When Mary Magdalene woke that first Easter morning, she and all of Jesus followers, first thoughts were, Jesus, our precious friend, our beloved teacher is dead. They killed him, crucified him. Our dreams, his dreams of transforming the world with God’s love, are destroyed. Her grief was total.
We can identify with Mary’s grief. We too have felt loss. For six weeks, I sat with my mother, held her in my arms as she suffered excruciating pain and the humiliation of a body ravaged by disease, on her journey to death. I wanted her agony to end. Yet, with her death, I felt deep, deep sadness knowing I would never again hear her voice on the phone, feel her loving arms around me. Grief is a terrible, aching, empty feeling. Anyone who has experienced the death of a child, a partner, a parent, a dear friend knows Mary’s desolation on that Easter morning.
It’s harder to identify with Mary’s joy, mostly because we come to Jesus’ story already knowing the ending. At the Good Friday service we knew we would be here this morning, singing Easter songs, shouting Hallelujah! Mary, knew the only ending for crucifixion was death and death was forever. On that morning, at the tomb in the garden, Mary experienced the overwhelming, unexpected joy of the miracle of the resurrection. She had been given back her beloved friend and teacher, her dreams, her future. She had been given new life.
What does Jesus’ resurrection mean for us, for you and me as individuals and for our world? Is there any unexpected overwhelming Easter joy for us? Or is Easter just a good story, a special church service, a wonderful family meal, the Easter bunny.
My understanding, my Easter joy, is based on my belief that God loves us so much that God chose to come and live among us in our limited human form, in a man named Jesus. God walked this earth feeling our temptations, our pain, our grief, our joy. In Jesus’ gifts of preaching and healing and loving, God taught us about God’s unconditional love, God’s forgiveness would always be there waiting for us. In Jesus resurrection God gave us the most precious gift of all, an unexpected gift, the understanding, the illustration that God’s love for us cannot be defeated or destroyed.
We repeat our Easter story year after year because we need to relearn that lesson, to receive that gift over and over again. God came in Jesus, living free and unconditional love and we object. Mistakes, failures, must be punished. Maybe not an eye for an eye, but for sure punishment for ourselves and for others. We say the words, God’s love is unconditional, but in our hearts too often we believe God’s love must be earned. God can’t be always waiting to forgive. That’s just too easy. Cheap Grace we call it.” And yet from the agony of the cross God spoke through Jesus, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
I have Easter joy, because I know my need for forgiveness, for God’s unconditional love. There have been times when I have done things I’m ashamed off, or not done things I should have done and others have suffered. And there will be times, hopefully different times in the future when I need God’s forgiveness again.
AND, I play my part in humanity’s collective sins. I am blessed to live in this beautiful country with abundant water, and I waste some almost every day. I know there are people right here in Canada who have been under a boil water warning for years. Do I do anything? Do I even ask questions? I have a warm lovely home and I am grateful. Still, I know that our country has a housing shortage. There are people living under bridges, in hostels, safe houses. Am I doing anything to help?
As a society some of us eat until our tummies aches while others are hungry.
Many of us stand by while others suffer injustice. Most of us add to the pollution of our beautiful planet every day.
The list of our sins is endless. Our need for God’s unconditional love and forgiveness goes deep. Yes, knowing our Easter story. Knowing that God already has defeated death. Knowing God’s forgiveness is waiting for us, waiting for us to wake up and turn our lives around is wonderful.
AND even more than that, knowing that new life, transformation is happening is spectacular. We receive unexpected glimpses of the resurrection every day. Every day, someone somewhere loves as God would have us love.
The unexpected Good News is that God is overcoming the cruelty, the violence of this world, one person at a time. Goodness is happening. Transformation is possible. Dreams of a world of peace and love, where we share and care are possible. Easter tells us to wake up, hear and live the Good News, God loves us unconditionally, God empowers us to transform the world. And God will not be defeated. Hallelujah. There is hope. Thanks be to God. Amen