Alive! 4-20-14 Easter Sermon

John 20: 11-18  Meanwhile, Mary stood weeping beside the tomb.  Even as she wept, she stooped to peer inside, and there she saw two angels in dazzling robes.  One was seated at the head and the other at the foot of the place where Jesus’ body had lane. They asked her, “Why are you weeping?” She answered them, ”Because they have taken away my Rabbi, and I don’t know where they have put the body.” No sooner had she said this than she turned around and caught sight of Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus. He asked her, “Why are you weeping?  For whom are you looking?” She supposed it was the gardener, so she said, “Please, if you’re the one who carried Jesus away, tell me where you’ve laid the body and I will take it away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned to him and said, “Rabboni!”—which means “Teacher.” Jesus then said, “Don’t hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to Abba God.  Rather, go to the sisters and brothers and tell them, “I’m ascending to my Abba and to your Abba, my God and your God!” Mary of Magdala went to the disciples.  “I have seen the Teacher!” she announced.  Then she reported what the savior had said to her.

April 20, 2014

Alive!  

Mary stood weeping beside the tomb, crying her eyes out early in the morning according to the gospel of John. “Even as she wept, she stooped to peer inside and there she saw two angels in dazzling robes.” Angels are messengers, that’s what the word angel means, messenger. These messengers had not paid attention in their class on pastoral counseling, however. You can tell because the first question they ask Mary is “Why are you crying?”
In pastoral counseling, we learn that asking “why’ questions makes people defensive, makes them intellectualize and explain rather than open up and talk. Instead, however, of saying, “that’s a stupid question, angel,” Mary says, “They have taken away my Rabbi, and I don’t know where they have put the body.”

There are plenty of reasons to cry in our world and we can certainly understand why Mary was crying. She had just experienced the biggest loss of her life and she was in despair. She could not see how anything was going to turn out right, when this hope in Jesus had turned out so wrong. No wonder she was crying.
I wrote this week to our dear friend Mihye in South Korea to let her know we are thinking about her as they deal with the horrific sinking of a ferry boat there and the loss of so many young people. She said that this tragedy is very hard for people in her country and for her in particular.  The students trapped in the ferry boat were the same age as her beloved son Suhan, who was just a little guy when they were members here at St. Luke, but who now is in high school.
Now, we don’t need to ask, “Why are you crying?” When the young people were told to stay in the boat and the captain jumped ship, and the young people who obeyed were killed, it’s no wonder the whole country is shocked and in tears. Our hearts go out to them.
Indeed, we know that God is crying with them. And if the angels ask a more sensitive question about those tears, they might find out that Mary was not so sure about that, that she was feeling alone and lost in her tears. It may not even be a comfort to know that God is crying too, but at least those tears deepen the understanding that these deaths are not ok. This is not the way the world is supposed to be. God is as heartbroken as any of us about the deaths of those school children, about the shooting in Kansas at the Jewish community center last Sunday, at the gun violence in our cities, at the accidental shooting a 14 year old by her little brother this week.  God is crying with us.
As soon as Mary had answered the angels’ inadequate question, she turned and saw someone else near her, who we know is Jesus.  He asks the same question as the angels, but then adds a better question, “For whom are you looking?” This is a better question, for any of us, because we all need to know what we’re looking for and who we’re looking for.
She was looking for Jesus who is the One who helped her understand what she really treasured in her life. She was looking for Jesus who helped her align her heart with the real treasures of her life – what she really loves and really hoped for. She was looking for the One who had helped her see the world with Easter eyes.
As soon as Jesus says her name, those Easter eyes were opened and she was filled with joy and wonder.
Let me tell you what I mean by Easter eyes. We do not live in an Easter world. We live – most often – in a Good Friday world. We live in a world where young people die before their time for stupid reasons. We live in a world where even the church doesn’t recognize the needs of our young people half the time. We live in a Good Friday world where some young people get to go to schools that are well-funded and others struggle just to have decent supplies and none of those schools are really set up to really care for young people’s real needs.
Easter eyes allow us to see the whole truth of our world. Some people get confused an think that Easter is just about looking at the world through rose-colored glasses and thinking that everything is fine and dandy – Easter bunnies, ribbons and fake grass in an Easter basket. We keep hoping that we Easter eyes we we’ll discover that everything is all right. But in fact, with Easter eyes we see that everything is not all right – and yet that God is with us in this Good Friday world.
Easter eyes give us the courage to enter the darkness of Good Friday because we do not have to face our problems alone. The One who created all that is, who moves within the drama of history is the same One who lived with and stayed with those young people on the ferry – who stayed with them every brutal minute of the tragedy of the end of their lives. And that loving, Creative Spirit is with all those who are weeping, all those who are hurting, all those who are struggling – which finally includes all of us in some part and some time of our lives.
With Easter eyes we see that the One who died, lives. So why look for the living among the dead? Don’t look for the Risen Christ in most our dead churches. Look for the Risen Christ among the poor and hurting. Look for the Risen Christ in the middle of our struggles to end addiction and gun violence. Look for the Risen Christ in the tears of the ones who mourn and devote themselves to ending those tears for their loved ones. Look for the Risen Christ in the painful forgiveness of the ship captain who left the ferry to sink while saving his own life.
With Easter eyes we see that everyone we know has a broken heart and that God loves them and forgives them and calls them to heal their lives. With Easter eyes we see that God welcomes everyone to our churches – no one will be excluded. Mary Magdela went to report to the disciples what she had seen with Easter eyes, “I have seen the Teacher. I have seen the Messiah! Christ is risen!”
With Easter eyes opened by the tears of the faithful, and the hope of the broken-hearted, we know that Christ is risen indeed!

Responsive hymn – Let It Rise!