Christ Revealed

April 12, 2020
John 20:1-18

Christ is risen!
Christ is risen, indeed!

Thank God for this day of alleluias in the midst of this pandemic experience.

Some churches have considered holding off on Easter celebrations until they can once again return to their space of embodied worship together.

I, for one, am grateful we are celebrating today! This moment of deep breath, this space of celebration, and this claiming of joy is just the moment of reprieve I find myself in need of.

I couldn’t help but look back to where we began on this journey of Lent that has brought us to today’s celebration. We have spent the past 6 weeks exploring the theme: Creation Revealing Christ.

When I preached on the first Sunday of Lent, I invited us to take a journey of exploration and discovery together – of being mindful about how we participate in living in and taking care of creation for ourselves and each other. While also looking out for how we see and experience Christ – that is, God’s presence – in that living and caretaking.

I don’t think any of us would have imagined that journey turning out quite as it has. While we were already beginning to shake hands less with each other on that first Sunday of Lent, and while we already then, as a wellness precaution, made the choice to serve only bread as we shared communion together on that day, I am not sure we grasped that we might be celebrating Easter in our separate homes – a body broken into pieces, connected yet apart – disoriented, full of questions and fear, full of anger and sorrow, full of grief over what has been lost and the unknowns that lie ahead.

And in this space, we find ourselves in good company. In our grief, sorrow, and disorientation, we are companions of Jesus’ beloved community on that first Easter morning.

When Mary goes to the tomb that morning, things are not as she expects to find them. The stone used to cover the entrance is rolled away. Instead of finding Jesus’ body inside, there are only the wrappings that had once held him. In the confusion and fear of this discovery she turns towards her community – running to tell the other disciples what she has experienced, seeking their company on this unfamiliar and unexpected path.

And the community comes running – in shock and confusion, seeking answers for themselves. And just like each of us in this unfamiliar season, the disciples respond in individual ways. One accepts that Jesus is gone, none of them really understand what this means, several of them retreat to their homes, and one stays in the garden and weeps.

It is in this space of weeping, of mourning, that Christ is revealed. Mary, full of grief, stands weeping at the entrance of the tomb and though full of sorrow she still seeks with hope. Through her tears she stoops and looks again at the scene before her. What was already unbelievable becomes even more surreal as she sees dazzlingly bright angels sitting at the head and foot of the slab where Jesus’ body had been placed.

In the midst of this constantly evolving state of new experiences, Mary remains grounded in  love. When asked by these radiant beings why she is crying, she names what has been lost and acknowledges her uncertainty of where to go from here. And she doesn’t stop there, when she turns and sees Jesus himself, she mistakes him for a gardener and pleads with him – please, if you helped move Jesus’ body, show me where it is so I can go take care of it.

In her determination to seek and care for Jesus, even in the presence of death, Mary finds Christ. And it isn’t even so much that Mary finds Christ, as it is that, in her seeking, Christ is revealed to Mary. Jesus, in the presence of her grief, calls Mary by name. This small moment, that familiar sound, Jesus simply speaking her name, cuts through the disorientation and revelation occurs: Christ is not missing at all, God’s presence and love is right here, familiar and something brand new at the same time.

This week I encountered a poem, written by one of my seminary colleagues, that felt like it revealed a bit of Christ to me in light of the current coronavirus context and in the presence of the easter season. I want to share that with you now:

“Here,” by Karen Hering, copyright 2016

where already
you have left behind
by choice or by force
what you knew
what you might have cherished
what you maybe took
for granted.
where not yet
do you know
where you’re headed
what it will take
what it will give
how it will change you.
on the threshold
you balance
on a comma
between the no longer
and the not yet.
may you pause,
breathing in,
breathing out,
on the cusp
in between.
where fullness gives way
to emptying
as the full moon
each month
in its waning
and makes way
for new waxing.
letting go
of attachments
and assumptions,
may you release
what you’ve clutched
in your fear,
making room
for the stranger
who is always you.
may you discover
what you’ve carried within
all along
but not known, named or needed—
ancestors’ whisperings,
newborn powers,
the hope of the young,
the resilience of Earth and her beings.
Now, these are crucial.
Clear a path
to their wellspring.
Walk it often.
Keep it open.
may you listen,
one ear turned inward
to your heart
and the body’s knowing.
One ear turned outward
to the suffering—
and the joy—
that will teach us.
look around you
at the others
waiting with you
on the curl of this comma.
You will need them.
They will need you.
we will round this bend,
cross over
into the not yet,
having let go,
we might finally learn—
a new way
is possible

I invite you at this time to take in hand your communion elements if you have them. We will share them together here, in this space, on this threshold of suffering and joy, in memory and celebration of the love that connects us in all times.

Bread from the earth and fruit from the vine, they are gifts to us of God’s presence.
God of love, send down your Holy Spirit on us
and on these gifts of bread and cup
that they may become for us your body,
healing, forgiving and making us whole;
and that we may become, for you, your body,
loving and caring in the world until your kindom comes.

// eat, drink, breathe deep //

We are connected through the living presence of Christ who fills us each with God’s love so that we can live that love into the familiar and the uncertainties of this world by care taking for creation and each other with courage and hope.

Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!