Mary, Why Are You Weeping?

Pastor Jim
John 20:1-18

Walking among tombs is probably not at the top of your list for an Easter day moment with your family, but this metaphor of darkness, when Mary went to see the grave, is something that catches us all from time to time.

Why is Mary crying? Is it because it appears that God is dead? Matthew and Luke say the women go to the tomb at dawn. Mark says they went at sunrise. But John says, “… it was still dark.” Darkness often gets a bad rap. Some want a heightened focus on the positive and associate the positive with sunlight. That’s well and good, but we are all too smart, not to know that life does have dark times. Some have likened darkness to evil. We remember shady deals by sinister characters in a dark room or those spooky scenes at night in a horror flick.

Mary stood outside the tomb perhaps standing among other dead, looking for the one who’s supposed to be dead, and weeping over her loss all in the dark. You have been there with Mary, haven’t you? Weeping over loss, and there is much that we can lose; from people, to jobs, to health, to a check, a child, or a chance.

It’s understandable not to see well, or think right, or hear what is really being said, for often in the dark we become numb to outside sensations. But even “while dark,” Jesus transforms your life in the dark. You may not see or understand. You may be totally wet with tears over your loss.

Yet there Jesus is at work in mysterious ways leaving traces of presence for us. Like an empty tomb with those linen wrappings lying there. What linen wrappings have you discovered in the midst of loss? In this darkened cave Jesus is shinning here, where there is no light, he is there. Darkness is not necessarily bad nor is it demonic, but darkness dares resurrection to happen and it does.

Jesus’ makes darkness  a place of new life and hope. Jesus infiltrates darkness to reclaim it as a new context for his ministry to the last, the lost and the least. Darkness in the Bible becomes a womb for a new creation. Poet James Weldon Johnson puts it this way: And far as the eye of God could see darkness covered everything, blacker than a hundred midnights, at the first creation. Down in a cypress swamp, God smiled, the light broke, the darkness rolled up on one side, and the light stood shining.

Just as God spoke the world into existence with “let there be” it’s not until Jesus calls Mary’s name that her understanding lights up and she sees.

Because all things created were occasioned out of the Christ according to John 1. That means that God’s love for you is sitting right inside you. The Christian life is not some call to put on an emotional straightjacket, rather it’s always the invitation to step out of a tomb of meaninglessness and walk into a new life.

Why is it new? Because we are walking amid a purposed life filled with opportunity to engage in reconciling ministry. This reconciling ministry carries within it the meaning for our living. He speaks her new world into existence. For Mary, “Morning has broken, like the first morning.

The Apostle Paul said that through the death and resurrection of Jesus “everything old has passed away; and everything has become new!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Kierkegaard a Danish theologian once said that our life in Christ begins with knowing; but he said the road to knowing, is not knowing and emptiness. In other words it begins in what looks like darkness. Throughout the bible we see time after time people who lose everything and then are found by God. Abraham gets Isaac back in the instant that he lets Isaac go. It is often through this process of loss that God brings resurrection. What is lost is now found as a new truth about self, a truly authentic self. Only through the loss of self do we find our true selves.

So stepping into the Christian life is stepping into the risen body of Christ. In Baptism we hear Paul say we have all died with Christ and risen into his life. We are always dying, always loosing the present as it becomes past, and we do so without anxiety, but with faith and love. What we step into is a meaning saturated world always becoming more. Always exceeding what could ever happen in a mere present moment. It’s impossible to live just in the present, because it is always slipping into the future, with a memory of what was.

We receive a wondrous gift in the face of a perceived loss and this gift brings about a truthful sense of self. We are grasped by grace and invited into a reconciling life.
Instead of bemoaning our own lost past, wishing for some sentimentally imagined religious past that is forever lost, we instead embrace the present and in doing so find Jesus beside us into the future.

When Mary identifies Jesus as a gardener, unbeknownst to her, she identifies rightly because “for all things came into being” life and light, in the first garden of Genesis. Jesus infiltrates the darkness so that the dark doesn’t suffocate us and we can recognize his presence even there, inviting us into this new life.

Jesus can’t stay in the darkness because God’s creative redemptive purposes go beyond the darkness. Jesus has already told the criminal on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

He’s already told his disciples “Do not let your hearts be troubled… In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”(John 14)

He’s already told Mary, “Don’t hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” He gestures beyond the darkness where he says “I’m going to God.” His resurrection redeems all darkness and reveals that goodness can happen there.

In death we are taken into the Trinity - God, Son and Spirit. The exact nature of what Jesus says may be unclear, but it is clear that it involves a reunion of God and Son in the Holy Spirit. Jesus invades the dark to ensure that we join the eternal family of God and can say together “Our Father.”  It’s a grand reunion, in the garden of God, a restoration of the goodness of Eden. It opens us up to God’s future. The open grave is the hope of our future because it says that the future is not closed, but open for those who face it with hope.

I don’t know where the shadows are in your life. I don’t know what dead end you’re coping with. I don’t know what you have lost, or are in the process of losing. I do know that Jesus is Lord of life, he is the master over death, anyplace, anytime.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

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