Sermon for Easter Sunday, Year C

April 17, 2022

Acts 10:34-43                     Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24                      1 Corinthians 15:19-26                    John 20:1-18

          I love John’s account of the resurrection.  Not only does it include a foot race to the tomb between Peter and “the other disciple,” whichever disciple that might be, but it also includes Mary mistaking Jesus for a gardener.  I love the fact that Jesus first appears to Mary, not Peter.  In two of the four gospels Jesus first appears to Mary Magdalene alone.  In another Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and the “other Mary.”  In all four, women are the first to find the tomb empty and angels appear to them. 

          When we talk of disciples, we often think of the twelve apostles – all men.  But there were more than twelve disciples and many of them were women.  Women.  Women were looked down upon in that day, but not by Jesus.  Mary is the first to go to the tomb and Jesus chooses to appear to her before anyone else. 

Mary does not, however, recognize Jesus when he asks why she is weeping and who she is looking for.   This doesn’t surprise me, she is overwhelmed with grief and seeing him alive is not at all what she expects.  She does not know who he is until he calls her by name – then her eyes are opened.  In the Gospel of Luke, two other disciples have a similar experience of not recognizing the risen Jesus.  

They are walking to Emmaus when Jesus joins them.  Jesus asks what they are discussing and they tell him all about the events of the past few days.  They tell him about how their chief priests and leaders handed over Jesus of Nazareth, a mighty prophet, to be crucified.  They tell him, too, how they hoped that Jesus would be the one who would redeem Israel.  And, they tell Jesus that some of the women from their group had found his tomb empty and been told by an angel that Jesus is alive. 

After telling Jesus all this, Jesus then tells them how it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer all these things then enter into glory.  He explains how what happened was to fulfill the scriptures.  When they arrive at the village, the disciples invite Jesus to stay with them.  It was not until supper when Jesus took the bread, broke and blessed it that they recognize who it was that was with them and has been with them on their journey.  I might point out here that it didn’t take Mary nearly as long to know it was Jesus who was with her.

          Jesus sends Mary to his disciples who are hiding in fear and instructs her to tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  Jesus sends her.   She is the first disciple to spread the good news of his resurrection.  Mary goes to the other disciples and announces, “I have seen the Lord.”  She also delivers his message. 

          Truth be told, I have similar experiences and I suspect you have too.  I’ve witnessed a person reach out to help someone in need and realized I’m in the presence of Christ.  I’ve been in need and had someone come to my aide and I knew that it was Christ standing in front of me.  In our baptismal covenant we are all called to seek to serve Christ in others.  This call only makes sense if we remember that Jesus calls upon his disciples to “Abide in me as I abide in you.”    

          It also makes sense when we remember the parable of the king who judges his people saying, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” The people asked when they did any of these things and the king replies, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” 

We are all members of God’s family; we were all created in God’s image.  It is; therefore, up to us to allow God’s love, Christ’s light to shine for others through us.  When I have witnessed or experienced acts of love, I know that I am in the presence of Christ. 

When I was first ordained, one of my professors gave me a framed quote from St. Patrick.  It was part of a longer verse which reads,

Christ with me,

Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

The Good News of Jesus Christ is that he is the love of God which surrounds us and is in us.  Our human nature tends to block our view of his presence, but he is our midst.  We are not alone.  Alleluia, Christ is Risen!

Let us pray,

          Open our eyes oh Lord, that we might see you are with us.  Open our minds that we might know you are walking with us.  Open our hearts that we might experience and share your love.  Open our spirits that our will might be united with yours.  We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.