1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
4 April 2021
The Resurrection of Jesus
Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter
20 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. 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.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look[a] into the tomb; 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. 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.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 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.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew,[b] “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 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.’” 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
Sometimes we jump to conclusions before all the facts are in and sometimes we see what we imagine we ought to see rather than what is right before our eyes. I believe that is what happened to Mary. Jesus was dead, crucified, laid in the tomb and gone from sight. She did not expect to see Jesus alive and standing outside the tomb.
Mary expected to have the powerful do as they pleased and for her, the fact that they were pleased to utterly destroy Jesus was reason enough – upon seeing the tomb opened – to run to Peter and John and blurt out:
“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,
and we do not know where they have laid him.”
What else would you expect if you lived at the bottom of the food chain… helpless against Church and State and dominated by a foreign power. Only a woman was brave enough or Care Less enough to go to the tomb at all – what more could the world do to her?
Then she tells Peter and John what has happened and they arrive in time to stare at the linen cloths… perhaps they lingered in the tomb wondering what to do next. Scripture says…. They then went home.
And Mary waits outside doing what comes naturally… weeping… feeling completely helpless and bewildered. And doing what was completely appropriate for a tomb. Perhaps she decided that since the men had left she would look inside too. They had seen nothing but she saw angels! And they asked her what was wrong…..?
Picture this… a woman alone… in a tomb talking to angels… not an everyday occurance…Then she turns to see a man outside the tomb and very sensibly presumes he is a caretaker for the garden in which the tomb sits. She asks where he has taken the body – it might have been this man who was responsible – then she suggests she will get the body …. To return it to the tomb? To hide it? To secure it?
In this chaotic world of loss and change we can easily feel lost, as though we are looking for our God. God – the ruler of our lives who is not lost, except to our vision.
Not a new phenomenon. The world has always been in chaotic change. Jesus of Nazareth broke into the chaos in one clear, self-disclosing and centering act. Jesus proclaimed: I am the way and the truth and the Life, no one comes to the father but by me.” The gospel message is clear. God is at the center and we find God through Jesus Christ. God is not lost. Why ask, where is God in this world? Maybe because we live much of our life between Good Friday, when the way was blocked, the truth denied and Jesus life was given up on the cross; and Easter Sunday. We live as though our God is laid in the tomb, beyond our reach and sealed away by the powers of our everyday life.
As the confirmations watched the movie: The Shack, before Good Friday Services…
I heard the main character being challenged to stop looking at the world thru the “knot hole” of his pain, and in the plot he is in serious pain due to loss and guilt.
If indeed we are an Easter people, who worship a living God, we must leave Calvary and go to the tomb with Mary Magdalene. We must go to the upper room with the disciples, in order to confront what it feels like to live in a world of crucifixions, where we cannot bodily hold on to God. We must figure out where we shall look for God and how we will know him when we have found Him. We live in this world like Mary and the disciples, tossed between the joyful knowledge that He is Risen and the feeling of personal powerlessness, fear, anger and despair. We have no sure protection for our children, our parents or ourselves against emotional, physical and spiritual violence. How then, will we leave here rejoicing and saying “Up from the grave He arose!”
Some of us today come here with heavy hearts, in that respect we are like Mary Magdalene who stood outside the tomb weeping. Many come here looking for Christ in the experience of powerlessness and despair.
For 4 years at seminary I lived across from the school’s stone chapel. I had the key because I was the organist, and time without number I went there after study, in the midnight hour to “find God.” I knew God was not locked away there, but still I came. And I was not always alone. I met others there in the dark night of personal turmoil, sitting on those pews. In a changing world, people come to the church looking for something to cling to, the body of Jesus.
A familiar body that they can grasp as a life line. Even today we are fascinated with the idea of what happened to Jesus’ body. We can read scientific endeavors to explain the reality of that body. Was it entombed in the shroud, the box of bones marked Jesus. The concept of Resurrection seems remote and fantastic.
I say to you today – The church is the visible body of Christ — only the church can ask those who come – Why do you weep? As the angels in the tomb and the gardener at the door asked Mary so long ago. We, the church must ask and allow our hearts to hear the powerlessness in the words: “I’m alone, they’ve taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid Him.” In effect: “I can’t find God anymore and I need Him.”
Or the anger in the words “If YOU have taken him away, tell me where you have laid Him. Give Him back!” We can be angel messengers, because the Gardener has indeed been taken into glory and baptized us with the spirit and empowered us with grace.
It will not be easy, the gardens of the spiritual lives we live and the gardens of the spiritual lives in people we meet are overgrown. The gardener is not expected in the overgrowth which covers our spiritual garden’s beauty.
Another visual from The Shack was the wild, beautiful, chaotic garden that is life. But seen from a distance we see pattern and art….
Like the disciples who were afraid after the crucifixion and hid away in the upper room, we are afraid and may be locked behind our personal doors of suffering. But we must startle one another into an awareness of our togetherness here with God.
In the midst of our common fears and pain we challenge each other to turn around and recognize Jesus in whatever everyday work clothes he may come: is he in the butcher or the baker or the candlestick maker? We can confirm each others’ sense that, incredible as it may seem, the Christ has passed through the locked doors and that He is in our midst. For this is the Good News of the Gospel today. He is Risen – up from the grave He arose!
Because Jesus loves us, though he was crucified, even by our own sinfulness, He actively seeks us out. Finding God in this world of change is not a treasure hunt – with an inanimate object as the prize. Jesus is standing in our midst and d our task is to recognize Him. In spite of the fact that our culture suggests that o ne person pursues while the other flees, creating an elusive game called love. We know that God’s love is ours. That if we turn to run toward Him, we will find Him running toward us.
But perhaps the most difficult question of all is: “How do we know that it is God that we have found and been found by? How do we avoid mistaking him for the gardener? How do we avoid embracing a pretender for our affections? Of all that this scripture speaks to me, the answer to these questions is the most important.
1st we hear that Jesus is the one who knows and calls each one of us by name. Even though Mary does not recognize Jesus, she recognized His voice. The tone that said I love you, I care about you and I know you.
Several years back, I was speaking to a woman in, ministry who was about my age. We talked about our frustrations and joys – And then I asked her “How do you make it through?” You see, she had 7 children, 3 or 4 of whom were her sister’s that she was raising because her sister could not find enough emotional stability to mother them. She herself was a single parent and the youngest of these children was seriously developmentally delayed. No one in our larger group, working at the hospital had seen her as weak enough to be frustrated until then. She smiled and said “Yes, I have a spiritual guide, a friend that KNOWS me.” And in a bonding moment she added “You are the only one who has asked me How I make it through”
 Jesus is the one who knows each of us personally and calls us by name. But even more than this He comes to us with Peace. As individuals He comes to us with the Peace that reconciles us to each other in community, that calls us to sacrifice for each other and gives us a majority in a world where each of us alone would perish. Here is power- the power to weld a self-centered people into people for others.
When people refuse to prioritize persons over ambition, there is no Peace. There is also no Power. The parties to this kind of relationship are always “in each other’s way.” This is the story of racism, of business, of politics in our world. It is also the story of runaway children, struggling marriages and lonely people everywhere. Scared, lonely people at the bottom of the ladder and at the top are desperate people. They are people who cannot see Christ for the Gardening clothes he wears. They are people who cannot celebrate simplicity.
Jesus stood in the doorway of the tomb saying to Mary “Do not hold me and do not Hide.” Go and make your voice heard in the world. Assure them all that God is with them. He empowered Mary, one individual, to be a means of assurance to her own scared community. And then Jesus came to the upper room and sent those disciples forth together as a community. He commissioned them to love the world and speak against its cruelty and ambition. For the only salvation of this world will be transformation through the power of God’s own sacrificial love ruling in the hearts of every man, woman and child.
Until God’s Kingdom is established and powerlessness, anger, fear and despair shall be no more and God’s peace orders our lives – we are an expectant people. But we are called to be an Easter people as well – People who point toward the promise and the commission of a liberator Christ who holds the keys of life and sets the captives of sorrow free.
Alleluia! Thanks be to God who this day has brought joy out of sadness. Who is again Rising up from the grave, reborn from the ashes of the world’s Hellfires! Alleluia! Amen.