Threatened With Resurrection

Crashing sorrow, unimaginable pain, incredulous disbelief, unbelievable joy. That is what I imagine Mary is feeling that first Easter morning. In all four Gospels, it is the women who stay at the cross and come to the tomb. Mary Magdalene gets special mention: she had stood, faithfully, lovingly and agonizingly, at the crucifixion. After the Sabbath, she was early at the tomb. Again, while others come and then go again, she stays, and there is a remarkable reunion. Let’s listen, as this dramatic encounter unfolds in John 20: 1-18

20:1 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.

20:2 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.”

20:3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.

20:4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.

20:5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.

20:6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there,

20:7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.

20:8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

20:10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

20:11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb;

20:12 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.

20:13 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.”

20:14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

20:15 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.”

20:16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).

20:17 Jesus said to 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.'”

20:18 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.

Do you wonder why Mary didn’t recognize Jesus? Have you ever not recognized someone who is very close to you? Or encountered someone in an unexpected place and you can’t figure out who it is. It’s happened to me… one Mother’s Day, the extended family got together for a brunch buffet at one of the hotels. One of my sisters got up to get some more breakfast, a minute or two later, I followed, but I couldn’t see her ahead of me in the lineup. You see, she had lost a significant amount of weight and my eyes did not recognize her new shape.

So imagine Mary that morning, she had seen Jesus beaten, stripped, crucified and taken away. Why, or how, on earth would she recognize him in the garden that morning? Of course she didn’t… until he called her by name… and then suddenly that familiar voice enabled her to see with resurrection eyes.

Do we have the courage to see with resurrection eyes? Or do you, since I will be leaving in a couple of months, do YOU have the courage to see with resurrection eyes?
Do you have the courage… the heart, because that is what courage is, progressing with heart, to leave behind who you were in order to become the new thing?

Sometimes it’s easier to stay in our tombs of old behaviors, beliefs and loyalties. But that’s not where Jesus is. Jesus is here calling you to the future.

Riverview United Church, Jesus is calling you to live out the words that are written above the sanctuary doors: Riverview United Church – A Place to grow in faith and love.

And to do so by examining everything you do and say through the lens of your Core Values:

• Focused on faith
• Caring and open
• Welcoming, accepting and inclusive
• Connected to the community

Nine Mile River United Church, Jesus is calling you to live out the words of your tag line: “A caring, accepting, community of faith.”

And to do so by examining everything you do and say through the lens of your Core Values:

• To pray and seek faith.
• Loving, compassionate and encouraging.
• To serve and engage with our community.

Parker Palmer writes: Resurrection – the hope of new life – can feel threatening. Figurative forms of death can feel comforting, while resurrection – the hope of new life – can feel threatening. Sometimes we choose death-in-life – as in an unhealthy relationship, cynicism that shuts us down, non-stop negativity towards others, compulsive over-activity, work that compromises our integrity, substance abuse, etc. – because we are afraid of what might come our way if we embrace resurrection-in-life. (A Downside-Up Easter Meditation)

What might happen if you embrace resurrection-in-life? We celebrate resurrection today… we celebrate that death is not the end… we celebrate that there is a new way to be in relationship with God, each other and the entire earth.

Rachel Keefe writes: What we say we believe doesn’t matter if there is no evidence of that belief in our lives. If we say we believe in the Resurrection and there is no trace of it in our lives, what does it matter? If we say we have New Life yet continuously participate in systems of destruction and discrimination, are we the disciples we claim to be? If we say we love as God loves and do nothing to save the lives around us, are we really the Body of Christ? If we claim to be Easter people and remain trapped in Good Friday, where is the power of the empty tomb?

Jesus called people to repentance first, and then to the task of bringing the Realm of God into the here and now. In other words, Jesus challenged all who would be disciples to move from death to life. This is a full transformation. Yes, it can take years, a lifetime really, but it isn’t a half-way kind of thing. We’re either trusting in God to work in and through us or we are trusting in ourselves far too much.

We have had our Good Friday moments over the past three years… and perhaps it seemed that resurrection would never come. But Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is more powerful and more transformative and more life giving than any of the Good Fridays we have experienced!

Jim Friedrich writes: Resurrection is about the healing and restoration of wounded and severed relationships: relationships between God and humanity, between human persons and, ultimately, among all the elements of creation. An Orthodox theologian, Patriarch Athenagoras, puts the case in the widest possible terms: “The Resurrection is not the resuscitation of a body; it is the beginning of the transfiguration of the world.”

Thanks be to God for the challenge and opportunity of living resurrection!

And all God’s people said! Amen! 


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