Seeing Something New- An Easter Sermon
There is an Easter egg hunt evolution going on here today. Last week, the Sunday school teachers told me to announce that the Easter egg hunt would be only available for kids ages seven and under. So big kids were out. After all, they are so fast that they steal all the eggs. We have tried to have staggered starts, letting the little ones get a few minutes alone before the big kids jump in, but it always seems to result in some kids having tons of eggs and others having only a few. So we just told the older kids that their time was up.
Well, this went over like a lead balloon. Nobody wants to be told that they are too old to hunt Easter eggs. I thought we might have a rebellion on our hands. But then a very gifted teacher came up with something new and unexpected.
She developed a new kind of egg hunt. The old fashioned competitive, find-all-the-eggs-you-can-in-a-short-time-before-everything-is-gone method will still be used on the young ones. But there is something new for the older kids, ages 8-11. They are going to hunt for eggs that contain pieces of a treasure map. They must work together to put the pieces in the right order to form the map that will lead them to the key which unlocks a treasure. And there will be enough chocolate for everybody.
No one likes change. But I think this Easter Egg hunt 2.0 is even better. Instead of being competitive, it is community building. And everybody gets chocolate!
All that Mary Magdalene wanted was for things to go back, back to the way that they were. Jesus had made her well, you know. Mary had been lost. She had demons, these things that she could not see and did not understand. We don't know what they were: seizures, voices, hurting herself...she was lost and alone. And then Jesus came and he made everything right. He healed her and from that moment on, she would not leave his side. She followed him everywhere. She fed him and helped in any way she could. She did not leave even when they made Jesus carry a cross, even when they hung him up to die. She did not leave even when they took his body down and laid it in a tomb. Where else could she go?
All Mary wanted was to go back to the way things were, when she was with him, when she could cook for him and follow him everywhere, when she was healthy and well because he was near. She just wanted her life back, her life with Jesus, the way things were.
That's what we want. We all want our lives to be the way they once were, or at least the way that we imagine they were. We want the same in heaven too. We want it to be like our best memories of home, with our loved ones and friends, like the best party we went to, like the best day we had. We want the best things from our past. It's all that we can imagine, the way things once were. Who could ask for anything more than that?
When Mary knew that Jesus was dead, she still couldn't stay away. So in the very early hours of the morning, as soon as the Sabbath was as over, Mary went to the tomb. She just wanted to stay close to him. It was all she knew. She couldn't stay away. And when she saw the dark tomb and his body gone, her grief rushed in on her and she began to weep. Everything had fallen apart. They had even taken his body! There was nothing to hold onto.
And then Jesus comes. Mary looks up and there is this man standing there. She doesn't know who he is. She doesn't recognize her Lord. She doesn't recognize the man that she had served and followed for years. I think that this is very important. Mary wanted things to go back to the way that they were. Her longing for what was prevented her from seeing what was right in front of her. Mary couldn't recognize the new way that Jesus came. Jesus looked different. Jesus was different.
All over the world, Christianity is changing. Christians are dying in the Middle East, being pushed from their homes. Churches are being desecrated. I watched this past week as a Syrian Orthodox Archbishop cried bitterly on 60 Minutes. He had be forced from his town when ISIS invaded. He had just five minutes to leave a church built in the early years of Christianity. The church held hundreds of ancient manuscripts -- some dating from the first century. He grabbed just five of them and fled, leaving the rest of them, and his beloved church, to be defiled and destroyed. In Europe, churches are falling apart for another reason. Fewer and fewer people are going to church. They are empty, becoming museums, marketplaces, nightclubs, luxury apartments. What is happening to us?
All I want is for things to go back to the way they were. I want every Sunday to look like today, full and flowering. Full of bright young faces, worshipping God together. I want things to be the way that they were when churches were full every Sunday and everyone said prayers at night before bed.
And whenever I struggle in life, I think back to the way things were. I want my 20 year old body, my kids being young and so cute. I want my old house that I loved and I want to see my father-in-law again.
But at the core of what we believe is this mystery called the resurrection. Resurrection does not mean returning to something the way it was. Resurrection is something entirely new. We believe that when we die, we are born into a new life. And this new life happens when our physical bodies die, but it can also happen in this life. Jesus told his disciples over and over again that the kingdom of God was all around them. It's all around you too. But you have to learn to hunt for it, to seek it out and to find it.
When Jesus came to Mary in the resurrected form, she could not recognize him. He looked different. He looked so different that later on some of his disciples would spend the entire afternoon with him talking and walking and not realize that it is him. All of his friends wanted things to go back to the way they were before and it made them blind to what God was doing. If you are looking to repeat the past, the resurrection will pass you by.
Now don't get me wrong. I do believe that we will see our loved ones in heaven, that the best of our lives here will be with us there, just as Jesus came back to the people he loved, but our loved ones will be so much more than what we remember them to be. And we will be so much more. Life will be so much more!
And we are not just talking about heaven. The resurrection is something that we can access now. Jesus is very clear that the kingdom of God is near to you. So we must open our eyes. God is going to do new things in your life, if only you can see them. We are so busy that we don't even know how to see God's work in the world anymore. And yet, Americans are hungry for meaning. We are running around, busier than we have ever been before, almost frantic with busyness, and we are hungry for meaning. Books on spirituality and meaning are flying off the shelves. We are aware that there is a certain lack of depth in our fast-forward lives.
So this Easter, I want you to go on an Easter hunt. I don't want you to look for candy. Look for God. Look for ways that God is giving you new life. Look for a new thing. Jesus stands right in front of you, inviting you to see him if you have the courage to slow down and hunt for him. I know that it is scary, this ever-changing world of technology and moving parts. But he is here. All you have to do is look.
- The Very Rev. Kate Moorehead