I used this message this Easter morning at our church, St. Paul’s UCC, in Eureka, SD. The scripture was Jeremiah 31: 1-6, Colossians 3: 1-4, and John 20: 1-18. My message was titled, Christ is Risen Indeed! If I could have figured out how to get slides working for the message, and I will in the near future, I just didn’t really have the time to set it up by today, I would have used the two pictures I will show you here.
We don’t have a sign on our church door, or at the back of the sanctuary that says turn off cell phones or electronic devices, and that is good. I will never be in favor of one of those. If there is an emergency and you need to be contacted, I would hope that you’re attending church does not prevent someone from finding you. On the other hand, there are times when it is OK for you to disconnect from social media and live in the moment. For those of us who existed before the computer, this is a different world.
I remember the early days of Sesame Street. At first it seemed to be a cute little world of puppets, known as Muppets, interacting with humans to help teach children all sorts of things from numbers to letters of the alphabet to grammatical concepts such as what is a preposition. I still use a memory of how they did prepositions when I happen to get a substituting spot in a language arts room and that lesson is on the docket.
But again, it is not all good. With the beginning of shows like Sesame Street and the high-tech teaching, we old school dinosaurs became just that, dinosaurs. And now in the world of my grandson, Jaxon, Sesame Street is a bit “old school.” I was trying to get him away from some silly show that I didn’t care for one day, and in flipping channels I asked him if we could watch Sesame Street, and his answer was “I Not.” There is no way that a human teacher can keep up with the entertainment value of what students see now days on the television, in a U-tube video, on a Smart board and any of the other technological pieces of today’s education age. It is way too fast.
You are wondering what this has to do with the scripture of Mary and two disciples finding the empty tomb and our church service on Easter morning. I will give you one more image, and then we will get there. One of my favorite and pretty much last memories of watching Sesame Street is a clip so bizarre that I will never forget it. I don’t remember which child was watching it with James and me, but we laughed most of the day. It was the “trudge, trudge, streak, streak” clip. First a rather large monster looking muppet trudged down a lane while the words, “trudge—trudge were being said. Next, a slim, sort of gonzo like, muppet ran past at a rather high-speed with a high-pitched “streak—streak” in the background. This went on for a time and kept getting faster and faster, and more crowded as it went.
One of the sources that I read about the scripture in John suggested that as you read this passage, you pay particular attention to the verbs. In going back I found what the source meant. The verbs, right after a brief set up, are words of action. They are as follows: came, saw, removed. Now after Mary sees the stone to be gone from the front of the tomb the words become more intense. They are: ran, went, said, set out, went toward, running, outran, reached, bent down, went in, saw, and on and one it goes. These are not words of trudge, trudge. These are words closer to the streak—streak manner of movement.
Mary and the two disciples that John recalls finding the empty tomb are almost frantic in their initial response to the idea that the tomb is empty. Mary’s first response is, “Where did they take his body.” Though Jesus has been teaching them for quite some time about his death and resurrection, it is a concept his followers cannot fathom. They are sure that someone, likely some officials have taken his body.
It was known that the Jewish leaders didn’t trust the disciples, and they put guards up so the disciples or other followers of Jesus couldn’t take his body and claim that he was resurrected. But nothing could be further from the truth. The disciples did not take the body; they did not even plan or plot to take the body to fake the resurrection. Jesus’ body was gone because Jesus wasn’t dead. He had no need for a tomb or embalming cloths. Jesus was alive. He was alive then and he is alive now.
It is just as Paul says in his letter to the Colossians: “Christ IS seated at the right hand of God, He is alive! Seated at the right hand is a pretty big deal. We learn that when the disciples James and John come to Jesus asking for important positions beside him in paradise. Jesus tells them, it is God who appoints those positions. It is God who puts Jesus beside himself . It is all part of the plan from the beginning. The resurrection happens as a result of God’s plan to redeem the world. It is to make it possible for us to be Easter people. We have made it through the long season of Lent; we have made it past Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and now we have the opportunity to be part of the resurrection with Jesus. But how do we do it?
We do it by adopting the attitude of the action verb. We need to be doers. Perhaps we don’t have to go running around like the Muppet character personifying the word streak, but we do need to feel the sense of urgency. There is a point at which we need to get out of the trudge—trudge mentality. There is a point at which we need to come to the age of reality, to the newness of a risen Christ.
The commandment Christ gave to the disciples on Maundy Thursday was that they love one another as he loved them. This is for us too. This is even for the times when others don’t really seem so lovable, which is sad because (sarcastic voice) we all know that we have never been that unlovable person, oh wait, that is us too.
The point of Easter is that God loved/loves us even before we were, Jesus Loves us so much that He was willing to give His seat on the right hand of God his father to take on a human form so that he could die for us. For whom would we die? For whom would we give up everything? I bet our list wouldn’t be so long. Jesus’ list was the whole world, and Jesus’ list was each one of us individually.
I was selfish this morning when I picked the text. We could have read the Easter story from the book of Matthew, and some year, I am sure we will. Today, I wanted to read the story about Mary. Mary, who stood in the garden and wept for her missing Master. The teacher who had come to mean everything to her was gone, and she didn’t know what was going to happen. She was so distraught that she just wanted to be alone when some man, a gardener perhaps disturbed her. She probably didn’t look up. Her face was tear-streaked and red, and she didn’t want anyone to look into her eyes, when she heard him say her name. You know that recognitions when someone close to you says your name, you know instantly who is calling you. Mary knew.
And this morning we know. We know that Jesus is calling our names, calling us to be his partners in this world, in this time, to do his work. It isn’t the same sort of work, walking from town to town like the disciples did. It is a different world that we live in, a different time, but it is still the time to share the story of a resurrected Savior who died for all people and mostly for each person. As we go today, let’s remember that as Easter people, we are also people of last Maundy Thursday. We are the people given the commandment to Love one Another as Christ loved us. It isn’t always an easy challenge, and sometimes we might want to say, “I not.” but when we lean on Jesus, it is a possible challenge. Amen.