Sunday, April 12, 2009

everything has changed

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb …

Going to the tomb, what do people expect? A Sufi sheikh from Lebanon told a story, recently, of a road being built in Syria – and the engineers’ planned route mean they would have to demolish the tomb of a saint, centuries old. So they opened it – and reported the smell of roses. The road was re-routed. This is the story that he told us.

When the Russian saints died, the expectation went, their bodies would not decay – they would not be corrupt. So, in the novel The Brothers Karamazov, when the saintly Father Zossima dies, the people are scandalized: for after four days there is a stink.

When Jesus went to Bethany, to the home of his friends, he arrived after Lazarus died. When he went to the tomb, they warned him: they knew what to expect, a stink. But he called, “Come out!” Out Lazarus came, tottering, still wrapped and banded for the tomb.

What did Mary expect, coming to the tomb, early in the morning, while it was still dark, on that first day of the week?

Thursday at supper they had expected that in the morning Jesus would show himself at last, had they not? For the festival was at hand, Passover, when the true king of God’s people, their redeemer, their liberator, their savior, could show himself. The people would be vindicated, when the Anointed One was revealed.

Friday morning those hopes, those expectations, had been crushed in bitter humiliation. He was crucified. Then all became dark and grim and silent. They expected – the end of the world.

Now, on the first day of the week, what could she expect? What was left but to mourn?

And yet – Jesus overturns all expectations. There is no smell – no roses, no corruption – and the grave clothes are neatly folded, their use forgotten. There is no body lying there.

Something beyond expectation has come to be.

All relationships are altered by his reality; everything is changed by his presence.

Mary! He calls. The good shepherd knows his sheep, and they know his voice.

Rabbouni! She replies. Master!

Their relationship is changing, even as they speak. For the mission of Jesus on the earth is over, completed – God has been glorified in him – and the glorified Christ now must go to his Father.

Not to his father only: he goes to ‘my Father and your Father, my God and your God’.

All relationships have changed. We are now one in Christ, and in Christ one body.

As Jesus prayed, so it has come to be: as he and the Father are one, so are his disciples one, with him, and with each other. So he says ‘my Father and your Father’.

He greets Mary as sister – and he greets her as messenger: Go! Bear the glad tidings.

Alleluia! Christ is risen.

Christ’s messengers go forth and begin to make disciples of all nations.

Peter preaches to the household of Cornelius, a Roman officer. He brings the good news to these Gentiles. There is one God for all, one gospel for all, and peace with God for all, through faith in Christ.

Fear God and do what is right, he tells the gathering. All are justified before God by grace through faith. Jesus is Lord. Reconciliation and restoration to right relationship with the ruler of the universe can now be possible.

Every one who puts their trust in Christ receives this reconciliation, peace with God, forgiveness of sins, and rightness before God, the maker of all, and his son Jesus, the one Lord and judge of all.

Christ’s death and resurrection we celebrate - as those who ate and drank with him in the sacred meal, the witnesses to his resurrection.

We receive light and life, and communion with God, in Christ.

Paul passes on to the Christians at Corinth the good news which he has received: Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures, and was buried; Christ was raised, on the third day, in accordance with the Scriptures, and he has appeared to one and to many: to Cephas, to the Twelve, to more than 500; to James, to the Apostles, and to himself.

Christ has died for our sins. Christ has risen from the dead. Christ will come again.

And in him our lives are made whole and right. We receive from him light and life.

This is the good news, the gospel, ‘which is NOW bringing YOU salvation.’

This is the good news, and we bear the glad tidings to the world.

Alleluia! Christ is risen - and everything has changed.

Acts 10: 34-43
Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15: 1-11
John 20: 1-18


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