April 4, 2021
Mary Magdalene went and announced the resurrection to the disciples. ~ John 20:18
Last year, a few weeks before Easter, we received word to close our churches, schools, and places of business due to a deadly virus (Covid-19) spreading through our country and the world. We were told to stay at home and take shelter. I remember thinking that public schools shut down all the time for a few days or a week if a lot of kids have the flu, so I thought we might be “out” of church and school for a week, maybe two with this new virus. To say I was in the “dark” about the extent, the danger, and the scope of Covid-19 would be an understatement.
Remember the runs on the grocery stores for all paper products? Do we recollect the level of fear and anxiety as the virus grew and the death toll mounted? I recall my own terror of the reports coming out of New York City. Do we remember how quiet things became around town? The skies cleared as we drove our cars less and deer, fox, and turkey seemed to frequent our fields and open spaces more often.
Still, we waited in the dark. Fear. Uncertainty. The cloud of unknowing.
This Sunday we will have an outdoor worship service on the east lawn of our church and be together in person for worship for the first time in over a year. It is very appropriate that it will be Easter Sunday. I can hardly wait to hear the song, “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow; because he lives, all fear is gone; because I know he holds the future, and life is worth the living just because he lives.”
Do we see and experience the living Christ? Do we live resurrection?
Consider Mary Magdalene’s dawning faith that first Easter morning. She arrives at Jesus’ grave “while it was still dark” out. She is not sure what has happened. She is confused, frightened, and weeping outside the empty tomb. According to the Gospel of John, she looks the gardener in the eye, listens to him speak, and still does not recognize him as Jesus. Mary is still “in the dark.”
Then, the Reverend Serene Jones speculates, maybe when Mary’s back is turned, the gardener says her name, “Mary.” And the sound of her name helps her to see the risen Christ. “He uses a word that applies to her and her alone, a word that captures the utter particularity of her individual life—her name.” Joy floods Mary’s soul as she experiences resurrection.
It is quite easy to get bogged down in the logistics of resurrection, so the questions we ask are important. Like Mary, do we long to be known? To be held? To be the recipient of God’s love and adoration? Do we believe love is greater than death? Do we rise?
Jones says the scene between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is visceral, emotional, and deeply, deeply personal. It presses us to consider ways in which we see “the Risen Christ,” ways we hear, taste, smell, and feel God’s presence. Jesus says, “Know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Matthew 28:20). “If our faith is alive and luminous, we will be alert to moments, events, and occasions when the power of resurrection is brought to bear on our lives,” exclaims Brennan Manning.
This past year, between the pandemic, mass shootings, isolation, George Floyd, and personal and national strife we have been “in the dark” a lot. Christ is Risen but have we risen from the darkness? We know hardship, pain, chaos, and death but do we know the joy of resurrection? Barbara Brown Taylor in her book Learning to Walk in the Dark concisely says, “New life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.”
William Barry wrote, “We must school ourselves to pay attention to our experiences of life in order to discern the touch of God.” Spring follows winter ever year. The brown grass turns green. Flowers bloom. The birds sing songs. A child is born. The church gathers to sing and pray. Neighbors say “hello” and share life stories. A couple forgives one another. Pilgrims walk, pray, and reflect together. A red hawk appears on the horizon. The sun rises each day. We mend socks, shirts, and relationships. A child comes home. A matriarch blesses her progeny. Joy appears unannounced. A deep breath. Heavenly silence. A day without a to do list. The gardener calls us by name.
May we experience the living presence of the risen Christ each day.
May joys flood our souls.
Blessings and peace,