By The Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
March 23, 2008 (Easter Sunday)
Read: John 20:1-18
Alleluia! The Lord is Risen! Happy glorious Easter!
In Bible study someone commented on how wonderful the detail is in our story from John this morning. It allows for us to truly “see” what happened, it’s vivid and it’s real. And, in the detail we see in the first 11 verses, that the word “tomb” occurs 9 times and after verse 12 it is not mentioned again. We transition from a place of death, the tomb, into a place of life. Resurrection life. Jesus.
Let’s go deeper into the detail. Mary came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been rolled away. She was upset that someone had taken Jesus’ body from the tomb and ran to tell a couple of the disciples. When Peter and the other disciple arrived at the tomb, Mary’s words were believed. They believed that someone removede Jesus’ body…..even though the linen wrappings told a different story. They just didn’t see clearly at that point, and as John’s gospel says “as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead”. They went home. This should have been the end of the story. Their wonderful adventure with Jesus had come to an awful, gut-wrenching, bloody conclusion. Jesus was dead. And to make it even worse, they desecrated his body, removed it from the tomb. What else could they do? They went home. It should have been the end of the story.
And then we have that little word “but.” And it begins a transition. A transition from darkness to light; a transition from not seeing clearly, to seeing clearly; a transition from death to life.
In the detail we see that little word But. “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb”.
BUT…Mary, having been abandoned by the two disciples, stayed at the tomb to grieve all alone.
BUT…Mary was not really alone at all.
Easter begins with “BUT…”
It’s not about a dead body or an empty tomb. That’s where the old story stops. “But…” is where hope begins. It’s about new possibilities, new perspectives, new stories. It’s that incredible, amazing moment when God surprises us with the unexpected.
“But…” is what faith is made of. It’s about God breaking into our present moment to tickle our imaginations, to whack us upside the head and awaken us from our hopeless slumber.
“But…” transforms defeat into victory. It is the magic that causes us to wait for the sunrise when we are engulfed in darkness.
“But…” is what turns tears of heartbreak into tears of joy. It is a word that only our imaginations truly comprehend. Like a pooch whose ears twitch at sounds our ears cannot hear, our imaginations come alive at it’s faintest whisper.
“But…” is what tips the scales in God’s favor. Jesus is dead and gone. His story is done. And, as Mary stoops down to look in the tomb one last time, as she closes her eyes, takes a deep breath and prepares to slam shut the book of Jesus’ story… God places his hand on the pages of the book and says, “BUT…”
For Mary, it came in the form of her name. “Mary!” (Note the exclamation point!) In that instant, Mary became an Easter person. Can I explain it? No. “But…” can never be explained. All I know is that Mary returned to town with news that could never be explained: “I have seen the Lord!” she says.
What will it take for us to become Easter people? Well, the first thing we need to do is BELIEVE IN THE WORD “BUT…!”
What do you see when you look at this sign? [The sign said, ‘GODISNOWHERE.’] Do you see God is nowhere? But it can also be read: God is now here.
Our gospel tells us that God always brings life out of death. The living God revealed to us in Jesus delivers us from our own tombs again and again, hallowing our sufferings by his presence, indwelling every harrowed nook and cranny of our lives; every detail. When we are faced with loss, when we are at the brink of disaster, the Easter shout may be all that keeps us going. “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life.”
Alleluia! The Lord is Risen. The Lord is Risen Indeed. Alleluia!
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