After Easter

Christ appears to Mary Magdalene, detail from the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris

These are beautiful words for a Sunday morning:  Very early on the first day of the week - 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, and I sort of don’t know what’s up with that, 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! My own teacher! she answers.

The Resurrection is 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, 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 and always present to us.  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 God 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 save himself, and 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 that scared the world to pieces.

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 what God is like to show us that love that is stronger than death, that good will overcome evil in the end. That even as the world is in chaos and the temptation to fight and mock and lash out and to get ahead seems to be winning there is another way, the way of love, that wills the best for others, that values compassion and the building up of community.

It may not look like love is winning these days, but it is. In fact, love is best seen in times of trouble, when kindness and a thirst for justice are present and visible despite the trouble.

We may wish to just live in peace and enjoy our lives, to escape from strife and discord, but love means not saying peace when there is no peace, not holding ourselves apart from the troubles, not throwing up our hands and retreating to our cocoons but instead, responding to the holy mystery, to hear when our names are being called, and to answer. Love is much more than a feeling or an attitude. It is a way of life and it’s not an easy life, but it is the best life.


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 our salvation is sure. It also means that Jesus is not here to show the world today what God is like. 

And so 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; to show what a life of integrity looks like. To show the world that God desires wholeness; that love; that touching the stranger and clothing the naked and visiting the sick and imprisoned and feeding the hungry and welcoming the outcast 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?