Scripture - John 20:1-18
John 20:1-18 (The Message)
20 1-2 Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance. She ran at once to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, gasping for breath. “They took the Master from the tomb. We don’t know where they’ve put him.”
3-10 Peter and the other disciple left immediately for the tomb. They ran, neck and neck. The other disciple got to the tomb first, outrunning Peter. Stooping to look in, he saw the pieces of linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in. Simon Peter arrived after him, entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths lying there, and the kerchief used to cover his head not lying with the linen cloths but separate, neatly folded by itself. Then the other disciple, the one who had gotten there first, went into the tomb, took one look at the evidence, and believed. No one yet knew from the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. The disciples then went back home.
11-13 But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she knelt to look into the tomb and saw two angels sitting there, dressed in white, one at the head, the other at the foot of where Jesus’ body had been laid. They said to her, “Woman, why do you weep?”
13-14 “They took my Master,” she said, “and I don’t know where they put him.” After she said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn’t recognize him.
15 Jesus spoke to her, “Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?”
She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, “Sir, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him.”
16 Jesus said, “Mary.”
Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” meaning “Teacher!”
17 Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: “I saw the Master!” And she told them everything he said to her.
“A New Creation” by Rev. Sarah Are
Of course it happened in a garden--
Dark earth and sunrise,
Fresh air and bird songs,
Trees that had not yet been cut down for crosses,
And flowers that had not yet been pressed for oil.
Of course Mary found Jesus there--
Alive and well among the fig trees and flowers.
For in a garden
There is growth after the harvest,
Beauty after the rain,
And that constant refrain--
“It was good. It was good.
God saw it,
And it was good.”
So of course he’d end up in a garden--
New life invites new life.
He and those budding flowers were one and the same.
However, he also must have known he’d find us in that garden,
For new life fills in the holes of our pain in ways that nothing else can.
It’s holding a baby at a funeral,
Bringing flowers to the hospital,
And searching for the sunrise after the night.
It’s singing lullabies at our nightmares,
Holding hands in the dark,
And writing letters in the face of isolation.
So this Easter season I plan to place my heart under big trees and blue skies,
Because the broken parts of me need a type of garden-like healing.
And like a gardener, I will surround my
Loneliness and heartache,
My suffering and grief,
Until the roots of those flowers are tangled up with the worst parts of me
And I can finally see what God sees;
Until the roots of those flowers are tangled up in me
And I can look at myself and say,
“It is good.”
For I am in need of a garden-like type of new life--
Growth after the harvest,
Beauty after the rain,
And that constant refrain--
“It was good. It was good.”
Thank goodness I found him in a garden.
Friends, it is in the garden that we see resurrection most clearly
We over these past few weeks of Lent have been journeying with the metaphor of Lent as a spiritual garden, where God unearths what lies fallow within us, what needs to be tended, and what needs to die for new life to emerge. We have yearned for God to cultivate faithfulness, boldness, fruitfulness, wholeness, and devotion - while letting go of self-reliance, fear, productivity, scarcity, and shame.
On Easter we proclaim that Christ is risen - that he is alive and at work in the world making all things new - that with this resurrection reality, we, too, are new creations - even when we don’t feel like this is true….even when we don’t act as if this is true. Resurrection comes in the wake of pain, of suffering, of death and grief as we let go of - as we die to - the needs of our ego, the sin that resides within, the broken edges of our soul. It is a gift we receive when we understand ourselves as wholly and truly beloved of God. In resurrection, we stand at the threshold of a new beginning, a transformation of the heart, a life full and abundant and eternal in God’s love.
Resurrection is a gift. Resurrection is a practice. Resurrection is a new creation. Resurrection is all around us, if we ask God to give us the eyes to see it.
We stand at the end of the season of Lent in front of an empty tomb along with Mary, standing in the garden, confronted with the reality that Christ is alive. In some ways, it feels like we stand nearing the end of a Lent that began last year and persisted as we moved through the pandemic with a constant barrage of unknowns and uncertainties, a season of wilderness wanderings from which we will all soon emerge.
We’ve all experienced some form of death this past year - some of us are in mourning for loved ones who have passed, some of us are grieving missed opportunities. Some of us confronted demons or battled addictions or faced the emptiness of loneliness and isolation. Some of us had our mental health tried and tested. Some of us had our livelihoods put at risk. Some of us came face to face with our own personal sin and brokenness as the busyness that so well serves as a distraction was stripped away and we were forced to confront those places in our souls.
Death is hard and death is painful and death is a part of life; yet we serve a God who says that death does not have the final say.
I want us to take out our seed paper or our seeds - and consider for a moment where you have experienced death in your own life this past year - perhaps it was a habit or unhealthy behavior or attitude, perhaps it was letting go of a toxic relationship - and write it down on one side of the cross. Then take a moment to prayerfully consider what resurrection or new life can spring from that place. Write it on the other side of the cross. I’ll put the questions in the chat, and as the music plays, you’re invited to jot those answers down.
Where have you experienced death in your own life this past year?
Where may God work resurrection in your life?
Instructions (wet overnight, tear into pieces, plant at the sanctuary alongside the path - more details to come about that later)
The Bible begins in a garden - and ends in a garden city. Jesus is laid to rest and resurrected in a garden. Our whole being is like a garden, where God sows seeds to bring abundant harvests of peace and love.
May we seek to be witnesses of God’s resurrection life and power - in our lives, in our communities, and in our world - for Christ is alive and goes before us. He lives among us….around us...and within our hearts. Amen.
Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the community of Chebeague and its church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and five year old son and 2 year old daughter, along with their yellow lab. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the church community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.