Music and Greetings

Sermon

Based on John 20:1-17

As we gather for this celebration of Christ’s resurrection, I find myself wondering what you are feeling.

What emotions are you experiencing?

I know I am confronting exhaustion at this ongoing crisis, frustration at our leaders’ seeming inability to guide us to a resolution and also the sorrow of knowing so many people continue to deal with loneliness and the loss of so much that we had relied upon.

When we celebrated Easter online last year, it did not occur to me that we would still be here a year later. Perhaps that was naïve, I have felt that way on a few matters in the last 12 months.

We find ways of coping; we develop new methods of gathering and supporting one another and I know I am celebrating the knowledge that people are receiving vaccinations.

And yet, despite the positive news, there are still thousands of people in this province contracting a variant of the COVID virus and our intensive care units are filling up.

There is still a way to go before we can put this pandemic behind us.

A great many people I read and follow speak of the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday as a liminal time. That time between the grief and heartbreak of Jesus’s death and the time of learning of his resurrection. It is a time of waiting and not knowing what comes next.
It includes fear and grief and uncertainty.

I wonder if we are to some extent stuck in that Holy Saturday at this moment in our lives. Confronting the emotions of loss and fear and loneliness but not sure just how much longer that time will last.

It is with those thoughts close at hand that I find myself focusing on Mary Magdalene and her journey to the garden and Jesus’s tomb.
It strikes me that she must have been in that Holy Saturday frame of mind. Mourning the loss of her friend and teacher; likely in something of a state of shock considering what she witnessed with his beating and crucifixion; never mind the preceding betrayal.

And yet, according to John, she is the one who goes to the tomb to care for Jesus’s body. She is the one who sees the importance of being present and continuing to serve. The others, Peter, Andrew, Thomas, and all, they remain in hiding, dealing with the loss and fear in their own way.

Mary goes to the tomb; she finds it empty and delivers the news to Peter and John. And Mary is the one who meets and talks with the risen Christ.

It is in the depth of her grief and loss that Jesus approaches her and speaks with her, comforts her, and tells her to let go of that which is gone.

Our grief is real. Our fear is real. Our uncertainty about tomorrow is real. But we must also be prepared to let go of things which will never be the same. I am still figuring out what has truly changed in the last year. I suspect there will be many things we look back on in a few years and marvel at how much things have changed.

But I think we must be prepared to let go of some things we assumed would always be with us. This past year has changed us and changed our world. I would encourage you to reflect in the coming weeks on the things we are missing that perhaps we need to let go of. This can be an incredibly painful process. As anyone who has had to confront the grief that comes with the death of a loved one knows, coming to grips with that loss is an ongoing heartbreak.

 

But and this is important. But there is new life. Christ is risen and offers us something new. Christ points us to a new world and a new life with him. It remains a life of service, but also one of hope.

Jesus points Mary to return to the disciples with a message of hope and new life. Jesus will visit the 12 and given them new direction.

It is not an easy message to hear or to voice, but sometimes it is only at the depths of our despair and loss that we can witness the hope of new life the risen Christ offers us. It is only at that moment that are prepared to let go those things we cling to. Mary must let go of the image of her friend and rabbi Jesus as he was before the crucifixion in order to truly see and hear and follow the risen Christ.
To declare ‘I have seen the Lord’.

I have no doubt we are all experiencing a confusing mix of fear, grief, anger and wonder at the state of our world. A pandemic that continues to dominate our life; conflict raging in communities near here and south of the border. Continuing news of injustice and anger throughout the world.

We experience a desire to just return to what we knew. To get back to normal.

I wonder if the Easter message we need to hear this morning is to open our eyes, to see the risen Christ and the promise of a new life and a new world and hear his message, do not hold on to me. Do not hold on to what we once knew. Look to the future. Go forth and say I have seen the Lord.

To move forward with that message of the risen Christ and to proclaim it, sometimes with words, but also with our actions; with our service as modeled by Jesus and with our love, as directed by Jesus. When in our grief and our anger and in our fear, we choose to live out lives of love and service to our community, we open our eyes to what this world can and will be.

Jesus offers us direction; he offers us something new and a path to a new day and the promise of new life.

Christ is risen. Things change, and that change can often take us by surprise. But Jesus calls us to remain open to the possibilities in our life. Can we open our eyes, and open our ears and witness the new life put in front of us? By living lives of love and service we are open. We may also be vulnerable to more heartbreak, more grief, but also to new possibility.

It is my prayer, as we are confronted with the continued struggles and heartbreaks of this pandemic that you can find hope and promise in the message of the resurrection. Christ is risen and hope is alive. There is an ongoing promise of new life. May we nurture that promise and that new life through our love and our service and the love and support of this community of faith to which we belong.

 

Music provided with permission through licensing with CCLI License number
2701258 and One License # A-731789