1Early 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.
11Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and 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. 13They 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.’ 14When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ 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.’ 16Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17Jesus 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.” ’ 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Orleans United’s Easter Affirmation (The Seven Core Rocks on which OUC Is Built)
In Christ’s Spirit we prayerfully strive:
to welcome everyone, celebrate diversity and recognize the Holy in all people;
to rejoice in God’s love through meaningful and engaging worship;
to create a spiritual support-network that shares Christ’s compassion in words and actions;
to learn and grow together as everyone moves along their faith journey;
to generate soul-inspiring energy through enthusiastic and affirming involvement;
to build and nurture community in our church, in our families, and in our neighbourhood;
to serve God’s purpose in the world by sharing our resources with others.
At the heart of this ancient custom to gather together on Sunday mornings and worship the resurrected Christ as a community of faith stands this Easter story from our sacred scriptures. As Christians, we worship every Sunday morning to celebrate the good news that the One who died on Good Friday now lives! … Jesus our Lord, Christ our Saviour! And that’s so astounding a message, that our whole perspective on life is altered because of it. We become bold to believe that death is no longer the final word – that life reaches beyond death … abundant life for Christ and for all! Hallelujah! It’s Sunday morning … Easter … and we come to rejoice in the Holy One whose gift is life itself, and that gift is for you and me. Hallelujah!
However you interpret this Easter story personally, whether you believe it happened exactly as told here in the Bible with angels and the whole body of the risen Jesus appearing to Mary at an open tomb … or that it is more figurative language that describes a spiritual promise of life and love fulfilled here, now, and beyond … or whether you believe something in between – the fact that you’re here this morning suggests a longing to be near the Sacred One whose unselfish love compels your own.
It’s good we’re here to rejoice this morning, because we share an opportunity together to become Mary, if only for a moment … to hear her name on the lips of Jesus … to experience with her the moment worship becomes possible.
At first it was all just a blur: the open tomb, the angels, running back for the disciples, returning with them, then being left alone there and hating the cloak of confusion I was unable to throw off.
And then the man approached me. I tried to ignore this gardener – I was in no mood for idle conversation. I only wanted to go home and sleep and forget that my Master was now gone forever. But he persisted: “Whom are you seeking?” And I still didn’t recognize Him. Then He spoke once more, and it was as if in that instant it all became clear —as if the voice of an old friend had just entered the conversation.
Come to think of it, being with him had always felt like that. Jesus had always said my name in a warm, gentle way–like a brook gently tumbling over rounded pebbles, like song birds just waking to the dawn. In an instant I knew it was Him, and all doubt and confusion left me…My precious Lord was alive! But Jesus was more than my Master, He was my friend. He knew my name, and in His speaking that one simple word–my name–I remembered the true depth of His love for me–His love for everyone who knew His.
That’s just what it was like to be with Jesus…when you were with him you couldn’t help but be moved, be touched. Because being with him made the sky seem more blue and the water taste more refreshing. And when you were with him, you were filled with gratitude and hope and love and possibility – not only because of what he said, but how it is he said it. And I felt that sense of reverence, and joy, and awe, and respect – that sense of worship – that I felt every time he whispered my name. And I wept aloud…Rabbouni? Rabbouni!
It’s difficult to say exactly, when Mary’s surprise and wonder are transformed into worship. But once she hears her name, her response feels instinctive, what any of us might have done in her place. The story itself doesn’t say. It only tells us what Jesus said, “Don’t hold on to me, but go and tell the disciples ‘I am ascending to my God and yours.’”
You get the feeling that once she realizes Christ is alive, she wants to rush to him and embrace him and hold on to him for dear life. Wouldn’t that be your spiritual instinct? But that’s not what Christ wants from her in worship … no clinging, possessive, self-indulgence here … no. What Christ asks of her is to share this good news with her faith community so that together they might rejoice in God’s love through meaningful and engaging worship … our Core Rock for Easter morning. So while Mary basks in the light and warmth of Christ’s resurrection, she turns toward her sisters and brothers in faith, and with joy in her heart announces, “I HAVE SEEN THE LORD! PRAISE GOD, FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW!”
He told me to go tell the others. To not hold on to him. But how could I let him go. The man who had brought light into my life, whose death I had been mourning not ten minutes ago was alive. He was alive! And then I knew I had to tell the others…that the world had not ended…that all was not lost…that just as it had been foretold, just as he had said it would happen…Jesus was alive!
I’m not sure my feet touched the ground the whole way back. I’m not even sure what I said to them as my words tumbled out mixed with tears and squeals. They didn’t seem to be able to take it in at first – I think they thought I was hysterical. And so I looked each of them in the eyes, willing them to feel the joy in my heart, the hope in my words…
Because what I had to share were more than just words – they were the power of life and light and love pulsing through my very veins. They were the promised whispered to my ancestors long ago, the promise clung to when times were hard and there was no hope in sight. They were the words that had caused wise men to journey and fishermen to drop their nets and blind men to see. They were the words that had to be shared – with each other, with our children, with generations upon generations to come. It was as if I had not known real joy, not felt true life, not experienced real possibility until these words escaped my lips and I knew that I would spend the rest of my life sharing these words with the world. Even if people didn’t believe me. Even if I they thought I was crazy. Even if they tried to silence me – I could not keep this truth from the world any more than I could stop the sun from shining.
And so I looked each of them in the eyes and said as clearly as I could…”I have seen the Lord”. And I knew life would never be the same again.
This is the essence of worship for the followers of Jesus. Each of us longs to feel the life and love of Christ deeply and personally, but together we want to rejoice with each other and all others. The natural extension of this Easter worship story is in sharing Christ’s good news through our everyday living. What we are doing here in Sunday worship is really a joy-filled dress rehearsal for living the resurrection throughout every week. We come together on Sunday to hear again Christ calling us personally by name … to join our hands and hearts in celebration of the resurrection life in Christ … and to imagine what that might look and sound like when we wake up on Monday morning.
Back in the early 80’s, the congregation I was serving in Calgary rejoiced in singing a brand new contemporary hymn by Fred Kaan and Ron Klusmeier called, ‘Worship the Lord.’ What was compelling to me about that song was the last line of every verse … “worship and work must be one!” (Voices United, 401) Then as now, it suggests to me that joyful, meaningful worship prepares us to live faithfully … and that engaged faithful living becomes our true worship.
May we continue to rejoice in God’s love in our worship and in our living.
Molly Bell and Glen Stoudt