Updated: Jul 29, 2021
Message for sunrise worship at Nicholson Farm, 4th of Fourth Month, 2021
Speaker: Brian Young
Scripture: John 20:1–18 He is Risen!
Early 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 from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and 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. They 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.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” 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.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).
Jesus 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.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Christ appears to Mary. Vie de Jesus Mafa: “Life of Jesus Mafa” Project, 1970
Morning has broken, like the first morning...
Here on this chilly morning, we find ourselves in the beauty of God's creation, with all sorts of new life bursting forth. Here it is green where there was snow, just a few days ago; the warmth of the days is increasing, and spring is unmistakeable. Let’s take a moment to take in our surroundings...
The world began in a garden, “sprung in completeness/ where [God’s] feet pass,” as it says in the hymn we began with (“Morning Has Broken”). And then the world began anew in a garden, as we have just read. In that garden, John’s Gospel tells us in chapter 19, “there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid,” and that was where they laid Jesus’ body when Joseph took him down from the cross.
But of course, the wonder of the story is that that tomb was empty when Mary, the first faithful one, came to see to Jesus’ body. Distraught, she runs to tell Peter and the Beloved Disciple— “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”
Peter and the other disciple can’t believe it, and so they run to see. I’ve never understood why a footrace was necessary—probably at first they felt the urgency of the moment, and thought perhaps that they might be able to do something, if the grave robbers were still there. But it seems like it turns into a competition; these two, trying to outdo each other for the sake of their master, as they had likely done so many times during his life.
And then they look into the tomb, and enter, and see the wrappings—and it’s clear that something else has happened. What kind of trick is this? But... would grave robbers have unwrapped his body? They depart, puzzled, yet beginning to believe.
So Mary, the first faithful one, is alone again in the garden, weeping for a few moments—and then, two angels are in the tomb—but they have only a question: “why are you weeping?”
Why, indeed? What else can be done?
Then she turns, and sees the gardener. It is somehow so appropriate that Mary miscasts Jesus in that particular role. Our world began in a garden, part of that creation that God spoke forth, in the presence of Christ the Word, “without whom nothing was created that has been created.” Christ the Word was, in a certain sense, the keeper of that garden in which humanity was born. And now here he is, in another garden, where the world begins anew; where humanity is given new birth.
But of course, Jesus is not the keeper of this particular garden, as Mary realizes once he speaks her name; she looks into his eyes, she sees the loving look that she had known so many times before, and she knows: her beloved teacher is alive! Love is come again!
Yet the bittersweet truth is that their reunion is to be brief; they shall not tarry in the garden. They both have work to do, and Mary’s work is to become the first evangelist, to go and tell the men that she has seen the Lord.
But before Mary delivered her good news, I wonder what the men were thinking; as the two disciples returned to their upper room, what might have gone through their minds? Perhaps they thought back to the many things their master said during his time with them, and in the light of this new morning, saw things in a new way. Perhaps they might have remembered what Jesus said about the grain of wheat that falls from the stalk: “unless [it] falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” In the shadow of the cross, that saying might have seemed just a cruel joke. But there, having looked into the empty tomb, they begin to understand. The grain that fell and died has begun to bear new fruit, and they are to be part of that fruitfulness.
There’s another hymn that we sometimes sing on this Sunday, “Now the Green Blade Riseth”; one of the stanzas goes,
In the grave they laid Him, Love who had been slain, Thinking that He never would awake again, Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.
As we see all sorts of new life bursting forth around us, let’s remember the grain of wheat that fell from the stalk and died, that we all might bear fruit. We live in a world of great difficulty and uncertainty, and all of our lives have changed immensely in the past year. Yet there is always the promise of bearing fruit, as we abide in the one who is present at the creation—who is also present in our midst today.
Morning has broken, like the first morning...
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green...
Christ has risen!
New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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