Leaping to Resurrection
Lectionary readings for the day can be found here.
Our story of the Resurrection of Jesus begins in a very quiet, very dark place: a tomb, which Mary Magdalene finds the day after the sabbath. She has come there... for what? To visit with her teacher and friend, who was brutally executed and humiliated less than a week after his entrance into Jerusalem? To grieve? To try to make sense of it all?
Anyone who has lost someone they love, or been through a tragedy or a trauma, you know that sometimes the grief can be so overwhelming that you can't see straight. You can't see anything, really, because your grief, or your terror, has become the lens through which you see the world. This is probably where Mary was, emotionally, when she comes upon the empty tomb. She is shocked, and in shock, probably wondering if someone has come to desecrate the body of her friend, Jesus, adding tremendous insult to terrible injury.
So she leaves to go get some other disciples, who run towards the tomb, probably just as panicked as Mary. When they see the empty tomb... what happens? They run home again, after seeing it. If none of this makes sense to you, remember that these are traumatized people doing whatever they can.
But Mary stays. Mary weeps at the tomb of her savior. She doesn't even flinch when two angels appear - and in case you don't remember, people tend to be VERY terrified when they see angels in the biblical stories. It's not something you can look away from or not notice. But Mary is not in a place where she can see angels. She says a few words, then nothing.
Then, of course, she hears a voice who she assumes is the gardener. She doesn't recognize the voice of Jesus until he says her name - "Mary," - and then she is awoken from the slumber of her grief, and we have this beautiful moment of tenderness and recognition between two people in the midst of a terrible tragedy.
So, if we are to ask ourselves, having heard this story, what does Resurrection look like? What does it feel like? Well, I might say is that resurrection begins in the darkness. It begins with confusion, fear, grief, anger, incredible disappointment. Resurrection is not easy. It begins in the tomb. It begins with loss. Resurrection comes from death. I might also add that resurrection doesn't erase the crucifixion. The crucifixion still happened, Jesus still has wounds in his hands and feet, and the disciples and the people who loved Jesus still have the trauma. So it is in our world, too - a world that sometimes seems full of wounds, broken by loss and disappointment.
We who follow Christ often hear or say that we are "people of the resurrection." So what does that mean, to be people of the resurrection? It surely can't mean that we are always joyful, or that we don't think the wounds of the world are a big deal. It doesn't mean that we have belief in "the power of positive thinking" or that Christians are the ultimate optimists. Remember, the only reason Mary Magdalene was the first one to see the resurrected Jesus was because she was at the tomb, weeping. Yet I do think that being "people of the resurrection" might be the most important defining mark of Christians. We are supposed to see resurrection in an empty tomb. We are supposed to see Jesus where someone else might see a stranger.
This is the thing about the resurrection: it didn't end injustice and suffering in the world. It didn't change anything about the Roman empire or any other empires who have come and gone. But the people who are witness to the resurrection were changed. And our little gathering is a testament to their witnessing.
I'd like to leave you with an idea and a question today. The idea is this: what if the resurrection is still happening? What if you and I get to be a part of this work, of being deeply present to the tragedies of this life while also knowing that despair does not get the last word? Think of it like a resurrection energy that courses through the world, through the crocuses pushing their way out of the ground at this moment, to neighborly acts of compassion, to large social movements aimed at justice and equality of all. This is a resurrection energy that is with us and in us all the time, even when we feel more like the empty tomb than the Easter lilies here today.
And here's my question: How will we participate in the resurrection? How will you be changed by the resurrection energy all around us, and in us?
How will you witness the resurrection today?
Thanks be to God.