He is Risen! Now what?

Isn’t this the most beautiful - and strangest - story ever?  Very early on the first day of the week - on Sunday morning, while it was still dark - Mary Magdalene has come back to the garden tomb where Jesus was buried and finds the tomb empty. After alerting Peter and another disciple, who confirm what she has seen but then go home, Mary can’t leave.  She is weeping. And then, amazingly, she sees and speaks with two angels in white inside the tomb.  And even more amazingly, she turns and sees someone she supposes to be the gardener, but we know that it’s Jesus.  And Jesus comes to her and calls her name and it is then that she recognizes him, for Jesus is the good shepherd who knows his sheep by name... and the sheep know him by the sound of his voice, and they will come when he calls.  Mary, he says.  Rabbouni! Teacher! she answers.

The Resurrection is such a great mystery. Nobody “saw” the resurrection itself - how it happened - but rather Mary Magdalene (and others, depending on which Gospel account you read) found the tomb empty.  There were post-resurrection appearances and experiences, of course, but the resurrection itself is shrouded in holy mystery.

Does that make it hard to believe?  Maybe.  The absence of someone doesn’t prove much, if that’s the kind of “proof” you’re looking for here. 

But experience of things not exactly seen is a significant part of the life of faith.  Just as no one can “prove” love, any attempt to explain the resurrection in human physiological terms eventually comes up short.  There’s a leap of faith that happens, for us at least, we who did not have the experience that Mary and later Peter and Thomas and the others had.

In the creed we say that we believe that God created all things, things both seen and unseen.  The resurrection itself is a thing unseen.  The presence of God is mostly always a thing unseen.  We experience Jesus in the Eucharist, and we see the bread and the wine, but Jesus himself remains hidden, and yet present in our midst.  Another holy mystery.

And so we approach these things in story.  The story tells us what we need to know, that something happened in that tomb and something happened to the people who encountered Jesus after his death, and something continues to happen in ways that often remain unseen.

And the story says that even when we think he is not there, God is with us.  The story says that Jesus calls us by name. The story shows us that Jesus, who refused to use force or violence but only worked for healing and wholeness, was vindicated by God.  Jesus lived the way we ought to live, with integrity; without malice or jealousy or greed; without cheating or lying or trying to get ahead; without getting caught up in one-upping other people; without scorn or conceit or soul-sucking cynicism.  Jesus lived to show us what God is like; he lived to show God to the world.

And after Jesus’ horrible and shameful death, a death he did nothing to get out of, a death which shows what the world is like - a world that works to tear down and kill - God acted in history and raised Jesus up to show us that love that is stronger than death.  And that good will overcome evil in the end. 

And so we are here this morning to say Alleluia, the Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!

But there is more.  Jesus told Mary Magdalene that he must go back to God before his work and life were complete.  He came from God and had to go back to God, opening the way to heaven for all of us.  And so that means that Jesus is not here to show the world today what God is like.

That means that now it is up to us to show the world what God is like.  To show the world what love is like and how love acts; what a life of integrity is like.  To show the world that God desires wholeness; that love heals; that touching the stranger and clothing the naked and visiting the sick and imprisoned and feeding the hungry is the work God has given us to do here and now. 

Our God is a living God, and the story is not just a look back at something that happened two thousand years ago.  The story continues.  The sacred and mysterious story of showing the world what God is like.

What part will you play in that sacred story?  What part will you play?


Perpetua said…
Wonderful, Penny. I hard one good sermon this morning and now I've just read another. Happy Easter!
Suem said…
A lovely Easter meditation. Thanks!
Happy Easter, Sue and Perpetua! I hope your celebrations were wonderful where you are!