Sunday, April 21, 2019
Where do YOU find the Risen Christ?
Good morning, church! Happy Easter!
Look at all of you. You look amazing in your Easter best! Okay, a few of you look like you haven’t been here in awhile. Maybe a long while. Maybe some of you are here because you were . . . umm . . . . “encouraged” . . . . to be here? You know who you are.
I am intrigued, once again, by the Gospel report of the resurrection.
Did you notice how many women are mentioned? There’s Mary, the mother of James, Mary Magdalene – whom many scholars believe was not a prostitute but, actually, the spouse of Jesus – and Salome and Joanna, and “other women”.
They had come to the tomb, bringing spices to tend to the body, as was the religious practice and tradition at that time.
They were all startled to find an empty tomb. In Luke’s gospel, which we heard this morning, two men in dazzling white clothing appear before him and say to them,
“Why do you look for the living among the dead. He is not here, but has risen.”
In Mark’s gospel, the women gather at the empty tomb and encounter a “young man, dressed in a white robe”.
In John’s Gospel account, it is Mary Magdalene alone who finds the stone rolled away. She tells the other disciples and they come, look in and see the empty tomb and then they run back home.
But, Mary stays by the empty tomb, weeping in her confusion and grief. She, too, sees two “angels” who ask her why she is weeping.
When she turns, she sees Jesus but at first does not recognize him. It is only when he calls her by name that she realizes that it is the resurrected Jesus standing in her midst.
So, we have these different accounts of what happened on that day that we call “Easter”. I am most intrigued that, while the women were the ones to first see the empty tomb, it is only Mary Magdalene who actually sees the Risen Jesus.
Yet, she does not recognize him at first.
I have always been intrigued by John’s report.
How is it that she didn’t recognize him? This is the man she knew and loved for several years. She cooked for him and ate with him, laughed with him and cried with him. She washed his feet and listened to his stories and his teachings. She wiped his brow and dried his tears.
She followed him as he walked the road to Calvary and sat at the foot of the cross with his mother and wept as she watched him die.
How could she not recognize him?
As I’ve thought about this particular scene and the various reports of that first day of Easter, I’ve come to an understanding something about Mary’s temporary amnesia. I understand it because I recognize it in myself. I see it all around me in the world.
The resurrected Jesus, whom we call the Christ, the one Anointed by God, is all around us in the world, often standing right in front of us.
And yet we, like Mary, do not recognize him.
Part of it is cultural, of course. We Americans are very busy people. We have been carefully taught that very busy people are very important people. And, important people simply don’t have time to stop and notice things that are not significant to the busy, important work we have to do.
I’m struck by the fact that other cultures are not like this. There are many examples but I’ll give you two.
In Hindu culture, when two people – even strangers – greet each other, they always bow. Why would two strangers bow to one another? One may be a scoundrel and the other a thief. That’s not what matters. What they are acknowledging in each other is that there is a divine spark in each one of us. When they bow, they bow in recognition of that divine spark.
How would our world change if we did that? If we looked for and honored the divine spark that is in each of us? Just imagine.
In South Africa, when people greet each other, they say, “Sawubona" meaning "I see you" and the response "Ngikhona" means "I am here".
As always when translating from one language to another, crucial subtleties are lost. Inherent in the Zulu greeting and its grateful response, is the sense that until you saw me, I didn't exist. By recognizing me, you brought me into existence.
Think about that for a minute. Let that sink in. Until you saw me, I didn’t exist. By recognizing me, you brought me into existence.
On this Easter Day, I want you to carefully consider these two vows. Indeed, I’d like you to commit yourself to living your life in such a way that would make it clear that you are striving to be true to the vows that you took when you were baptized, and reaffirmed at your Confirmation.
Start by inwardly imagining yourself bowing to the divine spark that exists in the other person. Try looking strangers straight in the eye and saying “Hello!” or “Good morning!”
Say it right out loud and like you mean it.
In fact, let’s practice that right now. I know you’re Episcopalian and a proud member of God’s frozen chosen, but I’d like you to turn to the person to the right and say, “Good morning.” Ready? 1, 2, 3 “Good morning.” Now, turn to the person to the left and say, “Good morning.”
Now, I want the left side of the church to face the right side, and the right side to face the left side. Now, find someone on the other side of the church, look them in the eye and say, "Happy Easter!"