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April 2015

Pastor Points: "The Gift of Easter"

Mary Magdalene went back to Jesus’ tomb just after dawn. She was wandering in a state of shock, after her earlier visit. Mary had gone-, in the dark, to tell Peter that Jesus’s body was missing. Two men had later confirmed that His body had disappeared. Later, she had returned to the cemetery, alone. There was no need for her to be there now. On Saturday, Jesus had had a burial fit for a king. Now, the bandages that she had wrapped around His head and torso were rolled up neatly on the ground, and He was gone.

Why, then, was Mary lingering by the tomb? She had come to grieve--- and grieve, she did. But she had a reason for returning, that wouldn’t have made sense to anyone else. By visiting the last place where she had seen Jesus’ body, Mary had been able to keep Him alive in her mind. Jesus had turned her life around. But something strange had happened when she returned. The resurrected Jesus had appeared next to her, and she had thought He was the gardener. Why hadn’t Mary seen that He was Jesus? Maybe it had been too dark to see anything, or the tears in Mary’s eyes had blurred her vision. But, perhaps there was a deeper reason. I think Mary had failed to see Jesus because she had been looking for her “old” teacher.

Resurrection means dying completely—and then breaking forth in new ways. The resurrected Christ is not physically the same as the crucified Jesus. He is a new being, with a new body. He is more than a “reincarnated” creature or an “immortal soul.”

Mary couldn’t have things the way they were, so she wanted things to be the way they might have been. The last thing Mary Magdalene had wanted was to relate to Jesus in a new way. We can understand that. We want to go back to the good times, before our hearts were broken, before people seemed to lose their faith. If we can’t go back, then we would prefer to live in the pain of loss. We figure that, if the pain is there, the past must be there, too. But when we dwell in the past, we can’t see what God’s plan for us.

Mary finally recognizes Jesus. He speaks to her firmly. "Don’t cling to me," Jesus says. “Instead, go and tell." With His words, Jesus commissions Mary as an apostle, to love others in His name. He shows her the wonders God has done. When He transforms Mary’s sorrow into hope, she becomes a church leader. She begins to spread the Word.

Easter offers us new life. Out of disappointment and loss, Jesus resurrects us. When we try new things that gladden our hearts, we hear His call. What do you love to do, that the world needs you to do? That is God’s voice, calling you, according to theologian Frederick Buechner. You can answer that call. Such is the promise of Easter Sunday.

Pastor Joyce

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