Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

April 2016

Jesus Appears to the Disciples - Again!


Jesus Appears to the Disciples - Again!

When Tim and I were first married, I was working at Charleston Area Medical Center and taking graduate classes at night. It worked out very well, I worked 12 hour days - 6 - 6, had an hour off for dinner and then would go to class at 7. The classes were being held in a building that actually connected to the hospital. Couldn’t have been a better arrangement! Classes lasted from 7 until 9:30 and then I drove home. We had bought our first house and were living in Sissonville then - a small town about 15 - 20 minutes west of Charleston - famous for the MTV Series Buckwild! The drive from Charleston was easy, just up the interstate; because I left so early in the morning and got home so late I always drove it in the dark! One night as I was driving back home after class - it was just me on the road which was usually the case - I was looking up at the darkened sky when all of a sudden I saw this green ball streak across the sky and then explode into what looked like flames. It was a miracle I didn’t wreck because I was so awestruck by this sight - so I was pretty fortunate there were no other cars on the road. I was just filled with this sense of awe and wonder over what I had seen. I couldn’t imagine what it was and even wondered for a minute if I had imagined the whole thing - but even I didn’t think I would have imagined a big green ball streaking across the sky and blowing up. When I got home I of course told Tim about it - and in the days before Facebook or Twitter or any of these instant information sources - I wondered how I could find out what it was. Tim suggested I call the airport - 911 operators would probably question my sanity and there really wasn’t a crime to report....... so I did call the Charleston airport. After being routed around to several people, I was finally on the phone with a very nice gentleman who told me that what I had seen was a meteor falling through the atmosphere and then burning up. A fairly common occurrence I was told but usually not visible unless the conditions were just right. And in fact this had happened over the air space in Kentucky. Now I think about the wonder with which I witnessed this unusual event and it was such an awesome visual picture that I remember it today as if it had just happened.
But how often are we overtaken by this sense of wonder; how often are we filled with a sense of awe at something that occurs. Because of TV and Movies and the Internet and YouTube and video games that are so real you can’t tell the difference between real and game, visual effects create scenes that are pretty preposterous yet look very real - we just aren’t so easily thrilled by a beautiful sunset or a brilliantly colored bird flying to our window or the stars on a clear night. We don’t marvel at nature or feel intimidated by a roaring thunderstorm. We are just immune to the nuances of nature around us. But yet when we read much of scripture, that is what we see - this great feeling of wonderment at the stars at night and the sun in the sky, at the working of the animals and the variety of fish swimming in the sea. The Hebrews had this great reverence for lightning and thunder and even a simple thing like the springing up of their crops. The things of God filled them with a sense of reverence and respect and admiration for God’s handiwork.
Much of the reason we aren’t quite so awestruck is because we have this thing called science. Whether we liked science or not, we all had to take these science classes all the way through school. We learned how rain was made and that the stars were distant suns and that a sun was a ball of burning gas. We learned how fish breathed through gills underwater and how seeds planted in the soil grew into plants. We learned that it was the rotation of the earth that created our seasons....... And learning the ‘how’ of so much around us robbed us of some of that sense of wonder because now we could explain how these things happened. Unlike the ancient Hebrews who would look at the sky at night and wonder in amazement at these points of light in the sky or who looked at a flame in wonder of how that flame produced light and heat or even how the flame came to be. As we read through much of the Old Testament and especially the Psalms we understand this sense of wonder of God’s people - since they didn’t know how anything worked their only explanation was that God did


it. There was a much greater sense that God was in charge of everything because they couldn’t tell you that seasons came and went because of the tilt of the earth in proximity to the sun so the explanation was just - God did it and any God who could do such a thing must be someone spectacular .
Both stories we read today had our characters feeling a sense of awe and wonder. The Isaiah story shows us Isaiah, just an average guy working in the palace of the King. Good cushy job, secure and pretty easy; good pay. Just a normal routine life. When one night he has a vision - a dream. And in that vision he is taken up into the courts of heaven and on the throne he sees God - and he is awestruck. God in all his glory and splendor with robes flowing down to the floor and angels flying around him singing God’s praises. What an amazing sight! And Isaiah is so filled with wonder he falls on his knees and hides his face because he doesn’t feel he is worthy to see such a beautiful sight. Being in God’s presence and this feeling of just overwhelming majesty - a truly awesome experience! Isaiah is filled with wonder and awe at God!
The story from the book of John took place during these 40 days after the resurrection when Jesus is sort of flitting around visiting his disciples. The disciples are still unsure of what is going on and what they are suppose to be doing and since Jesus is sort of here some and not here some they decide to go and do the one thing they do know about - and that is fishing. Remember, most of the disciples were fishermen before they became disciples of Jesus. They do what we often do, in times of stress and uncertainty, we do something we are familiar with. The disciples go fishing. But they are not having any success. They have fished all night and haven’t caught a thing and now that it is getting to be morning they are pretty discouraged. They look at the shore and there stands Jesus - remember Jesus’ occupation was as a carpenter, not a fisherman. Jesus, however, still gives the disciples some fishing advice. “Throw your net onto the other side of the boat” he yells out to them. They sort of look at him funny - after all what does a carpenter know about fishing. But it is Jesus and they figure they ought to at least humor him - so to the other side of the boat they go and throw in their nets - and lo and behold catch more fish than the net can hold! Their amazement came at the fact that here this carpenter was able to even help them with fishing! It was an awe inspiring moment that Jesus is able to help the disciples with their fishing - and we need to think of Jesus in the same way - “Jesus can’t help me. He doesn’t understand what I am going through” or “What can Jesus do about my situation? I’m not worthy, or important enough, or needy enough for Jesus to help me.” Not so. We are all important to Jesus - every one of us and there is not a situation here that Jesus cannot help with. And if we just turn to him and listen to him and let him in - we too can be filled with wonder over what this carpenter can do! It is a matter of putting aside logic and our understanding and even our desires about how things should work out and just let the risen Christ be a part of our life - and if we do that we will constantly be filled with wonder over what he really can do!
We, who live as people who are enlightened about the things around us; who understand the difference between reality and fantasy; who think logically and rationally and realistically. Yet God wants to fill us with wonder and awe over what he has done for us in Jesus Christ. He wants us to be awestruck over a story that makes no rational sense - there is no logic to angels telling women about a man who has raised from the dead; there is no logic to the once dead Jesus walking along a road and talking to people who don’t recognize him; of a Jesus who can just appear in a room but yet still has a substance the disciples can see and feel;
Its a nice story. But it needs to become more than that - we need to understand the reality of what God has done even if it doesn’t seem possible to our science oriented minds. God has raised his son from the dead; he has empowered him in a way our logical minds can’t conceive - yet he calls us to believe with all our being that it is real! There really were angels sitting at the tomb, Jesus really did raise from the dead, Jesus really could appear through walls - And these mystical, magical events are what are the basis of our faith. And these events need to fill us with a feeling of awe and wonder at what God truly can do.

Amen!

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

We have all experienced that zap of electricity that comes when we walk along a carpeted floor when the air is very dry and we touch a door knob - or even one another - and zap! we get that jolt of electricity. And it really stings!
A grocery store recently bit the bullet and spent big money on some major renovations. Among the improvements were all new flooring, a snazzy laminate that looked like real hardwood. The store also bought new shopping carts. These were sleeker and more “user friendly” than the previous model. An upgraded misting system in the produce section required new de-humidifying equipment for the rest of the store. But all these various upgrades resulted in a “perfect storm” for this grocery store. The contact between the new floor and the new shopping cart’s wheels coupled with the dry, de-humidified air resulted in perfect conditions to create tremendous static electricity. Suddenly every shopper with a grocery cart was getting electrified by the lemons, zapped by the chocolate chips, zinged by a loaf of bread. The pain for those local shoppers was no longer confined to the prices at the check-out counter. Now every item the shopper selected brought a painful static electric shock.
We know that there is a lot of power in electricity. I learned how potent electricity could be one time when Tim was working on my broken dishwasher. As I stood there watching, he was literally blown across the room, hitting the wall and slumping down. I was horrified and sure I had a dead husband….. but then he looked up and said with a grin - “At least now I know what is wrong with it.”
Electricity is a powerful thing - and as we think about the Holy Spirit, that is how we should think of it - as powerful as electricity. We need to believe that the Spirit that God gives us - the spirit of Jesus Christ himself, that dwells in us - is every bit as powerful as the electricity that runs our homes. Can we do that? Can we really believe that?
My favorite holy spirit story is the account of Ezekiel overlooking a valley. God has taken him there in a vision. What Ezekiel sees is a valley full of dry bones. The description of the bones makes sure that we realize that these bones are old and dry and dead. God says emphatically - there is no life in them. Now God tells Ezekiel to tell these bones to live. Ezekiel is skeptical but he does it and what he sees is incredible - all of a sudden the bones begin to jump up and put themselves together. Remember that old song - the foot bone is connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone is connected to the shin bone, the shine bone is connected to the knee bone - Here the word of the Lord! That song comes from this story. That is what Ezekiel is watching happen before his eyes - the bones are assembling themselves and once the skeleton is together, they begin to grow sinew and muscle, and blood vessels, and organs and skin overtop it all and then all of a sudden the valley is no longer dead bones but full of perfectly formed people. But God says - they aren’t done yet. Ezekiel looks at God rather quizzically and God says, “Watch this!” And God begins to blow his breath across the valley and this wind of God blows over all these people and they are filled with God’s spirit - the Holy Spirit. God is like this big defibrillator that zaps these people with an electric shock - only instead of it being electricity it is his spirit carried by his breath. God holds those defibrillator paddles like a doctor restarting a heart and “Now” God says, “Now they are done! They are now truly my people ready to do my work; like a mighty army!” What made the difference between just people and the people of God, was that electric zap of the Holy Spirit!
This was true as well if we remember the story of the creation of mankind. In the first chapter of Genesis we read that God not only created Adam, but breathed his spirit into him. Adam was, from the beginning, zapped and filled with the Holy Spirit.
In the gospel of John the gift of the Holy Spirit is tightly woven into the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, his mission and witness. In John’s gospel the continuation of Jesus’s mission, is found within the commission of his followers. We remember the account of Jesus death on the cross where Jesus’ spirit is “given up” as he dies.
In today’s story we hear how those still frightened disciples were hunkered down in the “upper room,” where they had celebrated Passover with their Master. Suddenly — in a room with locked doors — Jesus stood in their midst. John makes it clear in his gospel that Jesus had fulfilled all of what God had empowered him to do. Jesus had proclaimed the good news of the gospel. Jesus had extended God’s offering of forgiveness, and love, and had sacrificed himself to make that offering a living reality. But there still remained those doubtful disciples. John’s gospel could not end without dealing with these disciples. So as the shut-in remnant of Jesus’ follower’s cowered in their rented Jerusalem rooms, the resurrected Jesus
enters into their midst. He shows them his wounds, proving his identity and shocking them into recognition. Then the risen Christ, the one who had completed his mission, who had done all that God had directed, offers the final piece to this mission. Jesus “breathes on them,” just as God had breathed on the bones in the valley or on Adam, and declares “Receive the Holy Spirit” This Holy Spirit is the confirmation of Christ’s power on earth. Jesus had told the disciples before the crucifixion that he was going to send his spirit - and here it is! Jesus, like an electric shock, breathes his spirit into them to revitalize them and to wake them up and ready them to go out and be the army of God - just like those dry bones. Scared disciples like dry bones are useless, but filled with the Holy Spirit, that final jolt of electric energy, the bones and the disciples become the ones to go into the world and tell the gospel of Christ.
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit a gift. Here is the gift of life, which will be like a breath of fresh air to a stale world. For in receiving this gift, you receive my spirit," Jesus seems to be saying. In that giftedness, the disciples discover that their fear is replaced with joy, their shyness is replaced with boldness, their hesitation is replaced with courage, and their sense of lostness is replaced with a sense of purpose. Now, with that joy, boldness, courage and purpose, the disciples move out from behind their locked doors. From all the accounts of the gift-Spirit, it is quite apparent that this gift means action. This is not a gift to place on the mantel, or in a trophy case, or to hang on a wall. This is not a gift to preserve and protect, grateful for having been thus blessed to receive, but it's mine and no one else's! Rather, this gift sends us out as Christ's representatives to the world. It is a gift to be used.
And that is what we need to understand. This is not just a story about something that happened over 2000 years ago to some people we don’t know. This is our story. We are those disciples and we need to not be like them and lock ourselves inside these four walls and make excuses about not being good at this or that; or being afraid to tell others of our faith; We as the church of Jesus Christ have been empowered by this same Holy Spirit that was breathed into Adam,; the same Holy Spirit breathed into those dead bones and the same Holy Spirit that electrified the disciples. We have that power - but we have to believe it; we have to acknowledge it; and we have to be willing to go and do where that spirit leads us with the knowledge that whatever it is we are going and doing, the spirit will give us everything we need to get it done.
As the recipients of this gift, those disciples walked out of that room, and into the world as a church: formed and reformed out of chaos and uncertainty by the breath of Christ; endowed with power and mission from the word of God. That breath-gift invigorated them for the task that awaited. Jesus had prefaced his gift-giving with the assignment: "I send you." And he follows it with the responsibility of authority. They, and now we, are to bring that fresh life-giving Spirit to a world which continues to shut its doors in fear. We are empowered to breathe new life into a stale world that yearns to share that breath of life.
The Holy Spirit is what transforms upper-room cowards into bold evangelists. John’s gospel completes Jesus’ mission by affirming that the presence of Jesus has never left this world. The Holy Spirit is what brings Christ to life in each one of us. That is the function of the Spirit: to breathe the resurrection presence of power into each of our lives. Since the resurrection, the presence of Jesus has never left this world. Since the resurrection, the presence of the risen Christ has been witnessed and worshiped through his Spirit-empowered disciples. From the first century to the twenty-first century, Jesus’ Spirit-empowered disciples have continued to gift creation with the living presence of the resurrected Jesus, the One sent by God to save the world and bring us back into a
relationship with God.
We are the ones who show the world the power that comes from putting our lives in the hands of a risen Christ, a Christ who gives us the power of the Holy Spirit. Just like a jolt of electricity, we can shock the world - with love and grace and forgiveness and caring and acceptance and all those things people don’t expect. The resurrection Christ lives through us and the spirit within us. Amen!

Jesus Appears on the Road to Emmaus

Jesus Appears on the Road to Emmaus

Most of us have a yearly event we attend. A family dinner, a reunion, a business conference – a gathering that we look forward to that happens once a year. When we we’ve reached this yearly occasion, we see the same people, do pretty much the same activities. It is all comfortably routine – but we like it that way! There is a comfort to the familiar and that is part of the reason we go back year after year – it is something we can count on. That is what Passover was to the Jews. A yearly get together with people they saw only once a year, getting together to participate in the same activities, the same events, the familiar rituals. A familiar routine week. However, this year Passover took on a whole new flavor. From the day the Jews traveled into the city with the crowds following Jesus and waving palm branches to hearing about his disruption of the temple, the teaching they had never heard before. Passover had never been like this! Then came the terror at the end of the week when Jesus was arrested and crucified. This would certainly be a week no one would ever forget. Two of the people at Passover, a couple from Emmaus – Cleopas and his companion, had become followers of Jesus before this week. They had heard Jesus’ teachings during his ministry and had put their trust in him……. So they were pretty excited when they came to Jerusalem for Passover and saw Jesus there. Like everyone else who followed Jesus, they were expecting great things, a revolution! But the week didn’t turn out quite like they had hoped. Jesus died, was buried and then the body comes up missing. What excitement and what mystery. So this couple heads out on Sunday to return home, to the town of Emmaus about 7 miles from Jerusalem. And as they are walking down the road they were talking about all these strange happenings and discussing where they were going to go from there. After all, they had put all their eggs in the Jesus for King basket and that hadn’t happened. It was pretty disappointing and they just quite weren’t sure what they were going to do now. As they went down the road, they were approached by a stranger who wondered what they were discussing so intently. Cleopas and his companion – which many Biblical scholars believe to be his wife – stopped and just looked at this stranger for a minute and then replied, “Have you been living under a rock? Do you mean you really haven’t heard all the strange things that have happened this week in Jerusalem? Surely you’ve heard the news” “No’ the stranger said, “I’ve been out of town. Tell me what happened.” So Cleopas and his companion proceeded to tell how they had had these great expectations of Jesus. “Jesus” they said, “was a great prophet and proclaimed the word of God. He talked like he was going to be the new King of Israel and how then it had all fallen apart when our religious leaders had him arrested and crucified. “They buried him in a guarded tomb with a big stone rolled in front of it – but someone was able to steal the body anyway. And we just don’t know what to do now. We heard rumors that some of the women who followed him had gone to the tomb and had seen angels who said he was raised from the dead. But we know that isn’t realistic. It is all just so confusing.” Now, let’s think about what is happening here. Cleopas and his companion, were followers of Jesus. They had known Jesus before this crazy Passover week, they had seen Jesus during this week in Jerusalem. Now Jesus walks up to them and begins to talk to them and they don’t recognize who he is. We find that confusing. Certainly we would recognize someone we had seen so much. But then this couple on their way to Emmaus thought Jesus was dead so they didn’t expect to see him so that would excuse them a little wouldn’t it? Where do we expect to see Jesus? Churchy places, maybe? Sunday mornings or maybe at

Bible Study. Certainly not in the nitty gritty of our everyday lives. Not in the routines of going to Walmart and mowing grass and spending lunch with friends. But what we need to understand is that we need to know the presence of Christ with us all the time. If we keep Jesus in our minds all the time, we start to see the work he does in the routines of our life – we begin to see him in people we meet and in the things we do and Jesus becomes a much more real, a more important part of who we are and everything we do. We recognize him as we travel together with him. Then Jesus, whom the couple still hasn’t recognized, fusses at the pair. Calls them ‘foolish’! “You fools” he says. “You are good Jews and as good Jews you had a responsibility to know what the prophets taught. If you would have paid attention to the scriptures like you were suppose to, you would have known that what happened in Jerusalem is what was supposed to happen. Everything that happened was just as the prophets had foretold.” Seems the couple was a little taken aback by the outburst of this stranger. “What are you talking about?” they asked. An so this stranger on the road began to explain to them how the Old Testament told exactly what was going to happen to the Messiah, how the Old Testament, which this couple was suppose to know, explained who the Messiah was going to be. Wouldn’t it have been great to hear this on the road ‘lecture’ straight from the horse’s mouth! Jesus is looking at us and fussing at us as well. Throughout the bible we are instructed to learn scripture. We are told how important it is for us to know what the Bible teaches. We
aren’t going to get it an hour on Sundays – scripture takes time, effort, struggle, work to really learn what God is saying to us. We cannot truly understand who we are as God’s people unless we spend time allowing God to teach us through his word. Jesus is telling the couple – and us – that had they read. studied and learned scripture, then they would have figured out what was going on. Same goes for us – Jesus reminds us that it is only through learning scripture that we can figure out what God wants us to know about living as he desires us to. The good news is that as the couple continues down the road, hearing Jesus teaching just captivates them. They are fascinated about what they are learning. And if we really start to study scripture, we come to find out that it is interesting, informative and truly will help us live the life God has intended for us! The more we learn, the more captivated we become. This couple was so delighted by the discussion on the road they wanted to hear more and so they invited Jesus into their home to have dinner with them. During dinner, Jesus takes a loaf of bread and blesses it and breaks it and gives it to them and they recognized who he was. It was in the breaking of the bread that they realized that they had been with Jesus all along. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we are recognizing the fact that the risen Christ is truly spiritually present with us – what a great thing that is! If while we take communion we truly realize that Christ is here with us, what a difference it will make. In that ceremony of breaking bread and drinking the drink, Jesus is there. The reaction of the couple were the words “Surely our hearts were burning inside of us”. These were the words of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist denomination. John’s father was an Anglican priest living with his large family in a parish house. One night the house caught fire and everyone made it out except young John. He made his way to a window where he was rescued. From that point on he felt a closeness with God and became a priest himself. He struggled with the practices of the Anglican church and one evening went to a Moravian worship service, a much more spiritual service than what he was use to in the Anglican church and his reaction was “Surely my heart burned inside me” as he felt the spirit of Christ in that worship. The point of all this is that we can experience that same ‘burning’ in our hearts if we really make Jesus an integral part of our lives. If we make a conscious effort to recognize Jesus’ presence with us in everything we do, if we make the effort to study and learn scripture, if we really believe that Jesus is actually present with us when we share in the Lord’s Supper then truly our hearts will burn within us and we will be on the road to becoming the people that God knows we can be. Amen!

Jesus Appears to Mary

Jesus Appears to Mary


Each Sunday during worship - and I hope you do this every day - we say the Apostle’s Creed together. It is a brief way for us to continually remind ourselves of who we are - we are God’s people - and to remind ourselves what is important for us to understand about who we are. We always need to remember, however, that this is a summary and not a comprehensive account of what we need to know about our faith. This time of year is a case in point, for we are in the portion of the church year we know as the season of Easter. This season of the church year goes from Easter - the celebration of the Resurrection until the Day of the Ascension - which is a period of 40 days.
in the Apostles Creed as we say the paragraph about Jesus, we remind ourselves of the crucial events that we just observed - Jesus was crucified and died, he descended into hell (which by the way is just a way of emphasizing that Jesus was truly dead), he rose again on the third day - the resurrection and the next phrase says ‘and he ascended into heaven to sit on the right hand of the Father’. So if we take this at face value, our understanding is that upon his resurrection, Jesus then goes straight to heaven. But that is not the case. According to the Biblical account of Jesus after the resurrection, he spent 40 days on earth before his ascension to heaven. For 40 days after the resurrection, Jesus remained on the earth appearing to various disciples and followers to sort of give them that last little bit of instruction, of teaching, and of just proof that he truly had come back from the dead.
These 40 days when Jesus remains on earth, are what we recognize as the Season of Easter. And to reinforce this 40 day time between resurrection and ascension, we spend this season recalling some of the appearances Jesus made to his followers - and understanding what Jesus is trying to teach us in these appearances.
We also do things in the sanctuary, which help us remember that during these 40 days Jesus is still present. White is our color - white is always a symbol of the presence of the Christ. We have our special Christ Candle which burns - which again is that symbol of the presence of Jesus with us - and we will leave our flowered cross during this season - just another reminder of the presence of the one who brings beauty to our lives.
Today we look at the first appearance Jesus makes after his resurrection. Remember, no one actually witnessed the resurrection - even though we know it happened, it is still a mystery. When the women first went to the tomb, soon followed by Jesus’ disciples - the only indication they had of the resurrection was the fact that the tomb was empty. The women had some corroboration by a couple angels that told them that Jesus was raised from the dead - but the disciples assumed that someone had stolen Jesus’ body and told the women they had seen an hallucination. And the women thought maybe the men were right…..
Mary Magdelene then goes back to the empty tomb in grief. She sits outside the tomb and weeps. And even though angels had told her that Jesus was resurrected, she didn’t see how that would be possible and so she assumed that someone had stolen the body and that Jesus was still dead and she was devastated at the loss of her friend.
Mary grew up on the shore of the Sea of Galilee – in the town of Magdala. We don’t know what her life was like before she met Jesus except for one thing – her life was miserable. The Gospel of Luke tells us that she was filled with seven demons and that Jesus delivered her from them all. She then became one of Jesus’ closest followers and supporters. She and a number of other women traveled with Jesus and his disciples and helped to provide for him during his ministry.
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb with the weight of the world and her sorrows bearing her down on her. She is in that place many of us have found ourselves - we have lost someone who means everything to us; someone who was an important part of our lives; someone that we loved so much that they were a part of who we are. And when we lose them, we are overcome with pain - emotional

pain and even physical pain. We are just like Mary sitting outside that tomb feeling like her whole life was over. Weeping over her loss….
Death is never an easy thing to talk about. Death is not a topic we like to think about - much less talk about. But we cannot truly understand resurrection unless we talk about death. Death is one thing we all have in common. We have all experienced death of someone close to us - we will all die. We can’t get around that. It is a fact of life. We can’t cheat death and we can’t ignore it.
And it is as devastating for us to lose someone just as it was for Mary that day as she sat outside the tomb. Don’t ever let someone tell you that you need to ‘keep a stiff upper lip’ - that you have to be ‘strong’ - that weeping over the death of someone close to us is a ‘sin’. It hurts to lose someone; there is going to be a void in our lives as long as we live on this earth. We all have that time when all we feel like doing is to just sit and weep - often that sobbing with our whole body when for a moment - we feel like our life is over.
That is how Jesus found Mary. She was unable to believe anything except Jesus was gone forever and now she was alone and it hurt, badly.
When Mary senses this person standing beside her. He speaks softly to her and inquires why she is weeping. She, not even looking up, states simply that someone has stolen Jesus’ body and all she wants is to be able to find the body so she can pay her last respects to her friend by doing the proper burial ritual - that is her last chance to honor the person who had been so important to her in her life.
She then hears the voice of the person beside her say, “Mary” - obviously in a way she had heard before because she turns to this person and realizes that standing beside of her is Jesus!
Mary had to be filled with an abundant of different emotions - shock, disbelief which turns to understanding. Jesus had tried to tell this followers over and over this was going to happen and they didn’t believe him - and here what he had said had come to pass….. Jesus had rose from the dead! He was alive!
And that is our promise as well. It is a promise - a guarantee - a done deal. Because Jesus was resurrected, the same thing will happen to us - the same thing will happen to those we love; those we care about; those who we have lost who have been such an important part of who we are. Because we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection - we can celebrate the resurrection of our loved ones.
You know in our faith we don’t call funerals - funerals. We call them Celebrations of the Resurrection! A big part of our faith is our understanding of death - it is not the end - in many ways it is a beginning. A beginning of a new life with Jesus forever - where we are guaranteed eternal life filled with joy.
What we learn from this appearance of Jesus after his resurrection is that weeping and pain and grief are a part of death - we grieve, and that is a normal part of experiencing that death, but if we truly have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, we are assured, guaranteed, that resurrection is the next step after that death - whether ours or the person we love.
Belief in the resurrection is one of the things that makes us different that the world around us. We still experience death in our life; we still don’t understand death - the whys or the hows or the whens - we will still experience the pain of missing someone - but we can get past that because we have faith in the promises of a resurrected savior who comforts us in our grief and gives us the promise that what pulls us out of that sorrow into the knowledge that because Jesus was resurrected we know - without a shadow of a doubt - that our grief can turn into the joy of knowing that death simply leads to the wonder of living in the presence of God forever.
That is what Jesus taught Mary that day. We can’t become so overcome by our grief that we forget the promise - we can’t become so overcome in our lack of understanding of the whys that we forget Jesus rose and showed himself so that we could believe - that we could trust in resurrection. Her weeping turned into joy of the knowledge of resurrection - and she ran off to tell others of this wonderful news! Amen!