failures and schemes, not grief, and certainly not death. On that early morning of the first day of the week while it was still dark it was revealed to the world that God’s love reigns over all things.
Like Mary we have a story to tell and story to share of a love so powerful it rolls away stones, wipes away tears. A faithful love that is so powerful that death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more. Our instructions are clear, go and proclaim to others the hopeful good news, while it was still dark the stone has been rolled away, the tomb is empty. Go and tell the good news that Christ is Risen! Alleluia Amen!