Sunday, March 31, 2013

On Easter Morning Reflections (A sermon from last year's Sunrise Service)

"Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, "I’ve seen the Lord.""

Mary Magdalene by He Qi
There are four accounts of the morning after Jesus was resurrected, all four include Mary Magdalene, but John’s account is the only one that includes that John, himself, saw what had happened. I can imagine Mary walking toward the tomb that morning. It was dark when she left the house. I think about the days before for her journey to the grave, the last time she’d seen Jesus he was hanging on the cross,  she’d heard that Joseph and Nicodemus had hurriedly buried him in a nearby tomb, that they had wrapped him and placed spices with him, but she wanted to make sure it was right, she prepared herself to see Jesus dead body before her, and she was looking to bring dignity and worth to her Lord’s body, to make things proper. I can hear Mary’s thoughts as she walked to the tomb, her heart must have been so heavy, all hope lost or so it seemed. Her Messiah, her friend, her teacher is dead. All that they had worked for seemed for nothing, and it was dark … yes it was oh so dark.
Mary enters the garden that morning and walks to the cave. Her first impression is shock. All the way to there she’s been worrying about how she’s going to move the stone away, and there the grave stands … open.

She slowly looks in and sees that Jesus is not there. Now, this is where those four accounts come into play. All the others say Mary goes away with the others and tells the disciples what they have seen, but in this account, Mary runs! I imagine her racing frantically back to the village. I can see her slamming the front door open, shaking Peter and John violently to wake up … HE’s GONE! HE’S NOT THERE! THEY’VE TAKEN HIM! GET UP!

Then they start running. As fast as they can, John makes sure to mention that he gets there first … just like a man to brag about how fast he can run when we are talking about the most pivotal moment in salvation! Anyway, Peter and John walk into the tomb, it’s empty. Their minds are blank, they believe something has happened but they don’t know what, and my imagination runs wild here, Mary standing at the doorway, “What is it?” What do you see?” John and Peter, slowly tuning -- walking away. Mary stays behind and just weeps.

Those tears must have been so bitter. It’s over, it’s really over. All hope is lost. Even Peter and John have left. There’s nothing here, not even a body to hold and cling to. There is only darkness.

Oh it’s dark, so very very dark.

Then, out of nowhere angels are there and a man appears. He walks up to Mary, speaks, and she jumps. She’s startled out of her self pity, the world still exist around her, someone is intruding on her sorrow here … he looks her in the eye and says, “Why are you crying, Who are you looking for?” Mary’s eyes are bloodshot and red, she’s been crying for hours, maybe that’s why she doesn’t recognize this man, she begs, “Are you the gardener? Have you moved him? Where is he? WHERE IS MY LORD?!”

And that’s the moment. The moment we figure out what’s happened, this man looks deep into those fearful eyes and he whispers, “Mary.”

Her heart leaps out of her chest! She screams, Rabbi!! She’s so excited that she grabs him, and he has to rebuke her to not touch him, the time for friendship and celebration has not yet come … and instructs her, now GO! RUN! Tell the others …

For Mary, it’s not dark anymore … there’s light.

And that light shines for us this morning. It’s in the water and the wind, in the sky, and in that sunrise that we’ve been blessed to witness. And that light, it’s right here with us. You see, this story is about hope. It’s about a second chance for humanity and the world. Jesus’ resurrection points to a new beginning that teaches there’s never a place that’s too dark, that Jesus can’t overcome. There’s never a road that Jesus won’t travel with us, there is no place, in Heaven and or on Earth, in death or in life, that God can’t penetrate with a single ray of hope. Christ’s victory over death marks a turning point in the world, and in our own lives. It’s a story about starting over. It’s a story about rising above sin and death to be made new. It’s a story of fulfilled promises and everlasting life!

For us, it’s an opportunity to start again. Wherever we are on our journey. We’ve all walked the path of hopelessness. We’ve been through the dark. And it was, oh so dark.

But today there is light.

Because just as the sun rose that first morning, it rises for us and we can stand tall knowing that, like Mary, we may have walked somberly toward a tomb, but, because of Christ, we can run in the other direction toward a living God, SHOUTING – MY LORD IS NOT HERE – HE IS RISEN!!

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