Friday, April 29, 2011

Easter Sunday: I Have Seen the Lord!

My Easter sermon for this year. Love this story!

I Have Seen the Lord!
John 20.1-18

Easter is here! I love this day. I love the beauty of colorful flowers, the crisp white fabric adorning the Table & the cross. I fondly remember the Easters of my childhood –the sanctuary of my childhood church adorned with banners hanging high & filled with paper butterflies. There was such a sense of joy in the air. The waiting of Lent was over. It was time for a celebration. And, so we celebrate today & here once again the story of Christ’s resurrection. It is told through the eyes of a woman, who saw the Lord.

We have been living the story throughout this Lenten season has we have made the journey with Jesus to Jerusalem. We walked with Christ through these past forty days, encountering Jesus along the way – from the temptations in the desert to meeting Nicodemus in the night to the healing of the blind man to the woman at the well. And, we reflected on where we are & where we are heading. Last Sunday, we waved our palms high & shouted “Hosanna!” just as the crowds of people did so long ago upon Christ’s triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. But, then the crowds’ shouts of joy quickly turned into something else. On Thursday, we gathered here, around the Table, to mark his last meal with the disciples & to hear the story of his final days on the earth. Good Friday came, with some of us gathered with others in the community, to reflect on the scene at the cross & Jesus’ burial. Then, we waited, in the silence & the grief. And, our journeying & our waiting have brought us to this day, where we are truly able to exclaim – “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”

Today’s part of the story begins right where we left off – at the tomb. Mary Magdalene was the first one to arrive there, even before the sun rose. She was searching for Jesus. She had come to finish the preparations of his body for burial. But, she also came to grieve the loss of her friend, her teacher, who had been killed. However, upon her arrival, she was startled to discover the stone was rolled away & his body was nowhere in sight.

Her first instinct is to run from the empty tomb to find the disciples. When she found Simon Peter & another disciple, she proclaimed “he is gone…they have taken him out of the tomb & we don’t know where they have laid him.” And so, the two disciples ran towards the tomb to see it for themselves. They looked all around the empty tomb, saw the linen burial cloths lying around on the ground, & they returned to their homes, in a state of mourning over the loss of their beloved teacher, who truly was indeed gone.

Then, Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb, filled with deep sadness for she believes Jesus is gone. She is weeping outside of the tomb & when she is finally able to look inside, she discovered that she was not alone. There were two angels who ask her – why are you weeping? Mary still does not believe Jesus was raised from the dead, so she tells them they have taken away the body of the Lord. And in her deep grief & unbelief, she turns around, only to encounter the risen Christ right in front of her eyes, but she does not recognize him at first. Jesus asks her the same question as the angels – why are you weeping? And, then she asks him where he took the body, assuming that this stranger is the gardener. He said her name, Mary, & it was then that she recognized him as Jesus. What a sight it must have been for her – to encounter the risen Christ! And, her initial reaction is to cling to her beloved teacher, but he instructs her to go forth & tell others he has gone to be with God.
And, so she goes out & shares the good news of his resurrection with all those who would listen. Her proclamation of “I have seen the Lord” is such a powerful witness. She says what she knows to be true, & even though she desperately wanted to cling to him, she was able to go forth to share the good news. Mary, on that day so long ago, spoke the eternal truth we praise to this day – life does indeed conquer death.

Although our reading ends here today, the story is far from over. We live as an Easter people, as people of the resurrection. And, as resurrection people, we are called to live as witnesses to this miracle story. We are called to share the good news that we have seen the Lord! We are to proclaim our faith to whoever will listen to us. For, we are indeed the body of Christ & the story continues on with each one of us.

Our faith is one of action – of serving the needs we see in our community & in our world. We do so through our efforts of feeding the hungry through the Parkesburg Food Cupboard & Mobile Food Pantry. We do so through growing nourishing veggies in our garden & giving them away to others. We do so through teaching our children, our youth, & each other in our Sunday School classes each week. We do so through visiting each other in our homes, sending notes of care to those in hospital or who are homebound. We do so through caring about each other, in more ways than one. And, we do so by seeing the face of Christ in every single person we encounter in our daily lives. In doing so, we will indeed see the Lord.

So, while we celebrate the glorious day of Christ’s resurrection today, it does not end here. The story continues on with us. Mary Magdalene was able to share the new with all whom she saw that day, boldly proclaiming that Christ had indeed risen from the dead. What a powerful message for the world. May we be so bold as to share it too. For indeed, Christ has risen! He has risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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