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Turn Around 04 01 2018


Series: Easter

Category: 2018 Sermons

Passage: John 20:1-18

Speaker: Nicole Trotter

Rev Nicole Trotter

Easter 2018

Turn Around

John 20:1-18 

It’s all right here…in one holy piece of ancient wisdom…from the gospel of John…it’s all right there…All we have to do is live into it….. There’s nothing I can say to shed any light on it…there’s not even anything to prove or convince you of…John has done it all for me…And he’s done it all for you. I’m not sure any sermon can do John’s gospel justice.… But before you get too excited that you’re getting home early…let me at least try, not so we can see what I can do with it, but rather that we might all hear what John has already done for us. John gives us a place to begin…on the first day of the week…early in the morning…while it’s still dark. No other Gospel writer includes the dark, but John does. John likes to do that throughout his gospel…can we just stay there, for a moment…go back with me to the dark…the darkest moment just before dawn, in grief, on our way to the tomb. And Mary Magdalene is doing what all people do when they grieve their loved ones…she’s going to pay her respects, out of desire…desire to feel closer by physically getting closer to the body of Jesus, because that’s all that’s left now…his body…and maybe in getting closer to his body, she has a better chance at feeling close to him again…the way she did when he was alive…That’s what we do…in darkness, we search, out of desire…we search…It was still dark, and she's searching…That’s not just a metaphor, that’s the reality of our lives, especially if you’ve had the privilege of living past 50. Because by then the chances of life throwing you a curve ball, one that causes you to turn, and wonder how you got here, in this place you could never imagined, and the lights go out. It’s still dark. Sit there with me for just a moment longer, I know it’s Easter… But Easter morning doesn’t happen as just one more celebration among many…it’s born out of darkness, out of Good Friday…from a cross and a tomb. And so we search…out of desire for something, for anything other than those moments we’ve been thrown…the death we didn't see coming, the end of a marriage, or a job, or an illness. You fill in the blank, and the older you are the more likely you can fill it that blank in in multiple ways. In the dark moments of our lives we go searching for something to hold onto that can restore our sense of security, a reassuring touchstone that we can rely on when everything around us seems unpredictable or worse, hopeless. And Mary comes alone, incidentally, John makes sure of that. The other Gospel writers don't do that. But John brings Mary alone to the tomb… to find that the one thing, the body of her greatest hope, is now gone. She just wanted to feel close to him by visiting his body and now even that has been denied. Can you think of a time, when the one thing you thought you could count on, when you were already down, had been taken from you, or lost to you…Maybe even, like Mary, a time when God himself seemed now lost to you. She could pack it in and go home….once the realization that the body is gone, she could, like Peter and the other disciple go home, give in, give up….but she doesn’t…Sit with that for a moment…she stays…in her grief, she stays…We call that grieving well…when you can stay with it, rather than deny it or pretend it’s not that bad. Mary stays…

~~~Meanwhile though…Peter and the other disciple…(who John never gives a name) why is that? Our Weds Bible study came to a consensus on this…In the form of a question….Maybe it’s so that we can see ourselves in the narrative? That we can insert our own name into that of the one whom Jesus loves. Maybe we can, like him, allow ourselves to enter the tomb, to see it, and as John says in verse 9… to see it and believe it….Can we see it and believe it? But then this….this could be my favorite line…The disciple saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. They see it, believe it… but could not yet fully understand it. If that’s not our entire journey with God… We see God working in our lives, we believe God is working in our lives, but we can’t begin to fully understand it. So we too often dismiss it. As something we did, or we call it coincidence, or we settle for metaphors. That’s what our western culture especially our modern post enlightenment world has taught us…if we can’t reason or prove our way to understanding the unexplainable, we diminish the moment. The things we can’t explain, the things of this life that we cannot fully understand are the gifts that are born out of our deepest desires. And more often than not they are gifted to us just when we’ve given up. Precisely when we’ve given up, because to give up, in our tradition is to give over, to God. To stop muscling, to stop trying, to stop buying into a culture that will try to convince you that it’s all up to you somehow, if you just do the right thing, become the right thing, read the right book, behave the right way, take on the right spiritual path, you can control your life. When instead, if’s already been gifted to you, if only you would trust it. Its a tall order, I know. That’s why we call it a spiritual practice. But when you desire something so much, you stay with it…

Mary stays….she doesn't go home, but stays. She stays in the tomb and weeps…and it’s through her tears….and her deep desire to see him….that she’s visited by angels. In the place where the body should be, one angel at the feet one at the head…Mary doesn’t seemed phased by the appearance of angels, only that the body is gone. Almost as though she misses the very thing that should take her breath away because she’s so fixated on getting what she set out for. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  She turned around, in her grief, to see Jesus, but didn’t know it was him, couldn’t possibly fully understand that God had shown up for her…Because she’s still looking for a body…the way she knows and understands a body to be…she can't yet see how God has shown up for her…  Just as God shows up for us….time and time again…if only we would see it and believe it….Our Vulnerability is our greatest strength- to be fully in touch with our desire…allows God a space to show up…in our being…rather than our fixing, in our listening, rather than our talking….God enters….and speaks our name.

Mary….Mary… And Mary turns again…just turns… to the hearing of her name and this time… sees him and knows.

God claims us before we are born…

In the deeply personal experience of God, is perhaps when we are most sure. Can you wrap your head, not your head, but your heart that these experiences in life that take your breath away are for you, personally gifted for you, because God loves you and knows you that intimately and personally? Mary would know all too well the psalmist song…For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb….My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

The unexplainable, incomprehensible resurrection of Jesus Christ is experienced…that’s how you know it’s real. It’s experienced perhaps especially in the dark, when you’ve all but given up, and something happens to bring you back home, to breathe again, to love again, to trust again. That’s a resurrection appearance and it’s a gift. And when we accept it, everything is brighter and life itself is gifted to you and for you as you are a part of this incredible creation we've been gifted. Bunnies and baby chicks and butterflies are resurrection symbols because they represent new life. But your life is a a resurrection experience because of the gifts you’ve been given by God, beginning this day, this morning, out of darkness. Just turn around….God is already there….Mary didn’t have to sign up for anything, repent for anything, she didn’t have to touch anything….Jesus wouldn't even let her try, Don’t hold on to me he says…I’m ascending to my father, your father, my God, your God…as though she needed reminding… 

Rev Barbara Brown Taylor put it this way…

Jesus was not on his way back to her and the others. He was on his way to God, and he was taking the whole world with him. This may be why all the other Gospel accounts of the resurrection tell us not to be afraid-because new life can be frightening. It is unnatural. To expect a sealed tomb and find one filled with angels, to hunt the past and discover the future, to seek a corpse and find the risen lord-none of this is natural. Dear is natural. Loss is natural. But those stones have been rolled away this happy morning, to reveal the highly unnatural truth. By the light of this day, God has planted a seed of life in us that cannot be killed, and is we can remember that then there is nothing we cannot do; move mountains, love our enemies, change the world.  End quote. He is risen indeed…and now we’re all one…one family, one God. If that’s too much to comprehend or fully understand…then you know you’re on the right track. Easter morning gives us a new experience of the risen Christ. Born again out of an incomprehensible love. Gifted to us in experiences…if only we would let go, turn around, live into them….and proclaim them to the rest of the world. I have seen the Lord, Mary proclaims. And in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.  If you have come here this morning to believe…I can say… I have see the Lord, that is, I have experienced the incomprehensible… From childhood and throughout my life….in my darkest moments, and in my breathless moments. In joy and in sorrow… in the face of a new born, in the face of my enemy…in the rain and on top of the mountain, I have seen the Lord…I have yet to fully understand how it all works. And by the grace of God, I never will. We were not created in God’s image to fully grasp any of this, not this life, not this world. But we were created to experience it. In every corner of this life and this world. Christ lives. Love lives. Just turn around.