Sunday, April 16/17 – Easter Morning
April 20, 2014
Isn’t the weather odd these days; warm when it is supposed to be cold, cold when it is supposed to be warm, too much water, not enough water, crazy winds, and endless shifts it seems, shifts that basically create all kinds of uncertainty. Now as Canadians we love to talk about weather don’t we, and I suppose this is quite understandable, as weather has such a big impact on how we live our lives and how we move about (or don’t). I have often thought how odd it must be to live in a place where the weather is always the same, no need to talk about it, wonder about it, strategize around it, it is always the same. What must people talk about?
Did you know that there is a website called, ‘8 places with picture-perfect weather’? There is. Now if you were going to guess, and I realize this is all a bit subjective as we all have our weather preferences, but where do you think those eight places are located? Well top of the list is … San Diego, no big surprise there. San Diego is the textbook example of beautiful year-round climate. It’s never too hot and never too cold, with a very minimal amount of that pesky California fog to get in the way—when it does roll in, it burns off pretty quickly in the morning. Winters average at14°C, summers at 22° C. If ever there was a perfect temperature, that’s the magic number. Now, as an aside, and not surprisingly the people of San Diego have adopted a sunny attitude to match, as well as a fierce affinity for being active. Well sure, that makes sense, and of course if you’re not moving piles of snow from where you find it, to where you need it to be, there would be lots of time for a jog or a walk in the park! Isn’t it crazy what a little good weather can do to a person?
For your information, the others listed on this site were: Malaga, Spain, the Canary Islands, Sydney, Australia, Loja, Ecuador, El Paso, Tx, Oahu, Hawaii and Nice France.
I suppose what makes perfect weather perfect is the fact that it is predictable, rarely catching you off guard; it is something you can count on, and by that I mean, something that is not going to force you to accommodate to it, to plan around it. And again, all of this is quite understandable as making accommodations takes energy, and frankly life already throws lots of shifts and curves our way to which we must keep adjusting; we need our energy for those adjustments.
Yet with all of this, giving it some further thought, living in a land of varying seasons, as we do, can bring with it a variety of blessings, particularly as each season, whether it is our favourite or not, offers us a certain mood, a certain gesture, a certain reality. Summer’s sun causes our gardens to flourish, gifting us with a supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, and as a traditional season of holidays, it is a time for relaxed routines, relaxation and restoration; Fall will bring colour and harvest and of course thanksgiving for the gifts of the earth that sustain us all year long; with winter we move into greyer days, days where the earth is quiet, is resting, yet ironically where the stillness is what is needed, until finally with spring, those plants that have been laying quietly under the earth for what seemed endless days, having gathered potential for the next season, they burst in upon us. And after the bleakness of the winter months, it almost feels as if spring is just aching to burst forth .. a longing, having gathered all its strength from months of laying fallow, now so full of potential that it just cannot contain itself … that longing … it must break forth.
We find ourselves in our Gospel reading this Easter morning in I think anyone would agree was something of an extraordinary garden, a garden quite bursting with life … in quite a different way. It is very early in the morning, so early that the sun has not yet risen, and we meet Mary, Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ most faithful disciples. She has come, you see, to pay her respects to this one so newly and so violently taken from them all. It had been an incredibly difficult few days. In this account, Mary arrives before anyone else to the tomb to find to her surprise that the stone has been rolled away. And, while the other Gospel accounts don’t all agree on all of the details of this Easter morning, one fact is consistent across the stories: Mary was there.
Mary, was from the Galilean town of Migdal, and she was one of Jesus’ disciples. In Luke she is described as a woman who had seven demons cast out from her—a liberation that led her to dedicate her life to Jesus and to follow him to the end. On Easter morning, Mary arrived first at Jesus’ tomb and seeing the stone has been rolled away, she assumes the worst. Shocked and troubled, she runs to tell Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple, who go to see the tomb for themselves. Both find it empty, except for Jesus’ burial clothes. How could this be! Their teacher, their mentor, their friend has been unjustly tortured and executed, and now, have they also desecrated his corpse?
Would there be no end to all of this, to the indignities? Peter and John confirmed Mary’s words, yes the body of Jesus was no longer in the tomb. However, these two, already afraid for their lives, would then return to their homes behind locked doors hardly knowing what could be next.
Now it would be easy to judge these other disciples harshly, but in all fairness they found themselves square in the middle of an incredible storm, totally unable to predict what was coming next, so their instinct was to hunker down, to wait it out, to see what would become of all that Jesus’ initiated in their world and in their lives. They were afraid, and fear is something to which we can all relate, can’t we?
In fact, I’d say few of us can’t relate to fears of some kind … because if we’re being honest, there’s lots about which we can worry, to be sure: accidents, disease, natural disasters. Plus there are lots of other, more personal things, each of us in our own skin, that we sometimes fear – fear of rejection, fear of condemnation, fear of failure. We each have our own list. Doesn’t it seem that Jesus is always telling his disciples “Do not be afraid.” He seems to tell them this over and over again … we can only assume he is doing this as they needed to be reminded of it … constantly.
But what about Mary, back in the garden? She looks up through her tears to see that she alone remains. She will remain at the tomb, drawn in perhaps by her grief, by her love, by a need for some answers, by a need for something … we don’t know precisely. It will now be her turn to peer into the tomb, but unlike the those before her, instead of emptiness, she will be rewarded with a vision of angels.
And if that is not enough, after speaking to them, Mary turns to see the form of a man whose face at first she does not recognize, a man whom she assumes to be the gardener hoping against hope to have her questions answered, still intent on her purpose to finish the burial rites on Jesus’ body.
On this incredible morning, this first Easter morning in this garden, something new is birthed, for in God raising Jesus from the dead, in this serious reversal of the natural order, there is the undoing of the brokenness that was birthed in humanity’s first garden so long ago, remembering that while enriching and insightful, it was not Jesus’ ethical teachings and example or his noble death that gave birth to the Christian church and made it spread, it was the news of his resurrection. Without this moment that we are reading about today, we would not be here this morning.
The writer of this account, the beloved disciple John paints for us an incredible picture of human drama, a drama where there is darkness and death, angels and light, sadness and fear, confusion and hurt, beauty and bewilderment … it is all there. All of life, every season and every variation all wrapped up in these few moments! All bursting in upon us!
And in all of it, John is drawing for us a picture of what it is to be a disciple of Jesus; he is drawing for us a picture of what lays at the centre of our faith … it isn’t the words, the ideas, the imaginations about God, about Jesus, about life about death, but rather what lays at the centre of our faith … is the encounter…the disciple’s encounter … Mary’s encounter…our encounter with the risen Christ. The event of the resurrection is without doubt an act and a display of great power, but it is so much more than this, for in its telling, it is all about the encounter of Mary with her Lord. For we see that it is in the calling of Mary’s name that her eyes are opened and her heart responds.
Mary heard her name … and in that second becomes aware in a new way that God is a God who at great personal cost to himself came close and continues to come close even when it is not expected, perhaps especially when it is not expected. And that is the same message to each one of us today…we as disciples are, each and every one of us known by God by name … known and love; and not known and loved is just a simple surface kind of way, but we are understood by God, often when we cannot even understand ourselves, and in all of that loved. This is an extraordinary message, worth repeating over and over again every year, for if we were to allow it to sink to the deepest parts of our being, it would unleash in us our fullest potential to be and do all we have been called to do and be.
Alleluia, the Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!