Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 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. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Body language says a lot.
If this is how Lent looks---
(hand on forehead looking like a repentant sinner)--
And this is how Holy Week looks—
(palms folded together and eyes closed in prayer)
Then this is how Easter looks---
(put on snazzy sunglasses and shout with joy!)
Easter is a party, a feast, a celebration.
What joy and what delight that we have all come together this happy morning!
Now I have to change back to my regular glasses
So I can see my sermon text—
Or you will have just heard the shortest Easter sermon on record—
NONE of you would want a short sermon on Easter!
We have four well-known narrative accounts of the life of Jesus.
We call them gospels—
The word gospel meaning “good news”
The good news—the gospel—of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Each of our gospel writers
offers us a very different take
on what happened on that first Easter morning.
Last night at the the Great Vigil of Easter we heard Mark’s version:
3 women come to the tomb and find a young man
dressed all in white who tells them that Jesus has been raised and commands them to go and tell the disciples.
But the women are afraid and they run home and they tell no one.
At least not right away.
Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus was laid in a tomb
and that the chief priests and the Pharisees took a regiment of soldiers
and had the tomb securely sealed with an enormous stone.
But at dawn, when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary—two women—
go to the tomb,
there is a great earthquake
and an angel—dressed in dazzling white-- comes
and rolls back the stone
and tells them that Jesus has been raised.
In Luke’s gospel
it is again women—quite a large group of them—
who come to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus
But they find the stone already rolled away.
Two men in dazzling clothes tell them Jesus has been raised
and the women go and tell the disciples
but no one believes them.
“An idle tale” the men call their story.
So the details in Matthew, Mark and Luke are different—
As they would be if you compared any of our stories
about the same event—
but the similarities are also there.
In all four gospels it is the women
who are the first witnesses to the resurrection.
In all four gospels
an enormous stone was inexplainably
rolled away from the door of the tomb.
In three of the four gospels
someone or someones dressed in dazzling white robes
give the news:
Jesus is not here.
Jesus has been raised.
But in one of the four gospels--
the gospel of John
which we heard this morning—
there is a significant difference.
Yes, it is a woman who arrives at the tomb first.
Mary Magdalene. But she comes alone.
But when she finds the stone rolled away,
she does not enter the tomb but
immediately goes to get Peter and another disciple.
And the disciples come and enter the tomb and yes,
they confirm that the body of Jesus is not there.
The linen wrappings and the cloth that covered Jesus’ face
have been left behind—but nothing else.
Jesus is not there.
Then the disciples leave and go back home.
But Mary Magdalene stays.
Mary Magdalene weeps.
They have taken away my Lord,
and I do not know where they have laid him.
This is what she tells two angels dressed in dazzling white
when they ask her why she is crying.
But then it is Jesus who is there
and he speaks to Mary—
Only he is standing behind her,
her back is to him and she can’t see him.
Mary Magdalene thinks he is the gardener—
…until Jesus calls her by name, “Mary.”
Then she knows.
Then she turns and sees him---clearly.
I have seen the Lord she exclaims.
And she goes and tells anyone who will listen.
Isn’t that our story, too?
So often we look off in a direction that we think has all the answers.
Or we think there are no answers.
Our faces and are hearts
are often turned away from what is truest and most real for us.
Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.
But I have another gospel story to tell you this morning.
And it may be one you have never heard.
Because this is the gospel—the good news—
According to St. John, Haw Creek.
You see it wasn’t just the women who went to the tomb on Easter morning.
It was the women
And the men and the teenagers and the children
And even the babies and puppies and the cats.
I hear there was even one duck there!
Everyone shows up at the tomb on Easter morning.
Because everyone is welcome.
Everyone is invited.
So they all show up at the tomb
And guess what?
That enormous stone?
Someone said they were sure they passed when they driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway early this morning.
There was this huge boulder,
Sitting in the middle of a field
And it had never been there before.
Strange things happen in the early dawn of Easter morning.
So they come to the tomb
And the stone has been rolled away.
And step by step they approach the entrance to the tomb.
And someone has a flashlight with them
(probably the Junior Warden)
And they pull it out of their pocket
And they shine the light into the darkness of the tomb.
And then suddenly everyone pulls out their flashlights—
You see—these people from St. John’s Haw Creek
Are very ready.
And they shine their lights into the tomb.
Jesus is not there.
Jesus has been raised.
Just like the stories in the other gospels.
BUT---suddenly they hear this strange strange sound—
it sounds sort of like this (make a fluttering noise)
And then they see them.
Hundreds of butterflies.
Thousands of butterfiies.
Every color, every size, every kind.
And they are flying out of the tomb.
Flying into the world
And it looks like a few of those butterflies
decided to make their Easter home
here at St. John’s, Haw Creek.
You see the butterfly is a magnificent image of resurrection.
A lowly earth bound caterpillar retreats into a cocoon
And the caterpillar appears to die.
If you have ever seen a cocoon—
it looks absolutely dead, lifeless.
But from the cocoon—from its own little tomb—
emerges this beautiful, vibrant butterfly—
no longer bound to the earth—
but free and released it
to go out into the world.
And that is where we pick up the gospel according to St. John, Haw Creek.
Today is Easter morning.
Jesus is no longer held captive in a tomb.
And neither are we.
Our invitation is the same as Mary Magdalene’s and the disciples.
To go and tell anyone and everyone who has ears to listen.
To share the good news,
to share our own stories--
of how we too have been lost--
and even when we thought it was over and ended--
someone came looking for us
and called us by name
and nothing was ever again the same.
And all we had to do
was turn around.
Easter is a feast.
Easter is a party.
Easter is not what joy looks like—
Easter is what joy IS!
Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed.