He Is Risen!
As Mary walked in the darkness of the early morning to go to the place where they placed Jesus body; images and sounds of the past few days had to be unfolding in her mind. Betrayal. Humiliation. Death. Grief. She was so grieve stricken, she was numb. Her grief turned to horror when she arrived at the tomb and Jesus’ body was gone. In panic and confusion Mary runs to tell the others.
While Peter and the Beloved disciple go in to see Mary’s news with their own eyes, Mary Magdalene can’t bear it. After they return to their homes, Mary stays and just weeps. She is crying so hard she is bent over…and wonders who would take Jesus body? That’s when Jesus appears to her. But she doesn’t recognize him, she thinks he is a gardener. But Jesus is the good shepherd who knows his own and calls them by name. He calls her name. She instantly goes from numb—not knowing what to believe, to being overwhelmed with joy and hope. Mary has witnessed death being triumph by new life.
“There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.” These words are attributed to the late Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero. Words that lift up a powerful reminder and awareness that the things of this world may lead to brokenness, pain, isolation, and grief. Yet faithful words that offer us hope that in our tearful eyes we can experience hope and promise.
On a Sunday when we typically gather together in large gatherings in our bright and vibrant spring colors we might in the past on “normal Easter Sundays” have overlooked the fact that the first witness to the Gospel was someone who was alone with tears of sadness in her eyes. Isolated, alone, and outside an empty tomb, a resurrected Jesus becomes present in Mary’s moment of grief and confusion. A resurrected Jesus stands next to her in that moment. In that moment with tears still fresh in her eyes she recognized Jesus in all his glory. Christ’s presence joins her in her isolation and her fears, and transforms her from someone who was weeping death to someone who is rejoicing new life.
Since that very first easter morning there is no denying that God’s children have 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. 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. The empty tomb means God’s love through Christ endures all things!
Mary’s story is inspiring for us all not only for the way she experiences hope and joy in the good news of God’s steadfast love, but also in the way she shares that hope and joy with others. Jesus tells Mary, “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.” Scripture tells us that Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”.
Mary is sent out by Jesus to the community. Mary is the first apostle, the first one sent for a purpose to share and proclaim the good news. She has witnessed first hand God’s good news of God’s enduring love and she is sent by Jesus to tell others.
At first glance when we hear the words “brothers” and “disciples” in our NRSV translation it sounds like an exclusive club that will hear the Good News. The greek word disciples in verse 18 is used later in the gospel to denote a larger community of faith rather than just a small circle of 12 disciples. The community that Mary is sent to are all God’s children, brothers and sisters in the family of faith. The community that Mary is sent to is one that is never meant to be exclusive but always meant to be inclusive. If the Good News means God’s love endures all things then the Good News of God’s love through Jesus Christ is for all of God’s creation, the insider, the outsider, the lost, the found, the doubter, the believer.
Mary is not only the first apostle sent out, but she is the first person to preach a sermon of Good News. “I have seen the Lord.” A simple but powerful sermon to a community struggling with doubt and fear. A simple and powerful sermon that would cause a ripple effect with the community she preaches to. Her sermon shared the Good News that God’s love has overcome death! God’s love endures all things. Generation after generation of believers will follow in Mary’s footsteps and proclaim the Good News of the Empty Tomb, the Good News of God’s love.
Preaching or proclaiming the Good News is essential to Christ’s church. Archbishop Oscar Romero has many more powerful words to reflect on in our own discipleship, but when it comes to our call to preaching in a broken and fearful world these particular words stand out most…“Let us not tire of preaching love; it is the force that will overcome the world. Let us not tire of preaching love…love must win out; it is the only thing that can.” Mary’s five word sermon proclaimed an essential message to the world about LOVE, God’s love for the world through Jesus Christ. Her sermon proclaimed to the world that God’s love reigns forever.
Something we all can relate to today is that Mary did not preach this first sermon in a sanctuary building but did so in a gathering in someone’s home. Church is so often associated with magnificent and meaningful buildings, but todays scripture readings remind us that church is anywhere when people are gathered and the Gospel of Christ is proclaimed. In our other reading this morning Peter finds himself preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Cornelius’ home. Paul would do the same as he traveled from town to town. The home was an intricate part of the early church, an intricate part of the community of faith.
This morning many of us are gathered in our own homes experiencing the Easter story in possibly a disorienting way compared to previous years. There is not a choir singing a Hallelujah chorus this morning, there is not a brass quartet adding exuberance to our hymns. Our worship space this morning is not full of Easter lilies. We are not sitting next to our church neighbor and greeting each other with joyful smiles and good news from the comforts of the church pews. Our worship space today is unique. As you sit at home it might feel weird to watch this service on your tv or listen to it on the radio and take part in an Easter worship service with our community of faith in every time and every space. While this all might be disorienting from the “normal”, let us not lose sight on the fact that we still have Good News to share. The tomb was empty! Jesus Christ is the Lord over all things! Let us not tire of preaching love. Let us not forget that even with all the disorienting things, the message to hear and to proclaim to the community around us remains the same…He is risen!”
Mary went to the disciples homes and proclaimed her sermon “I have seen the Lord.” While we might not have brass quartets and special music, we still have our own individual sermons to proclaim from our homes. In a world that is disoriented, confused, and grieving what would your Good News be that you want to proclaim from your home for all to hear? What do you want to share with others to let them know why the empty tomb is significant for you? What is the message of Good News that you hold dear that you would like the world to hear?
Whether it is short and simple news like “He is Risen” or a longer sermon like Peter’s message to Cornelius’ house. On this Easter morning let us remember that we have been great news to share with a world in need. So may we share our sermons from our homes with those we see or talk to from a far today and the days ahead. Let us not tire of preaching love. May we share the wonderful good news that the stone was rolled away, the tomb is empty. He is risen! May we share that if death does not separate us from God, nothing will stand between us and God’s love for us through Jesus Christ. God’s love reigns forever! Alleluia Amen!