April 4, 2021

“Now, I See!”

(From John 20: 11-18)

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

     One of my favorite activities on a sunny blue sky day with lots of white and puffy clouds is to look at the many cloud shapes and imagine what they look like-maybe they form a bird, a fish or an animal.  As a child, I would often lay on the cool grass on a summer afternoon and look up at the clouds in the sky, watching the images pass by my view.  I have carried on this fondness for cloud-watching, and I often share my imaginings with Peter as we are walking or driving on a sunny day.  “Look at that rabbit chasing a squirrel,” I would say.  “Where?” Peter would ask trying to allow his imagination to perceive the cloud formations as I was imagining them.  Sometimes Peter cannot see the formations of my imaginings in the clouds.  But then, there are those special moments when I see Peter stretching his mind to see the images in the cloud formations as I see them, and he happily says to me, “Oh, now I see!”

     If we think more carefully about what we observe in the course of our daily living, we will find that we often see what we expect to see, and interpret events in living according to our preconceived notions and understandings.  For example, I recently viewed a picture in which there are 2 possible outcomes for the viewer.  In one view, there is a picture of the profiles of two women facing each other.  Viewed from another central point, 2 intricately designed vases appear.  Both images are in the picture, but what you see depends on the central point of your own focus.  You have to change your focal point in order to see another view of the picture.  The truth about our focal point influencing our view in this example is also true of how our focal point influences our perception of the people and events we encounter in our lives.  The story of Mary’s encounter with the risen Jesus in this morning’s lesson is a prime example.

      Early on the third morning after Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary went to the tomb and found the stone was rolled away, and the tomb empty.  She ran and told Simon Peter and John about this.  So, Peter, John and Mary Magdalene set out for the tomb where Jesus’ body had been placed.  The two Disciples ran ahead, and they found the stone of the tomb rolled away and went inside.  The cloth wrappings for Jesus’ body were laying there, but Jesus body was not in the tomb, just as Mary had said to them.  The Disciples then took off for their homes, but Mary remained.  Mary was overwhelmed with grief, pain and loss.  She stood weeping at the tomb.  Then, she looked in and saw two angels in white.  They spoke to Mary, saying “Woman, why are you weeping?”  Mary replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  Then Mary turned around and saw someone the scriptures tell us she supposed to be the gardener.  It was actually Jesus standing before her, but she did not recognize him.  How could that possibly be?  Mary knew Jesus so well and she loved him so dearly.  Certainly she would know it was Jesus.  But, Mary did not recognize Jesus.  Mary’s focal point was centered on the death of her Lord, Jesus.  She did not yet have any experience or understanding of Jesus’ resurrection from death.  Through her tear-soaked eyes, and the depth of her grief, she could not recognize that it was Jesus standing before her.  But then, Jesus spoke to her. “Mary!” he said, in the gentle, familiar and comforting voice that could only be the voice of Jesus. The familiar sound awakened Mary from her cocoon of grief and loss into a state of jubilant excitement.  “Rabboni!” which means teacher, she exclaimed with great joy.  Her mourning turned to dancing, as she now could see that it was her Lord, Jesus, who was alive again and speaking to her.  With her perception and circumstances so abruptly changed, Mary ran off in joyous excitement to tell the Disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”

     Dear friends in Christ, we have come through another Lenten season; and, hopefully, like Mary, we have renewed our sense of expectant joy and the eternal hope that endures beyond our current circumstances.  The love of God, revealed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Christ, shows us how powerful is this love of God that has conquered even the grave.  Nothing can ever separate us from God’s unconditional love, mercy and grace.  Perhaps this Easter, more than many in our past, we can truly perceive anew, and so receive this precious gift God has given us in Christ Jesus.  May this Easter bring you the unspeakable joy and eternal comfort that is both our blessed assurance and foundation of our faith.  Christ is alive! Now, we see!  Let all Christians this Easter day proclaim the good news that Christ is alive! Alleluia! Amen.

Hymn: “Christ Is Alive”  (words-Brian Wren, music- Psalmodia Evangelica, 1789)                        Christ is alive!  Let Christians sing.  His cross stands empty to the sky.  Let streets and homes with praises ring.  His love in death shall never die.

Christ is alive, and comes to bring good news to this and every age, till earth and all creation ring with joy, with justice, love and praise.

Mission for Easter giving:

Bishop Tracy Malone is promoting a capital campaign called Teach, Reach, Bless to build a dormitory on the campus of Africa University for women students to give them an opportunity to focus on their studies and keep them safe from often dangerous commutes.

More information can be found at www.EOCUMC.com/teachreachbless/. Contributions can be made to PUMC with “Africa” in the memo line.