Seniors’ Easter Eucharist
April 5th ~ Rev’d Heather Westbrook ~ “Mary Magdalene at the tomb” …
I would like to speak very briefly on today’s gospel, focusing particularly on Mary Magdalene, the first to arrive at the empty tomb. What might her life have been like, following Jesus about for two or three years? She would have experienced healing within herself and seen miracles happen. She would have seen throngs of people arriving to listen to Jesus speak, people not only following him, but making demands on him for healing. She would have been a part of Jesus support system along with the disciples and she would have known great fear as the criticism of the religious leaders mounted against him, criticism which resulted in his arrest. Finally, she would have been there, standing at the foot of the cross that killed him. She would certainly have known heart break, the emptiness of the tomb.
We all have periods when life is sunny, it appears to be going well, and then we find ourselves going through a dark time. It can be a season of unknowing and doubt; however when darkness comes upon us God is still working on our behalf, present as he was with Mary. We may find ourselves in the midst of darkness but we are never abandoned by God any more than she was. Remember the story of her encounter with Jesus in the garden? She thought she was alone speaking with a gardener but He was present. It was the Lord.
Many are familiar with the popular poem about the footsteps in the sand. A person questions the Lord about why during their darkest hour there was only one set of footsteps in the sand. Why were they walking alone and the Lord answers that he was there. There was one set of footsteps because that is when He was carrying them. I mention this writing because in my youth I had an ahha moment reading that not because it was a nice idea, warm and fuzzy, but because it resonated with my experience of God’s presence. I recognized looking back, that he had been with me.
What is important about Mary is that with childlike trust in God, she lived in the knowledge that ultimately she wasn’t abandoned. She had offered a space for the Risen Christ to touch her heart and deliver her from the darkness. We need to trust that in the darkness God is working on our behalf, even if we do not know it at the time. It is His nature that he is working to bring light into the darkness. Understanding that Light is not really what you see, it is that by which you see. Our God is one of light and love. The gospel states: In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.
As we listen to the story of Mary and the empty tomb, how she found the stone rolled away, we need to ask to what extent we’ve allowed the story to connect with the reality of our own lives, with the stones that need to be rolled away in us. Sadly many persons just worship the historical event of Jesus as a spectator would instead of setting out on the path with Him as a partner which is what he asks his disciples to do: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
What is crucial about the resurrection is not what we believe about the story, but that it becomes central to our being, to how we live our life, to who we are. When we set out on the path as partners with Jesus, a path that is ultimately transformational, our relationship is no longer with a distant God but with a God who is fully present. We remember how Mary offered a space within where the risen Christ could touch her heart and lead her through the darkness -to the light of the resurrection. Her story in the garden resonates with our story now.
Easter time reminds us of eggs and bunnies but it should also remind us about our resurrection life, our calling as Christians. We are called to reach out in love and to be part of the “…great cosmic drama inspired by God’s reaching out to us when Jesus rose from the grave.” (quote: Marek Zabriskie ) Remembering that the Christian story is not just about God reaching out to us in love but about us then reaching out in love, through Christ, to each other.
A blessed Easter to all.