This past Friday, on Good Friday, some of us gathered here in this place to retell the story of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. When we got to the 14th station, when Jesus is placed in the tomb, we heard how Joseph of Arimathea lovingly wrapped Jesus body in clean linen cloths and placed in him a space that had been newly hewn in the rock.
Then we prayed: “Lord, grant us your compassion that we may always provide for those in need.” And then the silence stretched before us.
Just then, we heard footsteps echoing on the stone floor of this church. A women’s voice broke the silence and said, “I can’t find the Alanon meeting… Can you tell me where it is?”
In that human moment, where we were startled out of our profound reverie about the great love that God has for us by an awkward human moment, I caught a glimpse of Easter.
Again and again, Easter reminds us that God works things out in unexpected ways. Moment by moment, God unfurls the realization that salvation may not look the way we think it will. At the heart of it, Easter is a season of holy contrasts.
Right now, the young people of this community are engaged in two activities. First, they are using the flowers and greens that were plucked from their gardens and yards or perhaps bought at the local grocery store to transform a rough wooden cross into something that is breathtakingly beautiful. Next, they will hear a Godly Play story called “The Mystery of Easter.” Godly Play is the Montessori based Sunday school curriculum that we use here at Epiphany. In that story, the storyteller assembles a handful of white puzzle pieces, which represent the weeks of the Lenten season that we just finished, into the shape of a cross. The end of the story goes like this, “Easter turns everything inside out and upside down. The color of getting ready becomes the color of pure celebration. The sad seriousness and happiness join together to make joy.”
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb in the moments that stretch between darkness and light. She loved Jesus enough to overcome the natural human fear of death and bravely make her way to be with her teacher.
When she comes to the tomb, she realizes that something is different. Jesus body has been taken away, stolen. It’s the only reasonable explanation. She runs back to tell Simon Peter what she has found… She is first to know that Jesus is absent and later she will be the first to realize Jesus is present.
Peter and the beloved disciple go to investigate. Stop and think about that… The miracle of Easter was revealed not to a woman or a man, but to both. The people present were followers of Jesus, both those who had made mistakes, like Peter who just hours before had denied knowing Christ three times, and those who loved him without fail, like the beloved disciple who had taken Jesus mother into his own home.
In the story, there is room for Peter’s quick action of entering the tomb, and the reticence of the other disciple, who isn’t quite ready to be the first to encounter whatever has happened. They are caught between that moment of expecting to encounter death and not yet knowing that they will encounter life.
The men went home, but Mary lingered. Perhaps she was hoping to find another clue about where her teacher had been taken, perhaps she couldn’t bear to give up the thought of one last chance to care for him. She looked through the mouth of the tomb one more time…and this time she saw two angels. Then behind her, she encountered Jesus himself—and they all have the same question: “Woman, why are you weeping?” The answer comes from her heart: I am crying because my Lord is gone and I do not know where he is. Desolation and faint hope are mingled as she asks where he is.
Jesus calls her by name and suddenly she knows who he is. In that moment, the first evangelist is born—she is known by Jesus and she is the first to make sure that others know what has happened.
These are the promises of the Mystery of Easter:
- Where happiness and sadness meet we will find joy.
- Where light and darkness meet we will be transformed.
- Where love and fear meet we will become courageous.
- Where the wise and the broken gather together we will create a community.
- Where life and death are balanced together holiness emerges.
- And finally where joy and courage come together we will be able to share the Good News of Easter.
On Friday, we got a glimpse of Easter— As we were called out of our contemplation into service to our unexpected visitor. Today, Easter is not a day or even a season. Easter is an attitude, a willingness to stand between seemingly disparate and even unrelated things and look for God, for the invitation to service, for an encounter with holiness.
Be willing to go to tomb. Be willing to be surprised. Be willing to be known. Be willing to speak the truth. Be willing to be the mystery of Easter in the world.
Preached by the Rev. Hailey McKeefry Delmas on April 1, 2018 at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in San Carlos, CA.