John 20: 1-18 Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III
Easter Sunrise April 1, 2018
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher.)
Prayer: May we know your resurrection in our lives, O God. Amen.
We are here today to worship our living God who has done something marvelous in Jesus’ life. We believe God brought new life back into the dead Jesus. We believe that the women, and then his disciples, and then apostles all encountered the risen Jesus in some way, shape, or form, and they believed that the story was true. They believed so powerfully that here we are today, around two thousand years later, still talking about Jesus’ resurrection. Still believing that God did something powerful.
So, I wonder… how do we encounter Jesus’ resurrection today? Do you recognize it?
Of course, we can point to all the usual metaphors of resurrection and say, “I recognize it! There it is!” You know, when the caterpillar turns into a butterfly or a moth. Or the water bug turns into a dragonfly. Or how the seed turns into a tender shoot up from the ground. Or, when the chick pecks its way out of the hard shell. Even when a baby is born—life in the womb must die so that a baby can live a new life in this world. And we can say yes, “I can see resurrection! I recognize it!”
And even more profoundly, or paranormally, some might say “I recognize resurrection because when my loved one died, I saw her standing at the foot of my bed afterwards,” or, “He came and spoke to me and told me that all is beautiful on the other side, and not to worry about me.” We’ve heard stories like these before, and for those of us who believe, they are powerful testimonies of resurrection.
Of course, Mary’s story is similar. She is weeping at the tomb after the others left, and she sees angels and Jesus standing there, not recognizing him, presumably in the shadows. Her logic tell her that it has to be the person who took Jesus away, presuming him to be the gardener, the caretaker of the cemetery. It’s only when Jesus calls her name, she recognizes him! She experienced resurrection. Then Jesus tells her to go and tell his brothers that he is ascending to God.
Ascending. In other words, in the process of rising. There’s an open-ended feeling to Jesus’ words. Resurrection happened to him, but it is not yet done. He’s ascending. It is ongoing. It is in process.
So, I wonder, if we are to recognize resurrection more profoundly, might we need to look for it in ways that it is ongoing?
In the English language, when we construct sentences we use verbs in the past tense to describe things that happened. We use verbs in the present tense to describe what is happening right now. We use future tense of verbs to describe what is to come. Other languages like Greek, Latin, Spanish etc. have what is called the imperfect tense. The imperfect tense uses verbs to describe an action that has begun, past tense, and is continuing, but not done yet. The imperfect tense for Easter would tell the ongoing story of how resurrection occurred in the past but continues to be lived out in our lives in an ongoing kind of way.
I think of Sandy Spayd who had a stem cell replacement procedure. Past tense. Now her body is being given a chance to start over, a cell reboot, if you will, with old cancer cells terminated and new ones growing, giving her a new chance at life. Isn’t that resurrection? New life out of death, but it is ongoing?
I think of the couple who want to get married. They live far apart from each other now, and he has a son from a previous marriage. They are sharing the joy of their relationship that started long ago, but are in the process of discerning how it is taking shape for the future life together. They are saying good-bye to previous life apart, but a new life together with instant family is beginning and is ongoing, not yet done. Isn’t that resurrection?
I think of the people who come to worship here at Christ Church who never really had a church home because they were never welcomed in other churches due to their sexual orientation, or because their families are different in configuration and structure. But, here they’ve found a church home because here they felt a genuine welcome as human beings. Now, with this new life growing within them,
they are discerning how to live out what it means to be a follower of the risen Jesus. What it means to be welcomed, but all is not done. There’s more to come on this journey. That’s resurrection. How about you? What has occurred in your life that shows God’s grace and power? And now, how is that an ongoing process with you? Recognize that as resurrection.
The other gospel writers tell us that Jesus is going on ahead of us. John tells us that Jesus is ascending to God.
Even after all these years, the event that happened long ago, continues to happen through us. We remain open to God’s power of resurrection. Let us recognize resurrection in what has happened, but is not yet fulfilled. Amen.