Year C; Easter Sunday; 4.21.2019
John 20:1-18

Alleluia. Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! I’m hoping to see the “Alleluia” butterflies waving! You who picked
up a colored “Alleluia” butterfly – wave it when you hear “Alleluia.”

It’s the glorious day of the resurrection when God raised Christ from the dead. We rejoice in this praise-worthy act of God. Yes, the Resurrection is an “act of God.” Not as in insurance adjuster’s report might say after storm damage. “The house was damaged due to an “act of God.”

But THIS act of God is LOVE. God shows us how much love God has for all of us – for everybody – by overcoming death.

Mary Magdalene witnessed this “act of God” in the garden that day.

Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’ best, best friends. A BFF! Maybe a BBFF! After his death and after he was laid in the tomb, she came the next morning in the dark to visit the tomb. What did she find? The stone was shoved to the side and the tomb was empty. Shocked and sad,
she ran to get Peter and the young one whom Jesus loved so they could witness the empty tomb, too. They came and saw and went back to tell the others. Could someone have come and taken his body? There was always that risk – famous people who die sometimes aren’t left in peace.
Guards have to be placed at their burial places.

Mary looked again. This time she saw two messengers in the tomb. She was really upset.

They asked her why she was crying. Not only was she grieving the death of her close friend, she was worried that his body was gone.
Then she turned around to leave. Where did she think she was going? Maybe to try and find his body. Maybe to figure out what she would do next in her life. Maybe to sit down somewhere and pray. Or maybe she just wanted to go home wrap up in a blanket and go to sleep.

I remember, after my John died, my eyes seemed to be half shut, the weeping made them swell. I remember kind of sleep-walking for some time wrapped up in a blanket for weeks. When we are in the midst of terrible loss, we lose our bearing. We can’t stop crying. We struggle to
make sense of the loss. We hope to get back to the way things were….but they never are.

The world will remember the loss of Holy Week 2019 when we witnessed a holy, historical, French treasure be consumed in flames. No one could have watched the spire of Notre Dame in Paris topple over and not shudder or weep. Notre Dame, is “Our Lady”, not “a lady”, to
“the lady.” She is “Our Lady” and her giant, medieval timbers flamed up, lost structural integrity and fell, charred into the sanctuary. She would never be the same.

Oh yes, some politicians and billionaires say that she will come back to be the same. But those timbers – those trees no longer exist. Whole forests were cleared to build the structure. And those forests no longer exist.

Photographs show the massive black beams scattered at the feet of the Pietá, a sculpture of Mary holding her very dead adult son on her lap. The sculpture is located just behind the high altar. The scene was untouched by the falling debris. The photographs are eerie because the
cross seems to be ghost-like in the background behind the untouched sculpture and the devastation.

But there was one photo that drew me in more than any other. The photographer had to be looking up to see it – a giant, gaping hole in the ceiling that opens up to the sky. I imagined that the hand of God was reaching down through that gaping hole in the medieval ceiling. The hope of the photo was that you literally look down at the charred desolation of death and then look up to the heavens. As if God was saying, I am going to do a new thing here.

The thing is, God is ALWAYS reaching to us. God is ALWAYS creating something new where death and destruction seem to have the last word. “Alleluia!”

In the Revelation to John, the last book in the bible, a voice reveals these beautiful words, “See, the home of God is among mortals…” Just look up! “He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them…” As if through breach in the ceiling of our sorrows, God bends down to make God’s home in the rubble…. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more…” “Woman, why are you weeping?” the resurrected Christ asks Mary Magdalene. She doesn’t see Jesus. She doesn’t recognize him. Perhaps she is preoccupied with her weeping.

Perhaps she is looking too intently on the rubble and charred remains of that terrible week that were so fresh in her memory. But the sky opens to her, the ceiling, the heavens begin to open for her and Christ appears as if he is a gardener. Then, she then hears her name spoken with affection by the one she loved so dearly and thought she had lost for ever. He is raised. Alleluia!

The day of Resurrection is a day for us all to remember that God’s character is to change death and destruction into something new. Seeds die in the ground and become living plants. Cocoons shed their shells to make room for beautiful butterflies to emerge. A temple is destroyed and Jesus promises that he will build it in three days. No, it won’t look anything like the old one.

But the resurrection promise is about new life, not preserving the old. God who is always reaching to us, connecting heaven and earth and even in times of complete desolation is doing a new thing. This Easter Day we might ask, “Where is resurrection happening now?”

“How will we recognize it?”

“And how do we respond?

Alleluia. Christ is risen!