March 31, 2013
Bonnie A. Perry and Andrea L. Mysen
Gracious God, hear our call, touch our hearts, fill our lives,
In your Holy Name we pray.
(Please be seated.)
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Years ago, the brilliant yet cantankerous Baptist preacher Carlyle Marney was speaking to some students at a Christian college. When a student asked, "Dr. Marney, would you say a word or two about the resurrection of the dead?" Marney replied, "I will not discuss the resurrection with people like you: I don't discuss such things with anyone under 30. Look at you all: in the prime of life. Never have you known honest-to-God failure, heartburn, impotency, solid defeat, brick walls or mortality. You're extremely apt and handsome—white kids who have never in all of your lives been 30 miles from home, or 20 minutes into the New Testament, or more than a mile and a half from a Baptist or Methodist church, or within a thousand miles of any issue that mattered to a kingdom that matters. So what can you know of a world that makes sense only if Christ is raised?"
Marney is a bit provocative, and while I’m sure a number of those students indeed knew something of real life, his point is well taken.
We have to dwell in death to find New Life.
We have to know despair to truly understand hope.
We have to welcome/endure sorrow to find joy.
Easter only really makes sense if we’ve endured a Good Friday.
By the cool darkness of early morning, she makes her way to the grave. She’d watched him die. Her heart aches. Tears clouding her sight, Mary Magdalene makes her way to the grave. Just to be near him; just to be close by, once again, to the One who had changed her world. Her Jesus. Her Teacher. Her Rabouni.
We know the story from the other side, from Easter morning, but Mary, whose entire world ended nailed on that cross – Mary goes to that grave, ventures to that tomb wrapped in the wretched pain of [Good] Friday. That Sunday is just one more day, the third day of desolation.
Mary arrives at the tomb to find the stone is rolled away. She presumes that someone has stolen Jesus’ body. She runs to tell the disciples that his body has been taken. Peter and the other disciple come running, and find a tomb with linens strewn and little else, burial cloths are all that remain.
So what, do these hand-picked—chosen disciples do---they go home. They leave, back to a place of the safety of a place they know, narrow and limited, confined and constrained. They go home, they leave.
But Mary, Mary stays. In her grief, in her sorrow, Mary stays in the garden weeping, looking again into the tomb. “Women why are you weeping? For whom are you looking ?”
He speaks to her. She thinks he is the gardener, who else would he be this early in the morning. He speaks to her and calls her by name.
She hears, she sees, she knows. It is the Lord.
And in unexplainable splendor, in unimaginable glory, He who was dead is now alive, her despair has become hope, sorrow-- joy. Jesus is alive.
Out of the tomb, life emerges. Out of Good Friday, Easter comes.
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In some lectures at Southern Methodist University, Carlyle Marney confessed that there were days he didn’t know if he believed in the resurrection or not.
Not long before Marney died in 1978, he preached at First Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He preached about death, resurrection and the church. On the way back to the hotel, one of Marney's friends said, "If I didn't know better, I'd think you believe in the resurrection." Marney quickly responded, "Well, I do . . . when I'm around the right people."
It seems, it seems that for Marney, the right people, the people he needs are resurrection people.
We become resurrection people when we stay at the tomb weeping. We’re not going to see or know resurrection if we leave, if we disengage and remove ourselves from the pain. The disciples went home yet Mary stayed at the tomb. We need people like Mary who will bring us the good news and assure us of its reality so when we don’t know, we don’t believe they can nod and know and carry us along. Because that’s what resurrection people do.
True enough there will be days when I will go home, unable to understand or bear the pain anymore, but some of you will stay and you will hear God’s voice, hear God calling your name. And then you will come and find me and tell me all.
Other times I will do the same for you. Together we will spread the news and then we will do what resurrection people do. We will process through this city in the face of death refusing to be bowed by senseless violence, we will take people to dialysis until a kidney donor is found, we will care for and comfort one another in our deepest sorrows and pain and we will give to each other hope for what is yet to come. For we are not people of the grave, for we by the grace of God are resurrection people. And so we will rejoice together when morning comes.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen.
The Lord is Risen indeed Alleluia.