Saturday, April 23, 2011

"I have seen the Lord!' By Pastor Bettye

April 24th, 2011
The Resurrection of our Lord
John 20: 1 – 18
“I have seen the Lord!”
He is risen, he is risen, he is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Grace, mercy and peace to you this day in the name of the risen Christ! Amen
This week, this past holy week, this last week of the Lenten season we saw Jesus go from a triumphal procession into to Jerusalem straight in the hands of a crowd gone mad with anger in just four short days because he was not who they thought he would be. The crowds did not see the returning King David, the reincarnation of a great Jewish leader who would free them from the tyranny of the Roman oppression. Instead, they saw a humble servant king, a God incarnate, made flesh willingly riding to his place of death on a donkey. This week we saw a woman anoint Jesus with precious perfume reading him for death. This week we saw Jesus tell his disciples to continue to follow him, to become children of the light. This week we saw Judas take the bread from Jesus which sealed the deal with Satan. This week we saw last acts of remembrance I the washing and meal and a new commandment was given to love one another. This week we saw the brutality of humans who could NOT see who Jesus was. This week we saw Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, and unlikely duo laid the body of Jesus to rest. This morning, after a week of engaging the passion of our Lord….WHAT DO WE SEE?
When you come into the church, when you attend services on Easter morning, what do you hope to see? What drives you to a place of worship? Did you come to hear something new, something old yet reassuring to open your eyes? Mary Magdalene, in the first sermon ever preached, in the first proclamation of the Easter message to be delivered to human ears tells us what we will see:
Christ is Risen – I have seen the Lord!
Mary required only a word from the Jesus, the Word made flesh who dwelt among us and off she runs to share the Good News: the grave is empty, the Lord has risen, and death and grave have been conquered for all time for all people, Alleluia! Mary embraces the emptiness of the tomb at first with some fear until sees Jesus. At first her vision is clouded because her logical mind was telling her that the one standing before her could not be the one she had seen hanging dead on the cross just thirty six hours prior. His words, his presence, however, created a new connection for her. All that she had seen Jesus do in few short years on earth, all that she had heard Jesus say when he walked this earth teaching and preaching pushed her doubting vision into a new perspective leading her to exclaim with joy, “ I have seen the Lord!”
Mary of course had the opportunity to question what she saw; to be critical as an informed thinker who wrestled with what her eyes were revealing. Mary, remembered his words, choose to believe that what she saw indeed what Jesus had promised. All at once the neuron synapsis of sight and memory clicked into gear. Mary saw the Lord amid becomes the first witness to the resurrection. She did not run off sulking because a physical body did not lie in the tomb but rather was blessed with the first words of the risen Lord to humankind; words our ears hear this day, words which open up our hearts and minds to see Jesus.
Mary saw the Lord. What was her response? Mary ran off to TELL someone what she had seen. She did not keep the words, the enlightenment of what her vision affirmed for her to herself. Mary connected the dots from the earthly ministry of Jesus to his resurrection presence and in great joy she runs to the other disciples and proclaims not only her vision but her faith.
On Easter Sunday, on resurrection morning we have a lot to be thankful for. It begins with an empty tomb and continues with a woman not afraid to believe what she had seen and heard and them go and proclaim it. After the glow of the day begins to fade we are left as people who are challenged to have a faith in what Mary saw, challenged to a faith in God’s promises of a risen savior and words of his Gospel message. We are here today to connect the dots from the message of Mary, the words of Holy Scripture and when we do, we too can see the Lord! The question remains in our exalted, hope filled hearts is this….what do we do with what we have just seen?
My friends go and seek the answer to that question in the year between this Easter and next Easter. Seek out those who can affirm for you that yes, they have seen the Lord and are willing to share that journey of faith, redemption and proclamation with you. As Mary did – go and tell!
He is risen, he is risen indeed – alleluia!

Pastor Bettye

Not the Kingdom of Death
Christ is risen!
We give thanks for the gift of Easter
that runs beyond our explanation,
beyond our categories of reason,
even more, beyond the sinking sense of our own lives.
We know about the powers of death,
powers that persist among us,
powers that drive us from you, and
from our neighbor, and from our best selves.
We know about the powers of fear and greed and anxiety,
and brutality and certitude. Powers before which we are helpless.
And then you….you at dawn, unquenched, you in the darkness,
You on Saturday,
you who breaks the world to joy.
Yours is the kingdom…not the kingdom of death,
yours is the power…not the power of death,
yours is the glory…not the glory of death.
Yours…you… and we give thanks
for the newness beyond our achieving.
Prayers of Walter Brueggmann-Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, Augsburg Fortress, 2003

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