Easter Day (principal service)
In this Sunday's gospel, we meet the first apostle of the risen Jesus -- namely, Mary Magdalene. All four gospels in the Christian canon unanimously affirm that the earliest witnesses to the risen Jesus' appearing are women. And in this passage in the Gospel According to John, the Risen Jesus sends (and the Greek word apostolos, or "apostle," means "one sent") Mary Magdalene to tell the other disciples what she had seen: Mary Magdalene becomes apostle to the apostles, her witness making theirs possible.
But when Mary first sees Jesus, she doesn't recognize him. The gospels have different ways of getting it across, but there's something different about Jesus after God has raised him from the dead. He does things he didn't do before, like appear in locked rooms (John 20:19). And he is the same person, but there's something different about his appearance; his friends don't realize immediately who he is when they see him.
And yet, this is the same Jesus; the gospels also make that very clear.
But something has changed, something that's hard to pinpoint, but that's so profound that at times even Jesus' friends don't recognize him.
New life, resurrection life, is like that. When we receive it, for the first time or on a deeper level, things change.
Relationships change. Jesus addresses those who were his followers as sisters and brothers (John 20:17). As we live into the new life Jesus brings, we find ourselves receiving those who were friends, or even enemies, as our sisters and brothers.
Our understanding of power changes. The risen Jesus hasn't become the fearful agent of vengeance that some wanted him to be before his death, and some still want him to be now. The one who came among them as a servant still works among them by serving: the risen Lord cooks breakfast for his friends (John 21:1-14). Indeed, his friends seem to recognize him because the risen Jesus does what he has always done, calling them by name, breaking bread, breathing peace. When we recognize Christ's new life, we also recognize God's power. We finally understand that Jesus' unconditionally welcoming everyone to feast with him wasn't a way to pass the time until God came with power to set things right: it was the way God's power is revealed and the world's redemption takes place.
Our vision changes. When we take in the new life Christ offers, we can see Christ's presence everywhere -- in Creation and the creativity that is God's gift, in the eyes of a child, in the heart of an enemy. In injustices and wounds, we see opportunities to participate in the risen Christ's healing and redemption of the world.
Our heart changes. The more we take in Christ's new life, the more we experience Christ's compassion. We learn to see others as people God loves and has given gifts we need to be the Body of Christ in the world. And as we learn to love those whom we saw as unlovable, we experience the unreserved graciousness with which Christ loves us.
Our sense of what's possible changes. In Egypt, the freed slaves saw armies advancing and saw no way out; prophets like Moses and Miriam saw a way forward by plunging into the waters. What seemed to be certain death became a call to new life, as the scattered Hebrew slaves became a people, God's people. In Judea, some looked at Jesus' cross and saw death; some looked at the empty tomb and anticipated death for themselves, as Roman law decreed death to grave robbers. But what looks like death is an opening for new life.
It might be hard to recognize at first, but new life has come among us, and we are invited to become more truly who we are in Christ, more truly ourselves, more fully the presence of the risen Christ in the world. That is the strange and wonderful news that Mary Magdalene, apostle to the apostles, bears to us now. And when we take that news in, we, like Mary's first hearers, will find ourselves sent forth to be known and make Jesus known in the breaking of the bread, the healing of the sick, the loving of the unlovable, the reconciliation of each of us to one another and to God in Christ.
New life has come among us! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God.
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You are a sermon MACHINE!!!
Have a blessed Easter.
Posted by: PPB | Mar 24, 2005 9:31:11 PM
This is an excellent post. I may very well have to swipe some quotations for use in an entry of my own on the subject of Christian rebirth.
Posted by: James | Mar 25, 2005 7:48:54 AM