Look Again, Easter (B) – April 1, 2018

Episcopal Easter Sermon


[RCL] Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

In the darkness on the third day after their rabbi’s execution, three women check one last time to make sure they have everything they need. Followers of Jesus in his lifetime, they want to be faithful to their teacher in death. Jesus had been robbed of a proper Jewish burial as his death came right on the verge of the Sabbath. The women intend to make this one thing right in a universe turned hopelessly away from God. The Twelve are hiding in a locked room with other disciples for fear they will be found out as followers of Jesus. Meanwhile, the women prepare to be at the tomb as dawn breaks.

In purely human terms, the story of the would-be Messiah from Nazareth in Galilee has come to a brutal end. For the Roman colonial government, Jesus is a minor statistic, yet another Jewish revolutionary crucified in Rome’s ongoing efforts to preserve the peace in Palestine. The ringleader, Jesus, has been publically and cruelly killed. His disciples have vanished for fear of a similar fate. For the keepers of the status quo, this has been a successful Passover festival. Jesus’ movement is buried with its leader.

The women arrive at the tomb and looming large is an insurmountable obstacle between them and their task. The women know they don’t have the strength to budge the great stone blocking the entrance to the tomb. As they walk to the garden, they wonder, “Who will roll the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”

Our Gospel reading for this morning tells us that the women then looked up. The original Greek text [anablepo] for this can also mean the women looked again. The women come upon the tomb and as they expected, the stone is rolled in front of the entrance. They don’t stand a chance of getting near Jesus on their own. Then they look again, or perhaps do a double take, and realize that the stone has been rolled away.

Mark has already prepared us for this need to do a double take. It works something like bi-focal vision in Mark’s Gospel. Twice in the Gospel, Jesus has healed blind men and allowed them to see again. The word used to describe the two blind men seeing again is the same one used here, to look again [anablepo]. Already in those stories of healing the blind, there was a sense in which spiritual healing allowed the men to see again with physical sight.

In Mark’s Gospel, faith gives us the ability to see the world as God sees it. We gain bifocal vision. When we look with the eyes of the world, we see the obstacles and problems. The stone blocks our path and it is too large for us to even budge. We look with the eyes of faith and a different picture comes into focus. God has already removed the obstacles that we could not remove by our own power.

This is seen most clearly in the Easter story. The three women are blocked by an obstacle, which they stood no chance of removing on their own. They ask one another, “Who will roll away the stone?” Yet, when they look again through the eyes of faith, they see that the stone has already been rolled away. The Greek here is in the perfect tense. The stone that blocks their way is already long gone when they do the Easter double take and see the world as God sees it.

What are the stones that need to be rolled away in your life? Is the obstacle one of relationships that can’t be made right? Or is your path blocked by an addiction to alcohol, drugs, or some other destructive cycle from which you don’t have the power to break free? All of us can find our way blocked by obstacles too big to budge. The story of Easter tells us that God offers the ultimate leverage to remove the obstacles in your way.

If you rely on your own might, your own abilities, your own wisdom, the stone in your way will be more than you can face. Period. But, when you have the courage to admit you don’t have the power to remove the obstacle, you can turn the problem over to God. Then with the eyes of faith, you may come in time to see that the insurmountable obstacle has been rolled away.

Yet, that is not the end of the Gospel reading. The Bible is if nothing else, the most realistic of books, and today’s reading is no exception. The women enter the tomb to find an angel, a divine messenger, with the news that Jesus has been raised from the dead and has gone ahead of his disciples to Galilee. It would be wonderful to report that the women were immediately filled with joy.

Instead, we are told that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome fled from the tomb seized by terror and stricken with awe. Rather than spreading the joy of resurrection, we are told, “They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

It is there that the reading ends. Mark’s Gospel offers the challenge of a circular story. The Gospel begins with Jesus in Galilee challenging people to come and follow him; at the close of the story, Jesus has once more gone ahead into Galilee holding out the offer of discipleship to any who will come and follow him.

What about you? Would you have the courage to leave the empty tomb and go back to Galilee to take up the task of being Jesus’ disciple now that you know the way of discipleship led to the cross and the grave? Even with the triumph of Easter, we can fearfully retreat now that we know the cost of discipleship.

The Gospel offers a dual challenge this Easter. The first is to look at the very real obstacles in your life with the eyes of faith. The things that you are powerless to change are not obstacles to God. Through grace, you can see that God has already removed the problems plaguing you, if you just have the faith to push ahead.

But the second prong of the challenge of the Gospel comes when you push ahead. Just as the women found the stone rolled away only to be struck dumb with terror and awe at the news of Jesus’ resurrection, we too can lose our focus and stop seeing the world as God sees it. The second challenge then is the harder one. Once you have seen that God can remove the obstacles blocking your way, then you must follow where Jesus leads.

The three women that morning did break free from fear. We know that they were all active in the earliest Christian church. They found the courage to follow Jesus even after they had learned the cost they might have to one day pay for their faith in him.

Jesus will remove the obstacles from your path if you will stop trying to remove them by your own might. Then he will give you the grace to continue the journey. The path is open to each of us. Jesus is still out there beckoning, “Follow me” to those who listen. We only need respond by faith and say yes to the invitation.

For Alleluia! Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Amen. 

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue is Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Georgia. He is also a member of the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church and serves on the Advisory Group on Church Planting. Frank blogs on mostly church development related topics at http://loosecanon.georgiaepiscopal.org.

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Today is the day, Easter Day (B) – 2015

April 5, 2015

Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

Can you image that celebrating Easter might bring danger for most of us? The danger comes from our knowing in advance the outcome of the drama – that Jesus rose again. Knowing what is going to be said and sung this morning, we are in danger of not being shocked by this unimaginably joyous, unprecedented event.

If we are not careful, Easter can become just another one of those stories with a feel-good, happy ending. If we are not careful, we will cease to be slack-jawed. If we are not careful, the hair on the back of our necks will not stand up when we hear the almost unbelievable Good News.

This is so, because familiarity can bred, if not contempt, then at least a ho-hum, of-course-he-rose-on-the-third-day kind of attitude. If we succumb to this familiar thinking, Jesus’ death on the cross is hardly a life-changing gift, but rather a short pause in a celebration lined only with bunnies and baskets, colored eggs and family dinners.

Obviously, in the depth of our faith, we cannot afford to become so complacent. It is important that we understand Easter profoundly and appreciate its ultimate value; important that we remember that it follows and gives meaning to the weight of Good Friday and the pain that black day bears. The sadness and darkness of Good Friday discloses several things that should never be glossed over – lest Easter lose its goose-bump-producing, almost too-good-to-be-true character.

The women disciples were among the very few who stayed with Jesus until the end, waiting with him until he died. They knew he was dead, that it was no illusion. For them as well as for all his followers, Jesus’ crucifixion and death seemed at first a crushing, disillusioning end, without hope or redemption. For them, all was lost, all was dark. Despite the promises they wanted to cling to, it appeared that Jesus and his cause had been defeated. After all, he had suffered the humiliating shame and the discrediting reality of death by crucifixion. Maybe his opponents were right; his death showed him to be just a deluded messianic pretender.

Despite this apparent reality, the women stayed with him throughout this tragedy. The women stayed with him even after his death. Despite their despair, they went to his tomb early that morning. Yet what these broken-hearted, still-faithful women found when they arrived was that the body of Jesus was not there. So they became the first to experience the frightening, awesome discovery that sometime during the night he had risen.

At first, however, they did not know what to make of his absent body. Terror and amazement seized them, and they fled the tomb. These women became the first believers for whom it was not enough just to know that the tomb was empty. Because for all who are discerning, the empty tomb does not prove the meaning of the Resurrection. The women’s experience shows us what else is necessary.

It was facing Jesus’ death and continuing to stay true to him afterward that allowed them to discover the Resurrection. They found that he was alive to them in a way they could never have imagined, in a way that could never end. They discovered that what the world put to death, God raised high. This is the meaning of Easter: God’s love triumphs over every barrier.

Easter means that no power on earth can destroy the reality that is Christ.

The angel gave the women the clue that unlocks for every Christian the power of the Resurrection. The angel instructed them to tell all the other disciples that Christ was raised and had gone before them into Galilee. The angel told them that they should quit looking for Jesus in death, but rather, find him alive in a new way, in the life of the world. If they could do so, they would discover the meaning of the Resurrection. They would discover that even despite our lack of commitment to God, God remains committed to us – in a loving, unconditional, no-strings-attached kind way – despite how much or little we might deserve that love. They will discover that God makes them the most precious beings in creation – people who are worth dying for.

Easter is coming face to face with a Jesus who has not just reversed the power death, but has completely triumphed over it.

Today is the day in our faith to proclaim this fabulous news. The Good News of the Resurrection is that Christ is a light that overcomes all the darkness that life can entail. That light overcomes the darkness we experienced in Holy Week when we passed through vivid reminders of our human frailty and sin, reminders of how easy it is for us to be gobbled up by the power of the enemies of God.

Now – today – we can declare that things are different.

Now we know we have the love and light of Christ going before us and living within us. Now we can see the way and dare to bring that love and light to the darker parts of our world.

Today our Prayer Book allows us to begin saying, as a response to the dismissal, “Thanks be to God – Alleluia, Alleluia.” Now we can express, once again, the joy of these empowering words. Now we go forth from this service back into our workaday world in a renewed and transformed way. We can go forth with confidence and courage because we know that as Christ went before the disciples into Galilee, he also goes before us into all the world.

Christ leads the way for us, ever going before us, raising us with him from the depths – from sickness and pain and even death, from disappointment and sin and despair and grief. Christ ever goes before us as our light in the darkness, allowing us to reflect his light into the world.

Today we move with the women at the tomb into a renewed life, ready to face everything with joy, and filled with God’s love, proclaiming and showing that Christ is risen, indeed. Today we shout, “Alleluia !! Alleluia !!”

 

— The Rev. Ken Kesselus, author of ”John E. Hines: Granite on Fire” (Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, 1995), is retired from full-time, active ministry and lives with his wife in his native home, Bastrop, Texas.

The first fruits of a new garden, Easter Day (B) – 2012

April 8, 2012

Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

Mary Magdalene is lost in the grief following her rabbi, Jesus’, death. Then there is the shock of finding the tomb empty. She runs to get Peter and the Beloved Disciple, who see the tomb and return home. Mary remains. She is weeping inconsolably when angels ask her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” In her deep loss she finds the words,They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

Then she turns and sees him, Jesus. He is standing in front of her, resurrected from the dead, never to die again. Mary is not flooded with joy. She is still lost in her grief. She doesn’t know that this is Jesus. She supposes that this man is the gardener.

 

Could Mary Magdalene have been more wrong? There are no stories of Jesus ever tending a garden. Once his ministry began, Jesus was never in one place long enough to plant and raise crops. He said in both Matthew and Luke, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay my head.”

When Jesus did tell stories of gardening, they were not exactly examples of wisdom from a master gardener. After all, Jesus told of a man sowing seed who did so by casting the seed broadly, so that he wasted seed on rocky soil, thorn-covered ground, and even the path through the garden. He was a wasteful gardener, and Jesus seems fine with what any careful sower would consider a misuse of the seeds.

Another time he told of a man who planted good seed only to have someone else come and plant weeds among his plants. When he is asked whether he wants the garden weeded, he says no. He prefers to let the weeds grow along with the good crop; they’ll sort the weeding out at harvest time.

Good gardeners weed their gardens all through the growing season. Could Jesus have been a gardener without knowing this? Obviously Jesus uses his gardening analogies to make points that have nothing to do with tending plants. In the process, he seems unconcerned about using farming analogies in a way that shows he knows how to garden.

But Mary’s confusion is short lived. Once Mary hears Jesus call her name, she recognizes Jesus for who he is and calls him Rabbouni, which means “my teacher.” Now this was fitting, for Jesus had not given gardening advice, but he had been a gifted teacher who used stories from everyday life to teach the people.

It was a simple case of mistaken identity. She thought the man in the garden was a gardener, but it turned out to be Jesus, her teacher. Yet, before we move on too quickly, we do well to recognize that this was no small detail. Why do we know about this brief case of mistaken identity? The only one in the garden with Jesus was Mary Magdalene. She thought this momentary lapse was worth retelling, and John felt it had to be shared in his gospel. There was something to this mistaken identity worth holding on to. On reflection, Mary had Jesus’ identity more closely aligned to the Truth when she thought he was the gardener, and missed a deeper way of seeing who Jesus was and is when she called him “my teacher.”

God had always been a gardener. The Book of Genesis tells us, “The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he placed the man he had created.”

And John’s gospel tells us that on the night before he died, Jesus told his disciples, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” He said this in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before his arrest. Then in John 19 we are told, “The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before.”

This is a second garden, one that, theologically, takes the place of Eden. For in John 12, Jesus had said, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit,” and it is Jesus’ earthly life, his mortal remains, which are laid to rest in this garden. Jesus dies and is resurrected, and so bears much fruit in defeating death itself.

With this in mind, look again at what our gospel reading reveals. Jesus’ whole life and ministry were part of a project undertaken by God to help humanity find its way back into the Garden of Eden. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the final stages in his defeat of death itself. The second person of the Trinity willingly offered his life for the sins of the world. Now through faith in Jesus, all can regain their original innocence and make their way back into the Kingdom of God, back into the garden. And now at the culmination of this long project, working its way through all human history, Mary Magdalene sees Jesus as the gardener. And in this, she is the most right.

Jesus was not simply a teacher. He didn’t come to teach lessons to prepare you for a test. Jesus came to work the soil in his father’s garden, to help spark spiritual growth in the depths of your soul.

Jesus was the Good Gardener who came not to judge the world. He didn’t come to separate the wheat from the chaff. Jesus came to save the world, to work the hard soil in the human heart. Jesus came to give us living water so that we could grow, blossom, and bear much fruit. This is why the mistaken identity was so memorable. Jesus, the one sent to tend God’s garden, was mistaken for a gardener. He wasn’t a teacher who was once mistaken for a gardener, but a gardener who was frequently mistaken to merely be a teacher.

If you leave this Easter and think Jesus was simply a great teacher, then you will have missed the point of this great feast day of the church. For on this day we gather not to remember something Jesus taught. We are gathered today to remember that God raised Jesus from the dead as the first fruits of a new creation, a new garden.

Leave instead challenged to think of Jesus as more than a teacher. He did not give us “Seven Keys to Spiritual Riches” or “Ten Laws for a Successful Life” or any other simplistic teaching. Jesus came “to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us” to God. He came to offer himself, “a perfect sacrifice for the whole world.”

When in disobedience and sin, we humans turned our backs on God, Jesus entered into the chaos we created and planted the garden anew, planting his Word in our hearts.

Within each of us is some stony soil. Within each of us there are weeds. We see this too in the disciples who Jesus knew and loved and taught. They lived alongside him seeing with their own eyes God with us. Yet, each of them fell short of the glory of God. On the night of his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane most of his followers fled and none stood alongside him in his trial. None were arrested with him or crucified alongside their rabbi. The grace of God is shown clearly as Jesus appears to the disciples in a locked room. They are gathered in fear. Jesus offers peace.

Yes, he is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, but Jesus is also the Good Gardener who never gives up on the plant, tending it back to life and helping it bear fruit. Jesus came to offer the loving care that a gardener gives to that beloved prize-winning plant that is the centerpiece of the garden. That plant is you. And the story of this Easter is that the gardener did all he did in order for you to have life and have it abundantly.

 

— The Rev. Canon Frank Logue is the Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Georgia.

Christ is Risen, Easter Day (B) – 2009

April 12, 2009

(Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8)

Those of you who have nearly lost someone near and dear will find the gospel today within your experience. In wartime, families hope to avoid and yet expect the knock on the door. There stand uniformed and grim-looking people who have come to announce that a young person is missing in action or dead.

Others have sat in one of those ambitiously cheerful waiting rooms, expecting a surgeon to appear to tell them the worst or perhaps the best. Time seems to stand still. Hope comes and goes. Perhaps we pray or tell God off or both. Our companions try to comfort us, awkwardly. There’s always one person who is brave enough or foolish enough to assure us all will be well. We’d like to believe, but Uncle Charlie always looks on the bright side.

When we hear that the young soldier is alive after all or has been found and is safe and well, we thank God. We affirm our belief in miracles. When our loved one is safely in recovery we think Uncle Charlie was so right!

Please don’t believe for a moment that the disciples were so faith-filled on Easter morning that they expected to meet the Risen Jesus. First-century Jews were no more used to people emerging to life after death than we are. Many of them believed that at some future time the righteous would rise and inherit a new earth. Many, like perhaps some of you, didn’t really believe in life after death, let alone dead people coming to life. They went through life with no hope of a future life, and yet they worshipped God, perhaps hoping for a better deal now, or on the off chance that God had something great in store for them.

The gospel records are quite clear that the disciples had no idea what Jesus was talking about when he said he would rise again. St. Peter begged Jesus not to risk his life and had been called “Satan” for his troubles.

The gospel choices for today, one from St. John’s gospel and one from St. Mark’s, tell the same story in different ways.

John concentrates on Mary Magdalene. She loved Jesus so much, was utterly downcast and grief stricken, crying her eyes out as she stumbled into the tomb and found it empty. She had seen Jesus die, really die, cruelly, on the Cross. She came to be close to him just as some of us have wanted a last look at a loved one in the funeral home. Even that is taken from her. She turns and senses someone close, probably a gardener up early. “Where have they taken him? Where have they put him?” she blurts out. She is sure that the religious leaders have removed him so that his tomb won’t become a site of pilgrimage.

It is only when the “gardener” says her name, “Mary,” that she knows it is the Lord. When someone who loves you speaks your name, there is something special, something wonderful about the way it sounds.

Jesus tells Mary not to cling to him, but rather to go and tell his followers that he is alive.

Mark, in his usual hurried style, tells of a group of disciples going to the tomb. It is empty. A young man tells them to go and tell the disciples that Jesus is alive. They run back but then say nothing.

Perhaps Mary does tell the waiting group of friends what she has experienced. Perhaps it is Peter and John, Peter the new leader and John the Beloved, who speak with authority and love. We don’t know.

In both the John and Mark versions there’s something important for us to grasp about Easter. Jesus warns Mary not to hang on to him but to tell the good news. So much of our religion is about us. We want Jesus to live in order that he may give us what we want, or keep us safe, or heal us, in this life. Even if we believe in an after life, our belief is vague. We are rather like the people in Jesus’ day who go through the actions of religion with some hope of being rewarded now.

Jesus tells Mary to go “tell” that something extraordinary has happened. Jesus is Risen. Jesus tells Mary that he has not completed the action yet. The Resurrection is not primarily about eternal life. The Ascension completes that part of the whole. The Resurrection is about new life, a new world, a new country. This new country isn’t geographical. It is made up of the dead, the living, and those who are not yet born, who in their lives “tell” that Jesus lives, and work in Jesus to lay the foundations of a new heaven and a new earth.

St. Mark tells us that the disciples ran from the empty tomb and didn’t say a thing! Perhaps they are as embarrassed as we are to blurt out our faith that “Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.” So we talk about justice, and good works, and piety, and the outward things of religion. We become experts on how the service should be taken or how the parish spends its money. We say nothing at all about the crux and core of Christianity. Christ is Risen.

All the religious things we involve ourselves in, justice and mercy, worship, and parish affairs are good in themselves. Yet without the presence of the Risen Christ at the heart of what we believe, we are, as St. Paul said, “of all people the most miserable.”

Christ is Risen. Be glad, wipe away your tears and then go tell the Good News.

 

— Fr. Tony Clavier is rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, La Porte, Indiana, in the Diocese of Northern Indiana. He is also dean of the Michigan City deanery.

I Have Seen the Lord!, Easter Day (B) – 2006

April 16, 2006

Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 24:6-9; Psalm 118:1-2. 14-24; I Cor. 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

I Have Seen the Lord!

The Light has burst through the darkness. The long night is over. The poet John Masefield cries with us,

Oh glory of the lighted mind.
How dead I’d been, how dumb, how blind!

We have walked in sorrow since Thursday night. We were lost. Now light breaks forth and joy visits our minds. We are no longer lost. We blink at the Light, but we are suspicious of sudden joy. After so much sadness, after the loss of hope, joy is a surprise beyond imagining. We blink again, not believing the evidence of our eyes, thinking, We must be dreaming.

Imagine for a moment what it is to be a child again. You look around for your parents and fear grips you. You start crying and someone asks: Why are you weeping?

You answer:
I am weeping because I have lost my mother and my father. I have lost my anchor. I have lost everything that held me firm on the earth.  But there is your mother stretching out her hand to take yours as she says, Come with me, my child  You are safe now.  And then you hear your father saying, Do not be afraid.

This is what this sudden joy after so much sorrow feels like. Still we are not persuaded.

We had accepted the end. Now our eyes tell us that it was not the end, something else was happening. Is somebody interfering with our reality? We hear the cry, Don’t give me any false hopes! and recognize our own voice crying.

As we contemplate resurrection, different voices and answers come at us from all directions. They usually begin like this: “The scholars tell us …” for the current trend is to offer explanation and analysis. The skeptics agree: No one can return from death; no one has returned from death. What you see is a vision. The longing of the heart is so great that the mind sees what it wants to see. On and on come the explanations. “The scholars tell us …”

But here comes Mary of Magdala. Let us listen to her words on the resurrection; she was an eyewitness after all. We imagine her answers:

“This is what I too thought at first. That he was the gardener. That he was a vision. That my wounded, orphaned heart was making my eyes see what the heart longed for. But then I remembered that I had given up all hope. My tears were enough testament that I had accepted his death. My grief was as real as that dead body I had watched Joseph wrap in the clean linen. I had seen him being laid in the tomb. This, this is not what I expected. So don’t tell me it was a vision. Still, when I saw the empty tomb, everything inside me asked: Is it possible? Can it be possible?

“In the early morning stillness, a familiar, beloved voice calls my name and all doubts vanish. He knows my name as he knows me. I know his voice. I know that only he calls my name in this manner – with agapē, with knowledge, with assurance, as if calling me back from death, recalling me to life as he had done long ago when he dispelled the demons. ‘Mary!’ I turn to look at him and I cry out, ‘Rabbouni!’ Beloved teacher – as I used to do. I know who he is. This is not a vision, this is my beloved teacher and friend. My savior.”

And we who have also been called by name believe her. We may not know him as well as Mary knew him, but we are known by him. For the moment we respond exactly the way she did. We don’t want to lose him again because that will plunge us into darkness. And now that we have seen the light, we don’t want to be left in the dark, ever again. We join the psalmist as he asserts:

I shall not die but I shall live.
He will swallow up death forever.

It is the most hopeful thought. We prostrate ourselves before him and grasp at his robe, at his feet, to keep him near us. Do we hear him chuckle? “Don’t hold on to me now. When I go to my Father, I will be available to all of you.”

Mary understands immediately. She trusts him after death as she did before his death. She runs to the other disciples. “I have seen the Lord.”

A wonderfully simple statement. “I have seen the Lord.” She doesn’t describe him, she doesn’t defend her sight of him, she doesn’t analyze her feelings. “I have seen the Lord, and this is what he said to me.”

Ah, if we could only learn to do the same. Peter did learn it. When he preached to a diverse group assembled by Cornelius, the heart of his message was this: “We are witnesses. . . [he appeared] to us who were chosen by God as witnesses and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” Maybe he was remembering Mary’s words to him on that first Easter morning: “I have seen the Lord.”

Paul also heard the same words and repeated them in his own way, crying out: “Have I not seen the Lord?” and then, after reciting a litany of appearances, he affirms: “Last of all, he appeared also to me.”

What about us? This morning we have listened again to the resurrection story. We have sung glorious affirmations of the Day of Resurrection. We will partake of Holy Communion and will affirm our faith. Let us pray the longing of our hearts. Let us ask to feel, to know the Presence. So we too can say with Mary, “I have seen the Lord.” Amen.

— Katerina K. Whitley is the author of Speaking for Ourselves: Voices of Biblical Women (Morehouse, 1998) and Seeing for Ourselves: Biblical Women Who Met Jesus (Morehouse, 2001).