Our opening hymn on Sunday…perhaps with a slightly different arrangement :)
April 8, 2012
It was still dark. Mary Magdalene was on her way to the tomb to properly care for the body of Jesus her Lord. I imagine her walking briskly to the tomb in the cover of darkness, perhaps it was a cold spring morning like it has been here the last few days for us. But as she got closer, something was wrong. Something didn’t look quite right. Like it may be for anyone of us when coming home late at night and something is a bit out of place. Your heart my skip a few beats, your brain tells that heart of yours that everything is probably alright, but then you realize it is not. Everything is not alright – the front door is open, and none of the lights are on. What would you think? What would you assume without seeing anything else? That you have been robbed. Mary saw that stone rolled away and assumed the worst – someone must have broken into the tomb and stole away my Lord! This is the assumption she made all from the sight of the stone rolled away. She did not look in, she only saw the stone and turned around and ran to share her fears with the other disciples.
In the time it took her to run back to the disciples, tell the bad news, and for them to run back to the tomb, perhaps the sun had started to rise. But these two disciples may not have been able to see any more clearly; sweat dripping down their faces, blurring their vision. They saw the stone rolled away too, and they went a step further and into the tomb to find the funeral linens neatly folded and placed in the tomb, as if Jesus had made his bed before he left. That is certainly an oddity. What grave robber would have gone through the trouble of removing the linens, especially the trouble of neatly rolling up each piece separately. Peter saw and believed – but believed what exactly? It doesn’t say that he saw and believed the good news that He is Risen! Just that he believed. Believed what? Perhaps simply that he believed Mary’s report that Jesus body was gone. Yes, she was right after all, no body here – now I believe her, someone really did steal away our Lord. There is no rush back, there is no more sharing of this fearful news. Just the long journey home with what appeared to be the sad news of this empty tomb and an absent savior.
Mary did not go home. She stayed behind, crying and weeping all day. She had thought that she lost her Lord forever and she was robbed of even offering him a proper burial. She finally worked up the courage to peek in and glimpse inside the tomb. Two angels! Two angels who were puzzled by the tears of Mary – why are you crying they asked. These Angels knew the truth, and yet Mary would not learn this news form them. She turned around, perhaps not even aware that she was speaking with angels right where Jesus lay.
She turned around and Mary saw Jesus – but she didn’t see him. She wasn’t prepared to see him in her emotional state, besides she saw the dead body, and dead men don’t walk. She was not prepared to see him so she mistook Jesus to be a gardener, given the context.
A few years ago a world famous violinist by the name of Joshua Bell tried a social experiment. He would dress up in very modest clothes to look like a homeless man, go down to a metro stop in Washington DC and play his violin. Now, just a few days before this experiment, Joshua played for an audience where even the cheap seats were $100. He insisted on playing on his own familiar violin for this experiment, one worth $3.5 million. He played for about 45 minutes. Some of the best music ever written performed by one of the best musicians in the world, in the subway. In that time about 1,100 people walked by and heard the violinist in the background and 7 people stopped to listen for at least a minute. He received about $32 bucks in his violin case. Sometimes we might be surprised by what we don’t see, or hear right in front of us.
And it wasn’t so much seeing Jesus that confirmed for Mary that he arose. It was what he said. Jesus spoke. He knew she was searching, searching for someone, searching for him. “Who are you looking for?” he asked. And she was still so fixated on the bad news that she replied “Sir, tell me where you put him, I will get him.”
Jesus spoke her name: “Mary.” Just a simple calling of her name. How powerful that is, to be called by name. I remember that my childhood bedroom was in the basement, but I know when I was being called upstairs; and I knew just from the call of my name whether I was in trouble or if dinner was ready. Jesus called Mary in the sweet and tender kind of way “Mary.” She heard him speak her name and now she finally saw. Jesus, teacher, Lord. All of Mary’s assumptions were dashed – he had not been stolen, he was right there in front of her.
She heeds Jesus command to go and tell the disciples this good news. And she does so in such a beautiful way. She doesn’t report like a newscaster stating the evening news: this happened, and this happened. It is not a report she gives so much as it is a testimony. She says “I have seen the Lord.”
How many here can say”I have seen the Lord” here at County Line church? I bet you could if you knew what you’re looking for. Just the other day at our Good Friday service, Sarah, who we will baptize today was a bit fearful to go up and touch the cross. I learned after the service that she thought it was the real cross – the one actually used to crucify our Lord. Mom & Dad reassured her and offered to go up along with her, and so she did. I wouldn’t be so quick to say that Sarah was wrong about seeing “the real cross.” This is Christian worship at its best, when a child, someone who is new to the faith can live out the worship service in such a real way as to confuse those pieces of wood we displayed, that were made by members of this church with their own hands for the specific purpose of better telling the very real story of Jesus’ love on the cross. Well, it worked, we told the story and it was really real for this young one in the faith.
That was Friday, and this is Sunday. Today, Easter Sunday, we tell the story of how Jesus overcame that cross, how he rose from the grave, and how he commissioned his disciples to tell this old old story across the generations. How might we help little Sarah to see the Lord as Mary did at the tomb? She looked at two pieces of wood and saw the cross – the real cross. What might she see when she looks at County Line Church, and the members of the Body of Christ that gather here? She will look at you and just might ask “Are these the really real Disciples?” My hope is that as we nurture here in the ways of Christian discipleship, this day and in the years to come, that she will be able to rightly say “I have seen the Lord” because she has seen you. Today we participate in telling again the old old story of Jesus and his love. Be the Body of Christ for her County Line Church and as she grows to know the Lord more and more, she will also tell this story, truthfully sharing “I have seen the Lord.”