Easter Meditation

John 20:1-18
20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

The Congregational Church of Easton – March 31, 2024
During our second reading we heard the story that has been told every Easter –how Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, found it empty, and thought Jesus’ body had been stolen. She ran to tell Peter and the other disciple. They checked it out. Sure enough, Mary was right. The body was gone. None of them suspected what is happening is newness of life.
Then Mary had a powerful religious experience. She saw the risen Christ. She left and told the other disciples that Jesus had talked to her.
It took enormous courage to tell them this. In those days a woman’s status was at the bottom of the pecking order, next to slaves. So, who would believe a silly woman thinking she saw Jesus alive? Mary Magdalene certainly had courage!

As I said, Mary had a profound religious experience. She didn’t expect it. In fact, she didn’t even realize the man she saw standing beside the tomb was Jesus until he called her by name. Then Jesus deepens the impact. He says,
Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
A pretty profound experience. But how could she tell anyone about it and make them believe her? Yet she does. She musters up her courage and tells the disciples that she has seen the Lord. Really brave. I’ll come back to this theme of courage in a minute.
The stories of Holy week are yours and my personal stories, as well. We joined the triumphal procession into Jerusalem when we came to church on Palm Sunday. Like Peter, all of us can think of times we have denied Jesus — or at least we can remember times when we haven’t paid a lot of attention to Christ’s presence in our lives. All of us have suffered as Jesus did on the cross. Finally, all of us experience the new life of resurrection
This last one may be harder to recognize. You may wonder how the resurrection story is your story, too. Let me read a poem written sometime around the year 1000 by a fellow named Simeon the New Theologian. He believes the Easter morning story is his story too. He experiences Christ’s resurrection every morning when he first wakes up! First, let me tell you a little about him.

Simeon was an Eastern Orthodox monk and poet. “Theologian” was not applied to him in the modern academic sense…; the title was designed only to recognize someone who spoke from personal experience of his or her vision of God. One of Simeon’s principal teachings was that humans could and should have a direct experience of God
If Simeon were here today, he would say you had a direct experience of the risen Christ when you first woke up this morning — when you happened to look at your hands and when you put your shoes on. Take a look at them now [model by looking at my hands and feet.]. Listen to his lovely poem, “We awaken in Christ body:”

We awaken in Christ’s body
as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ. He enters
my foot and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in His Godhood).

I move my foot, and at once
He appears like a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous? — Then
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
we wake up inside Christ’s body

where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

How does it feel to imagine that Christ is in every part of your body? Look at your hands again. What is it like to imagine that these are Christ’s hands? Can you believe that Christ is resurrected in you and that he that he gives you new life whenever you become aware of his presence? Mary Magdalene became aware of Christ’s presence. Maybe you and i can do so every morning, as well.

Think about it for a minute: How else would God in Christ be present in the world unless it is in and through our hands and feet and hearts and minds, together with those of millions of believers around the world? How else would God in Christ be present in the world unless it is our hands and voices that are restoring Christ’s creation?

I realize that being aware of your body may not be your way of experiencing resurrection. Many of us experience new life through being forgiven, or being deeply known, or by giving and receiving love.

As I said at the beginning, it took courage for Mary Magdalene to tell the disciples about her experience of the risen Christ. That was her testimony.

I’d like to invite some of you to give your testimonies during the next few months. I invite you to come up here and take three or four minutes to tell us how God or Jesus or church has changed your life. I’ll go first. If you and I could muster up our courage to testify to some of the ways our lives emerged from darkness into light – if we could tell lots of people how we have grown and changed, it might be standing room only in here on a future Easter morning!

That’s what draws us into church on Easter – remembering and experiencing new life. The wonderful music, the beautiful flowers – all remind us of ways our lives have been uplifted throughout the year. Yes, Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed! Let us pray.

Holy One, we thank you for the courage of Mary Magdalene, who recognized Christ’s presence and testified to it. We thank you for breaking into our lives. We thank you for all the ways you help us realize that you are alive in the world and in each and every one of us. Amen.