Message – My God/Your God 04.04.21
Possibly two of the most holy moments that any human can experience is to watch a human life come into this world and to witness a human life leave this world. The birth of a child is exciting but also such an exhausting moment that we miss the holiness. Then at death, we can be so consumed by the misery and grief that we fail to notice the holiness of the moment. However, they are both still holy, holy does not evaporate when we miss it, it just wraps its arms around us and carries us through the exhaustion and grief.
I have come to the conclusion that we seldom grasp these holy moment for ourself because we are exhausted, we are miserable, we are relieved, we are overwhelmed, we are fearful, we are jubilant, we are distracted – none of these are necessarily bad things, it is just our reality. I have begun intentionally noticing holy in these moments, as I have attended funerals of the parents of old friends, or in the occasions when I am conducting the memorial and being invited into the holiness as I meet with the family or accompany them to see body of the loved one just minutes before the service. I have begun to recognize the holy in the comments made at their first time to see the body since preparation, dressing, and make up. ‘He looks so peaceful,’or, ‘She loved this dress, she really looks good in it, definitely her colors.’ I think years ago these just seemed to be hollow words meant to hide the pain of the loss, now however, I have begun to recognize the genuine place the words come from. I get to watch as the have these holy moments, moments when they get to see this loved one as they remembered, the face that they see when they tell their stories, the face they will always keep in their heart. It is a holy moment, it is an unprecedented moment when holiness carries them through.
After Jesus was confirmed to be dead, his body was taken down from the cross and carried to a tomb donated by a religious leader named Joseph. There had been a group of female followers watching the crucifixion of Jesus along with John the disciple, they all witnessed the holy and painful moment from a safe distance. A smaller subset of that group stealthily followed the body to the grave and witnessed the stone rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb. Then an even small subset journeyed to the grave as early as possible after the Sabbath. Among this group was Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ most faithful followers and possibly one of Jesus most dedicated devotees. Jesus had delivered Mary from seven demons who had taken up residence within her. She followed not just because she felt she had a debt, she also was a true seeker of truth. Mary sought understanding in all the words and actions of Jesus. Mary have see the power of Jesus, she had seen the compassion and mercy of Jesus, and she had personally experience his deliverance and rescue in her own life.
Mary didn’t go to the tomb expecting to see Jesus, Mary went to the tomb because that was what needed to be done. She didn’t go seeking another Holy moment. It was so early that the sun was not yet fully above the horizon, identification as a Jesus follower was dangerous, and then there was the issue of the huge stone. Nobody had any expectations except for the expectations they put on themselves. All the women wanted to do was give Jesus’ body a proper and respectful anointing and burial preparation. This moment was holy as soon as she made her first step to the cemetery, as she journeyed to do what you do for a body recently buried, especially what you do for a friend that has been hurriedly laid in the grave. Even though this was a practical and rational, action, it was a holy action, an action of respect, she went to the do the most holy, The entire endeavor was to be done without any acclaim, it was not about them. God’s holiness carried Mary and the others through their fear to the tomb which was opened, and inside as they took the steps to see Jesus. Her journey, her intended common purpose, her diligent and faithful act of respect were holy, to her though, it was just what needed to be done. But, once there, she saw Jesus, he was there, in human form, not dead but alive, a human form that she grabbed ahold of and embraced for as long as possible. Jesus peeled her hands from his neck and arm, he told her that there was much to be done, she surely shook her head in agreement, she wiped away her tears of joy and waited for Jesus to speak.
‘“Go and tell the disciples, and tell Peter,” Remembering Peter was huge, after his recent blatant and repeated rejection of Jesus, Peter could have easily been dismissed, but Jesus made a point to make sure everyone knew he was still included, he made an obvious notice that God was still Peter’s Father and he was still Peter’s God.
This was the first lesson about resurrection. Resurrection heals and erases the scars of the pain and the hurt of rejection. It was forgotten, Jesus had released it in death, there was no trace of it in the heart of the resurrected Jesus.
“Go and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Jesus said.
Mary began to shiver, a tingling, she surely recognized that Jesus was back on his path, the green light his back was now to the cross and even to the empty grave, now he was continuing on his journey to save the world. Jesus didn’t need to talk about cross, he didn’t need to explain the theological significance of his resurrection, he just needed back on his path. He didn’t need to say any of that because he knew Mary’s holy moment was going to be communicated to his disciples and followers clear and concise, and strangely, Mary did not need to ask any questions because seeing Jesus was the answer to all her questions.
As she ripped into the room where the disciples were hiding, she could hardly wait for the door to even close. “I’ve seen him! I’ve seen him! I’ve seen the Lord, I’ve seen Jesus!”
The eyes of the disciples revealed everything, some were opened as wide as could be, some were all wrinkled together, their words expressed a myriad of perspectives.
“She has already been to the tomb? Is it wise to go to the tomb, isn’t it risky?”
“This has all been too much for her, she is being hysterical.”
Still others looked at each other with a hint of hope, “Is it possible? Wouldn’t he have told us this would happen? Wait a minute, did he tell us this would happen?”
May was bent over with her hands supporting her on her knees, she was catching her breath, shaking her head up and down, her actions were affirming this was real, she had seen the resurrected Jesus!
“Are you sure it was him,?’ One of the disciples surely asked.
The room was abuzz with the chattering of the men gathered before Mary. As she caught her breath, she said, “Oh, and he told me to tell you that he is ascending to God.”
Here is the second lesson of the resurrection. A proclamation of seeing is always going to trump the message sent, even the message comes from Jesus. All she could think to say was to testify that she had seen him, she had seen Jesus. Mary, without even thinking about it, without any regard to the cultural expectations and restrictions on female, blurted out, “and, YES, it was him, don’t you think I, of all people, would recognize Jesus?!”
Jesus knew that she would proclaim everything in this manner, Jesus understood human nature. Months before, had told the Samaritan woman to “Go, call your husband, and come back.” But she too arrived back in the city and just proclaimed, “Come and see a man who told me everything! This man I have seen.” Then, after all the city ran out to see Jesus, they proclaimed, “It is no longer because of what she said that we believe, for we have now seen for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.” It was a holy moment that could have been missed but it was not because they had now seen.
Seeing and experiencing, changes everything, even in the most mundane of times and activities. It is in our daily actions, taking the boring steps on our path, that we walk in holy moments. Moments that change our life, moments that can be a part of Jesus’ path to save the world. Moment where our eyes are open, moments when we see the hand of God.
The cross and the empty grave were now behind Mary and the other followers. Death and Resurrection had been essential detours but now the victory was complete. The followers were now living in the holy – in the midst of the most unholy. It was a natural time of fear and chaos, but Jesus was now inviting them all to join him in the pool of peace. There was a lot ahead but it was holy, it didn’t actually seem to be holy and peaceful, but still Mary could not help but burst into the room yelling “I’ve seen him, he is alive!”
Then there is a third lesson in the resurrection, – Jesus had scars.
This is a most intriguing aspect of Jesus in his resurrected state. This body was no longer the same body that hung on the cross, the body that had been suffocated by the pull of gravity, no longer did his heart fail to beat nor did his lungs refuse to take a breath. Now, Jesus embodied what he was meant to be, only now he was in a body that was impervious to the pains inflicted by an unholy world, now in a body that would never again feel the tug of death. Now his body was perfect, however, he still had the nail prints in this hands and feet, he still bore the scar on his side from the sword that had pierced him.
Giving Thomas a moment of holiness, Jesus held out his hands for Thomas to see and touch, Jesus carried the scars for the world to know, to know and understand Holy, that he is Holy, that this is God. See, these scars were not just an earthly manifestation of what he had done, they were eternal scars marking the pivotal moment on the cross and the proof of the moment at the tomb. Scars to carry to be seen by those who were now freed from their own disobedience, cleansing us of our rejection because we had chosen him, the scars continue to be a invitation to all peoples, to a world to whom were rescued by the same God, the same Father.
Scars that call us all to recognize and to call upon the God who created all, who loves all, who reaches out to all, who desperately desires to save all. The God who bears our scars.
Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.
I Corinthians 15:20-22
This is Easter, this day, this life, this moment is Holy. May we all recognize this truth today, may we all remember this holiness this week, may we all chose to live in this peace forever. May we also remember the message of the scars engraved into Jesus’ skin, scars that forever remind us of the why, the pain, the release, and the full burden of the cross.
Today we stand looking up at an empty cross today, we stand outside the empty tomb, today we run with Mary who is exhausted but canot with to tell and proclaim, we stand with Jesus, we experience the holy Jesus, the sacrificial lamb who death could not hold. Today we stand on hope because of that which will never need to be experienced again. Today is holy, this is Holy, this is our Holy moment.
Let us pray