By Reverend Amada
Over the years, I have studied the different Gospels’ versions of the resurrection. Traditionally, I love the account of Mark because of the haunting possibilities of the empty tomb. But for the past couple of years, I cannot get away from the image of Resurrection morning found in the Gospel of John. In particular, the way that Jesus comforts Mary in the garden before revealing who he was. Perhaps, it is because of the changes brought on by the pandemic. Perhaps, it’s the loss of two loved ones in the past year but this year I really identify with the grief and the emotional scene from John.
Over the past year, I buried a cousin who lived next door to me as we were growing up and my Godmother died from COVID. Grief for me, this year, has been almost crippling. There will always be those years where there will be loss that we cannot comprehend, loss that catches our breath and makes us feel like we have been sucker punched in the stomach. So, I think we all can identify with the tension, the fear, the grief, and the crippling sense of loss that is in these passages. We all have suffered as this woman does. We are intended to place ourselves in her shoes to hear the words of comfort and hope that Jesus reveals, words that offer us hope and thus comfort in our times of grief and struggle. G.K. Chesterton writes, “Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all … As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength”.1 This is the lesson of these passages of the resurrection. They are lessons about placing hope in the possibilities of God even when all looks lost. It is about leaving the door open and finding comfort in the knowledge that God is working in unexpected and mysterious ways. It is about trusting that God is working in ways that defy our rationality and previous knowledge.
The woman in the garden weeping, Mary Magdalene, grieved the loss of her friend and mentor. All of her life experience told her that once someone died that that was it. She knew for certain that Christ was dead because she witnessed it with her own eyes and lived with the trauma of what she experienced. There wasn’t a lot that would inspire her to hope in those first moments of Easter morning. Yet like these flowers here before us and all of nature around us, she was given hope because what once looked dead and gone only lay in wait to reveal new life. Jesus did not remain dead. But rather he was given new life. His approach to Mary in the garden was both compassionate and educational.
As Christ speaks to Mary, know that he also speaks to us inspiring true hope. A hope that will carry us through those times of trial, those times when we grieve, those times when we are fearful, those times when the world seems to be falling apart. This is the true hope of new life and strength that God offers to us this day. God never promised that life will be easy or that faith meant we would have pain free lives. But he did promise to walk these paths with us strengthening us, lifting us up when we need, and giving us courage to still live as the people of the resurrection.
For through the prophet Jeremiah God reminds us all with these words, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you”.2 This love is ever present even in times of global turmoil, even in times of personal upheaval, even in times crippling fear and grief. God reaches out to us with love just as he had for the people of Israel as they fled the Egyptians and just as he had to Mary in the garden. And today, God is reaching out to us once more to remind us of his love for humanity and the sacrifice he has made for us so we might internalize hope for tomorrow even in the midst of the worst that life has to offer. That hope is a faith that God journeys this life with us giving us strength for a new day. Jesus said to Mary, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Mag′dalene went and said to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her”.3 Just his presence brought calm to Mary’s day. His physical presence inspired her heart with hope and joy enough to share the good news of what she had witnessed. This one moment was enough to bring Mary and the disciples through continued challenges as they faced persecution and martyrdom in the years ahead.
This one moment of joy and triumph was enough to inspire a deep and life altering faith, a hope that they too will experience a new life through Jesus Christ. This morning let us find comfort in the Easter scriptures. Let them remind us of the power of faith, the strength being offered, and the love that God holds for his people everywhere and through all times. Let this inspire our days, weeks, and year so that we might have the courage to embrace the new life offered to us on Easter Sunday and may we live as the hopeful people of the resurrection each and every day.
1 G.K. Chesterton, English writer and lay theologian of the early 20th Century.
2 Jeremiah 31: 3, NRSV.
3 John 20:17-18, NRSV.