By The Very Rev. Sherry Crompton

Easter Sunday – April 12, 2009

Read: John 20:1-18

Our gospel story today begins with the words…. “early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb.”

Mark’s version is also on your insert, although we didn’t read it this morning. It begins “very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen.”

While it was still dark and at early dawn. Early dawn. The Greek for early dawn can also be translated as deep dawn. I love that description…deep dawn. What is deep dawn? It is that indefinable time between darkness and light.

My friend Jim wonders if, while circling the earth in outer space, you can see an arched line that can only be described as earth’s deep dawn. There is such a thing as deep, deep dawn, but I think only the eyes of the heart can see it. Only the eyes of the mind can see it. And I doubt there’s an actual line. If you’ve ever watched the sun rise, you know there’s no actual line. And you also know the truth in the phrase, “it’s always darkest before the dawn”. And it’s true during the cold winter months, that the temperature drops to it’s lowest point just before the dawn. It is darkest just before the dawn.

It was the women who came to the tomb at deep dawn. All the gospel writers agree it was women, they disagree on the names and number, but they all agree it was women. In John’s gospel, which we read this morning, it was Mary. Mary wasn’t able to see clearly in the deep dawn. It was dark when she arrived. And Mary experienced a deep dawn moment.

Do you know what I mean by a deep dawn moment? Deep dawn, for example, is that moment just after you hang up the phone and you have to go to the police station to pick up your son or your daughter. At that moment, you believe there is hope for a new beginning, like Jesus taught; or you believe there is nothing but angry rebellion and angry retribution.

Deep dawn is that moment just after the doctor comes in and says it’s cancer….and then says these are the things he can do but makes no promises. At that moment, everything you have been taught to believe about hope is true or it is a lie….either you believe there is hope or you believe there is nothing but disease. It’s at that moment, we must remember what Jesus taught us.

It always happens at deep dawn. That in between space and time. That moment just after the news is bad….like when one parent comes home and says to the other—I don’t love you anymore….or when someone says I am powerless over my addiction…or when the boss says your job has just been phased out.

It’s just then we must remember how Jesus taught us: “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest…” “I am with you always even to the end of the ages..” “This is my body broken for you” Then you will know there is hope that will not let go.

Then you will know there is hope that will not let go. Mary tried to hold on to Jesus; to cling to Jesus. Barbara Brown Taylor says—-the only thing we cannot do is hold on to Jesus. He has asked us please not to do that, because he knows that, all in all, we would rather keep him with us where we are then let him take us where he is going. Better we should let Jesus hold on to us, perhaps. Better we should let him take us into the white-hot presence of God, who is not behind us, but ahead of us, every step of the way.” Jesus leads us into new life; into new relationship.

Mary begins the day in fear, confusion, and tears – deep dawn. And then she finds new life standing before her. It is not what she expected. An unlikely movie expresses it – the movie Ratatouille. Ratatouille is an animation in which Remy, the French rat, lives underground in pipes and sewers as rats do. But one day, all the rats get swept away by a surge of water and Remy gets separated from all his friends and family. Late at night –in the dark-hungry, lost and alone, he starts climbing up the dripping, slimy pipes to get his bearings. He reaches street level and continues up between walls of buildings, through cracks, along girders, out on a balcony, up the vines of a pillar, and finally onto a roof where suddenly he is looking out over the Eiffel Tower and all of Paris at night. He says, “All this time I’ve been underneath Paris. Wow!”

Deep dawn is that indefinable time between darkness and light….that time when the promise in which we believe is true; or the promise in which we believe is a lie.
Mary went to the tomb at deep dawn. She was in the dark. The darkness that comes just before the dawn. She didn’t see. Then the angels appeared. And still she didn’t see. Then Jesus appeared. And still she didn’t see. She was in that moment of deep dawn. Then Jesus spoke her name. And the sun appeared. Light came. Mary could see clearly. But don’t hold on to Jesus. Let Jesus hold on to us and lead the way into light and life.

In those moments of deep, deep dawn in our life. Remember. If we take that word apart it is Re and Member. To Re-Member is to put back together. To put back together a broken body. Jesus’ body was broken for us, but we know about the resurrection.

Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows,
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose.

(from “The Rose” by Amanda McBrooom)

So, in those moments of deep, deep dawn, when we remember what Jesus taught us, we will know, we will believe, we will be sure that there is hope so strong that not even the grave can contain it. Let me repeat that….there is hope so strong that not even the grave can contain it. That hope for us is the truth of Jesus of Nazareth.

Alleluia. The Lord is Risen.

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