March 27, 2016 | John 20: 10-18 | Rev. Nancy Talbot –
When I was a child growing up in rural Ontario in the 60’s pretty much everyone I knew went to church on Easter Sunday. Let’s face it there wasn’t much else to do in those days on Easter Sunday. There was no shopping, no soccer, no people of other religious faith traditions, not in my little town. Going to church on Easter was what we did. It’s what we had to do. It was expected of us.
Fast forward to today, and if you are here this morning it is unlikely you came because someone told you had to come. In our corner of the world especially there are no longer any social conventions connected to going to church on Easter. Our social conventions this weekend all seem to center around eating chocolate.
For the most part, we’re here this morning because we want to be, because we have chosen to come. Sure there are some of us who are still of the era when going to church was something good people did, so some of us might be here out of a sense of habit or duty. But increasingly the people we see darken our doors and especially those of you who stick around, you are here because there is something about this place and what happens here that has captured your heart and soul.
Perhaps that’s because in this place no one is ever going to tell you what you have to believe. We’re never going to make it that easy for you. In this place the invitation and the expectation is that each person will take responsibility for their own spiritual journey, you will seek and you will find.
And as our society becomes more and more secularized, the invitation and the expectation for those of us who have been inside the church for years on end is that we would seek and find the Spirit, the living Christ, the God we sometimes call the source of life, not just inside the church but in the world around us as well.
Which is interesting isn’t it, because that’s where the Christian story begins, outside the confines of the institutional church or more accurately outside the confines of the synagogue and the temple, and the religious establishments of the day. It begins on the shores of the river Jordan, in the streets of Bethany, by the sea of Galilee.
As the story is told in John’s gospel, one of the 4 different accounts of Jesus life found in the bible, Jesus ministry begins with a question. After we are told in the first chapter of John’s gospel about how in the beginning the word was with God, the word became flesh and dwelt among us, the very first words uttered by the word come in the form of a question “what are you looking for?” In response to this questions his first followers say “Rabbi, we want to know where you are staying. So Jesus issues an invitation “come and see.”
Some scholars suggest that in the mystical language of John’s gospel when the disciples ask about where Jesus is “staying” or where he is “remaining” what they are really asking about is the form of life that sustains him, the spiritual life that makes him who he is and capable of doing what he does.
That’s what they are drawn to, that’s what they are curious about, the spiritual life that is in him.
I wonder what it is about the spiritual life that makes you curious or whether or not you are curious at all.
I’m curious today about why it is in the story we heard read this morning, that Peter and the other disciple take one look inside the tomb and turn around and go back home. What is it they believe? That’s Jesus is dead and someone has stolen his body and that’s the end of it. Or that he was dead and now he is alive and one day they will see him again?
And I’m even more curious about Mary and why she doesn’t go home with them. Why she stays after they leave.
Mary doesn’t just seem spiritually curious, she seems confused and stricken with grief and looking for answers. “Where is he? Where have they taken him? What is going on here?”
Who can blame her? How many of us when we have been faced with a tragic death, or a loss of anything we’ve held dear, when we’ve been confronted with our morality or the mortality of our loved ones, how many of us haven’t gone looking for answers.
And yet it’s when we can’t find the answers that we are most open to the mystery of the spiritual quest isn’t it? Aren’t those the moments that really push us into seeking and every now and then to finding that we are held and carried and surrounded by love, by something more eternal than all our losses put together, more potent than any evil act that was ever wrought, that we forever in the clutches of the renewing and resurrecting power of life itself, even in the midst of death.
For Mary the moment of clarity, the moment her eyes are opened and she sees who and what is right in front of her even though at first she doesn’t recognize it, is the moment the Risen Christ utters a question once again, and if you were here on Good Friday you will recognize the question “Whom are you looking for?” “Who are you seeking?”
Are you seeking death or life? Or how it is that even in death and loss there can be life?
It’s not something we can come to at the end of an intellectual conversation. It’s not something we can come to through someone telling us what to believe.
The power of resurrection, the mystery of life and love that comes out of death, not just at the end of our earthly lives but in the here and now, is something we have to watch and wait for to turn towards and come and see. Sometimes we watch it come and we watch it go and we have to wait and watch for it to come again. It’s as personal to each of us as the name by which we have been called.
Which is why the real moment of recognition and awareness for Mary in the story, the moment that emboldens her to declare “I have seen the Lord” with the kind of confidence that comes only from personal experience, is the moment she hears her spoken name.
What are you looking for this Easter Sunday? For whom are you searching or are you even searching at all? I can’t answer the question for you but I can assure you from my personal experience that if we seek we will find and if we are curious enough about what sustained the life of Jesus, what sustained the life of his earliest followers and what sustains our life today we will not only discover what it is that we are seeking, we may discover we have already been found.