Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
It was a Friday night during the pandemic and Pastor Liz and I were enjoying one of our new favorite pastimes of puzzling with cocktails while listening to the podcast, Lady Don’t Take No with Alicia Garza. When out of the blue Liz gets a facebook message from someone we do not normally get messages from. All it had was a link. Our first thought was what in the world is going on and our anxiety began to rise thinking the worst. Maybe something shelter related or the cowlitz commissioners did what this time… But instead it was a link to the Cowlitz County Superior Court website press release saying that they were going to end the contract with ICE to detain migrant youth in our juvenile detention center.
We screamed. We posted all over facebook. We called everyone we could think of. We screamed some more. We started dancing. Months and months of what felt like hitting our heads against a wall following the leadership of so many BIPOC individuals in our community had finally paid off. The breakthrough had happened. The joy we felt was indescribable as we wept and shouted and danced.
There are moments in our world where we get a taste of the resurrection hope that Jesus offers. There are moments that break through the monotony and the anxiety and the fear and the pain and the death that seem all consuming in our world. And that is why we celebrate Easter in such a big way. It is the reason that Easter is the church’s biggest holiday.
Our text today is about the colliding of two worlds. The first is the world owned and ruled by death. Mary goes alone in the darkness of the morning to finalize Jesus’ burial preparations only to find the stone rolled away and presumably the remnants of some graverobbers. She is distraught and runs to find two friends who rush back and see that somehow the body is missing. The two men return home unfulfilled. Mary stays longer to grieve this terrible loss. Her friend and savior is dead. He was executed in a most horrific way and it seems that all hope is lost. And now it seems that someone has ransacked and stolen his dead body!
We have all been there. We have all experienced the pain and loss from the death of a loved one, the end of a career, the loss of a home, the estrangement from family. In case we hadn’t experienced it, this last year made sure to shove it down our throats. The world is filled with death and pain and hate and division and fear.
But it is directly into this world that the second world collides, the world of resurrection hope. The world where Jesus overcomes death. The world where justice and forgiveness rule the day. The world where God “wipes away the tears from all faces,” and “makes for all people a feast of rich food and well-aged wines,” as the prophet Isaiah proclaims. Heaven on earth.
I believe that this is why we are here. This is ultimately why we come to church or gather in community or do the mission work. It is because we have tasted this world of resurrection hope. This world where love wins. This world where death is not final. And we long for more. We long for that world to overflow in our world. But we know that we are not there yet.
Easter marks what one theologian calls the “age of salvation.” The eternal reckoning with love. The empire tried to shame and kill off this love but instead the outcome was a sign of everlasting hope. God turns what was intended for evil into the dawning of a new day. (Nichola Torbett “enfleshed”) This is the resurrection hope. This is why we celebrate Easter. This is why we are Christian. Because we have experienced this hope and we long to help bring it forth into this world.
So go forth as an Easter people, as a resurrection people, knowing that the world of hope and peace is breaking into our world through ordinary everyday acts of love and kindness. Go into the broken places and work for justice and equity and love and grace. Because in our actions, the inbreaking of God’s glorious world will continue to become a reality right in the here and now. And in this work, we might glimpse the resurrection.