The NSFW Easter (A sermon blog)

empty tomb mafa

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their home.11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not 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.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:1-18)

We may not know who actually wrote the Gospel of John, but I can assure you that it was a man. I say this not to be sexist, but there is simply no way that a woman wrote the gospel. Why? Think about what you just read. Without question, this is the most important story that Christians have; Paul, who never met the historical Jesus but went on to shape the whole of Christian history with his epistles, wrote:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have died in Christ have perished.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

biden

It is a big fucking deal. It is the biggest story in Christianity; the claim to end all claims. And what does the author focus on for six verses? A footrace. A footrace between Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved. I’m sorry, but this just seems like a very “boy” thing to do. The author goes to great pains to let us to know that the disciple whom Jesus loved was faster, but was second in the tomb; even though he arrived there first, Peter went in before him. We don’t know why. Maybe he was scared. Maybe he was winded. Maybe he pushed Peter over during the run. We don’t know. We’re not told. We don’t get the skinny. Eventually, though, they both look in and we are assured that they believed. And then they go home.

On second thought, maybe a woman did write it to show how silly men can be sometimes. It just seems like such a stereotypical male thing. Empty tomb? Huh. Well how about that; I’m pretty sure this was God. Cool. Yeah. Really cool. I’m hungry. You hungry? Let’s get a bite at my house. Wanna race? Now one can argue that the two male disciples simply understand what has happened and they know what they are to do next; perhaps, but I wonder what it was they believed? Did they believe that Jesus had been resurrected? Did they just expect to be visited and decide, Well, he’s gonna have to find me because I ain’t sticking around here? Because in contrast to this seeming disinterest is Mary. Mary Magdalene weeping as she is bent over, looking into the tomb. Mary in despair and confusion. And because she sticks around for more than 30 seconds she gets a helluva lot more than do the disciples.

Think about that. Because she does not withdraw her presence, she witnesses a heavenly sight. Two angels ask her why she is weeping and she does not speak of her own sadness; she does not remark on her confusion. They do not have to be assured to not be afraid. She just wants to know where Jesus is. This concern is not shown by the disciples, but again we have to ask what it is that they believed? It seems to me that sticking around the empty tomb might be a good idea. I dunno. I’ve never happened upon a resurrection. Perhaps they were afraid that Roman guards might happen along and think they stole the body; maybe they were running home to tell everyone. We don’t know. We’re not informed. We don’t get the skinny. We know more about the footrace than we do the disciples’ reaction to Jesus’ body being gone.

But we know that Mary stayed. And we know that Mary becomes the first among the disciples to see the resurrected Christ. I refer you again to Vice President Biden. So overwhelmed by her concern for Jesus she does not even recognize that he is standing right in front of her. She pleas with the man whom she thinks is a gardener, begs him to to take her to where Jesus has been moved. Finally, in an intimate act of speaking her name, Jesus helps remove the scales from her eyes. She sees clearly; she comprehends fully. She goes to embrace him but–again, keep in mind that I am as new to the rules of resurrection as are you–there is no hugging before ascension.

What Mary does is clear. We’re told. We get the skinny. We’re given the low down. She informs the disciples. She does not seek to compete with her companions. She does not keep count of who did what first. She reports, out of love and compassion, she reports. So that others may known the glorious work that God has done, she reports.

Resurrection talk is never easy. It goes against our better judgments and reason to say that a body once dead can be revivified. We are fascinated with zombies but we are uncomfortable with a living Christ; we marvel at the chaos that would come with an apocalypse, but  we too often shy away from the promises of the kin-dom. Today’s story is very much a Where’s Waldo opportunity, only Waldo is you. Where are you? Are you in a footrace or are you taking your time to experience what God is offering? Are you keeping track of who’s first, or are you joyfully telling people what God has revealed? Are you showing compassion and concern, or are you convinced that you have everything figured out?

With all respect to Paul, the necessity of Christ’s literal resurrection does not rank number one on my list of most important things required in order for my faith to not be in vain. Christ gives us hope, not certainty. Faith is a commitment to aspire, a promise to have core ideas that animate and motivate our lives. And in God’s work through Jesus, in the story of Christ’s resurrection we have an assurance that death is not the final word; we have the promise that oppression and violence are not the most powerful forces in existence. Through resurrection talk and belief we situate ourselves by saying that this lifetime matters; the decisions we make, the stands we take, the chains we break, all matter.

Today we proclaim that he is risen, he is risen indeed. It is the center of our faith tradition. It is a big deal. But it is only a big deal in how we let it work in our lives. I fear that too much of Christianity has been like the disciples running off. They have what they need, and there is no bother for anyone else. At least, right after the receive the news. But not for Mary. She stays. She has concerns. And God responds. God sends a sign. God tells her what she needs to know. Why? Do that she can tell others. So that she can serve. And that, dearly beloved, is a miracle I can get behind. Amen.

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