Maybe they were too hasty. Peter, and the other disciple who ran with him to the tomb after Mary shared the news that Jesus’ body was no longer there. They ducked in and ducked out. Maybe if they’d stayed with their grief a little longer, there in that early morning dawn, they, too, might have met the resurrected Jesus as Mary did, where she knelt weeping in the grass. Then again, maybe Jesus had always intended for it to be Mary who would come to know the good news first.
A woman in patriarchal man’s society and world; a woman would be the first to have Jesus open her eyes to the truth that the resurrection was real, that death and hell had been conquered and Jesus was alive. There’s a popular Christian song with the lyrics, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you. I want to see you.”
But we can’t see Jesus, at least not on our own. Jesus has to say Mary’s name for her to recognize that he’s not the gardener, but her teacher and the Messiah – Savior of the nations, come. Jesus is always calling to us in this life; not just as the fifty days of Easter begin, but every day; Jesus is always calling to us in this life, always busy naming us. Julius. Rochelle. Ben. Klaus. Zhanna. Lisa. Gwen. Rebecca. Doug. Christine. Paul and all of you, and even me!
Now, we have good reasons in this world and life to mourn and have sorrow. But our sorrow has been met today by a greater hope. “Look up,” says Jesus. “Look at me Mary and all of you and let me open your eyes. And while I am at it, let me also open your hearts and souls and minds and bodies.” Let the truth of my resurrection be a truth that resonates into every part of your life and every particulate part of your being. And bear witness to me in my love for you as I say your name. As I name this world truly alive, this world to be truly worth saving by the gift of my resurrection.
Oh yes, yes, as we witness the truth and profound gift of the resurrection it cannot help but turn our eyes towards the rest of the world. Jesus, the true Pilot of our lives, in this resurrection gift, turns the rudder of our ships outward. After Jesus names Mary and she recognizes him. “Rabbouni,” Mary says, “Teacher.” Jesus instructs Mary not to hold on to him (Jesus’ mystical work of reuniting with God the Father, the Creator is not yet done). Instead, says Jesus, “go” and tell the other disciples that you have seen me, in other words, that Jesus is alive.
Yes, yes, having seen the truth that Jesus is alive, we should not stay here clinging on to this good news, but go and tell others! Even as Jesus instructed Mary to go and tell others. Now, does Jesus’ admonition to “go” mean that we should head out the door this morning and stop people on the street and tell them that Jesus is alive? Maybe. I’d love to hear about your experiences if you try this. Does “go” mean that we should get a Facebook or Instagram or Tik Tok post live, extolling – praising – the wonders of Jesus who is alive? Maybe.
Yet maybe Jesus’ “go tell others” could also look like the actions of North Charleston High School Principal Henry Darby, who not only is a full-time school principal, but also serves on the Town Council and works three nights a week at Walmart to raise money to buy the kids in his school stuff they need, and fund college tuition scholarships.
Or what about Krista Gneiting, who heard gun shots outside her classroom in Idaho and, after getting her students moving to safety, looked out and saw a 6th grader holding the gun that had shot and wounded three people. Krista moved carefully towards the young girl, and as she disarmed her, also drew her into a hug, then stayed and talked her through things as the police arrived.
What about the church in Minneapolis that had a parking problem (not enough parking to allow for more people to come to worship) and instead of tearing down much needed neighborhood housing to build spaces people would use for 2 hours, once a week, began reaching out to bicycling and walking enthusiasts and discovered folks who wanted to bike or walk to church. To grow church, they began knocking on the doors of their immediate neighborhoods and they lobbied bus lines to make stops on Sunday mornings. And the church grew. Another church in another city began to think differently about their parking spaces and started offering several spots seasonally for community garden plots – one space covered in hay bale gardens could be used to raise enough vegetables for a family of four for a season!
I bet if we take the time, we could find all sorts of stories among us of ways that people we know or have heard – ways that we ourselves - are involved in sharing new life in what were once stale or dead places, or utilizing new ideas as a catalyst to build even greater vibrancy. While we may not have realized it before, these stories of ordinary people involved in extraordinary new life work is what we as Christians call the resurrection. And when we name this, when are claimed by this new reality, then we can realize that church is so much more than a few hours on a Sunday. “Go,” Jesus says. And “church” is the work of being “on the go for Jesus,” going out to tell the world – maybe with words but oh so surely with our actions – that there is new life afoot. Death and darkness, misery and struggles are not the only reality. Though we need to acknowledge them and stay at the tomb long enough so that we don’t miss Jesus’s arrival in our midst. Jesus saying our names.
We might have thought we knew life. We might have thought we knew what it was to experience joy and happiness. But by grace and the cross there is joy awaiting us that is on a whole new level. “Let me open your eyes,” says Jesus. Then “go.” You will be the first, but not the last to see the truth of my love and what it means for you and for this hungry, aching world.
Christ is Risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia.