As we gather this morning, light has pierced the darkness.
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb while it was still dark.
She may have come before dawn because she wanted to apply spices to the body of Jesus as soon as possible after the Sabbath was over.
Possibly because she wanted to minimize how many people would have an opportunity to see her come, fearful of those who had killed her Lord.
Regardless of the reason, she came as darkness filled her physical and spiritual reality that morning.
She discovers the stone is rolled away and quickly goes to share the news and to share her understanding of what has happened with the other disciples, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
As the two disciples, hearing what she discovered, run back to the tomb, there is an urgency, a deep desire to make sense of what has transpired. They find the empty tomb. They see the evidence that something unusual has happened as they witness burial clothes lying as if Jesus body had passed through them. John’s gospel says one of them believes, but doesn’t indicate what he believes.
It seems that by seeing for themselves, they both must believe that what Mary shared with them is true. Jesus is no longer in the tomb. But it seems to be just one more fact to add to the story. There is no experience that would lead them to understand the significance of that reality, and seemingly satisfied with confirming that the tomb is empty, they head back to where they are staying.
It isn’t enough for Mary. She stays in the garden weeping.
Maybe as her tears fell she was remembering all that has transpired since she met Jesus –
his healing voice that brought her to wholeness when demons kept her from fully participating in life;
all she has heard as she traveled with the Disciples as both a follower and financial supporter of Jesus,
how her life had changed because of what she had learned from this one of a kind teacher,
what she witnessed as Jesus was crucified and buried,
the reality he cared about her when no one else did, when there were so many reasons not to.
Then, needing to make sense of it, to know more, she bends down and looks inside the tomb. She hears angels speak to her “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she says, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
Nothing makes sense. If she can find him, maybe some of the darkness in her soul will lift.
Then she turns and bumps right into the One for whom she is looking, but she doesn’t recognize him. It doesn’t fit what she understands to be true, this man is alive so it never occurs to her that he is Jesus, she is looking for what her physical senses tell her she needs to find, a lifeless body.
So she asks this man, thinking he is the gardener, if he has moved the body and if so to where, so she can provide the necessary care.
Then, in a single word – her name – Jesus brings light into her darkness.
Immediately she recognizes him.
As she realizes she is in the presence of her risen Lord, sorrow and confusion are replaced with unspeakable joy.
When he explains why she can’t hold on to him, he gives her a message that is personal and transforming.
“To my Father and your father
To my God and your God.”
In the speaking of her name – the commissioning of her to take this message to others – Jesus calls to each of us by name.
Lorraine, Ruth, Tina, Kester, Phil, Trinity, Kurtis, Matthew …
Diana, Guin, Peter, Char, Nancy, Georgia, Jackson, Jim …
Jesus calls everyone in this room, everyone in this community, everyone in his creation – saying: – because the tomb is empty, because I came, died, have risen, and now return, my Father is your father, my God is your God, and nothing will ever be the same.
It is news that must be shared, must be experienced, must be personal.
He knows everything about me, He loves me, He lived for me, He died for me, He ascended to the Father for me, He forgives me, He transforms me.
If the empty tomb stays just part of the story of an amazing historical Jesus the darkness remains and dawn is hidden. It is only something we believe happened but it is not transformational.
Mary heard her name – recognized what Jesus the Christ had done for her, and responded immediately to His Call to share that experience with others.
There was no hesitation, no fear, no looking back.
We can know the words, be able to recite the words, even believe the story we share today, but until we respond to our name, recognize it was for each of us, all of us, that the tomb is empty, the dawn will be a pretty thing to look at but not something that fills our spiritual being with Light brighter than the Sun.
I share this morning with the assumption that all gathered here know and believe the story to be true
I hope we have each heard our name and know that what we celebrate today is personal and life changing.
I Pray we recognize we can’t hold on to that experience, to our understanding of God’s work in our unique life’s journey, that we need to go share our experiences with others and love others in the way Christ loved us – who, knowing everything about us – flaws and all – died and rose that we may have life abundantly.
Not just a part of history, this mystery is part of today, this Easter morning, and everyday. As Mary ran to tell others – may our joy be so great we share it in all we do and say, in all of our relationships, and that each of us can share her message, “I have seen the Lord!”
Father God, The dawn has broken and the sky fills with light from your created Sun and our hearts with the light of your begotten Son. May we hear our names and share the transformational news – “He Lives, He Lives indeed!” Amen