Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014

     

Easter Blessing                                    
 

John 20:1-18               

 
Easter is a story of blessing. It's a powerful story still unfolding, a story in which you and I are called to participate.

 

The story begins in darkness, before the dawn. For Mary Magdalene, it is the darkness of her personal grief and her sadness for the world and its loss.

 

As she approached the tomb of her friend, her mind no doubt wandered back to the events of the past week-the plotting and scheming, the denials and betrayals, the mocking and disrespect, the abuse and violence. His death was awful at every level. She shuddered to think about the way human beings could treat one another-the indifference, the haughtiness, the hatred. How could we do this to one another? How was it that Jesus--so loving, so passionate about justice, so quick to forgive, so compassionate with the most vulnerable--could have been treated so maliciously, so brutally? She had seen human beings at their worst. But also, through Jesus, she had glimpsed humanity at its best. It was sad and confusing.

 

This is a world we know well. It's our Good Friday world, 2000 years later.

 

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Mary Magdalene reaches the tomb, weeping. And she finds it empty...

 

Then, the dawning, the first light. With all the intimacy implied in the verbs "see" and "hear" and "touch," Mary Magdalene experiences the risen Lord, her friend, her teacher, the one who had shown her the way.

 

At first she couldn't believe it; didn't understand what she was seeing; didn't trust her own perception. Quite literally Mary was staring Jesus in the face but could not recognize who he was. For that to happen, her whole perception of life-its possibilities and its limits-had to be altered.

 

And, apparently, that's precisely what happened. Mary's life was changed as she began to trust her own experience, even in her sadness, confusion, and pain.

 

For us--as for Mary Magdalene--Easter marks the beginning of a wholly new experience of life wherein the promise of God turns out to be true. Death no longer has dominion. Love becomes the gentle conqueror. It is new life. (Dare I say "eternal life.") Mary Magdalene has been born anew through her experience of Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

 

The stories of Jesus, the women, and the disciples on Easter and the days that follow invite us to open ourselves to that new reality, to something not previously experienced, to a place of forgiveness, peace, courage, and love. In the experience of Easter, we are given the blessing of new life in Christ. I invite you to pray for Easter blessings: for you and for our world. 
         

Rev. Dr. Jim McDonald 

SFTS President and Professor of Faith and Public Life