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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sermon from April 24, 2011 + The Resurrection of our Lord

“Found by the Answer”

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Texts: John 20:1-18

Sisters and brothers, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Questions and more questions. There seem to be a lot of questions in our Gospel today.

Twice Mary is asked “Why are you weeping?” Jesus also asks Mary, “Whom are you looking for?” And Mary asks, “Where have you laid him?” Questions.

We are full of questions, too. Perhaps even the same questions. Why are you weeping? (That is, what is your pain, for yourself, for others, for the world?) Whom are you looking for? (Where is Jesus in all this, after all?) Which leads to: where have they laid him? (What do we really think about this day, this resurrection?)

In fact, if we really are honest with ourselves, even on this Easter morning, we very much need to answer these questions. The only questions that really matter for us in the end.

Why are you weeping?

Mary Magdalene was weeping because she had lost her Lord. If we had been with her that weekend, we would not have needed to ask the question. Her Lord, friend and Master died a terrible death. Jesus was dead. There was no more hope.

Now she’s come and found an empty tomb. Could grave robbers have moved so quickly? Why hadn’t the soldiers prevented it? Nothing could be worse than his death – except this.

And we, we weep for the same reason. We have lost our Lord. Or maybe we’ve gotten ourselves lost. We do not know where he is.

We weep because our lives are so busy and so complicated, and we still don’t seem completely happy. Or even partly happy sometimes.

We weep because we can’t control the really important things in life, the things that really matter, life and death things.

We weep because we are filled with anxiety, and the worries and cares of this life sometimes seem as if they will overwhelm us.

We weep because we remember loved ones who are not here with us this Easter because they have died.

We weep because some of our loved ones are ill, and we’re afraid for them, and for us.

We weep because we want to know the answers to life, but we don’t. We don’t know how to live, we don’t know to love, we don’t know how to change.

We weep because we run after all sorts of things in our search for meaning and importance, but they never satisfy us where we need it.

We weep because this world is full of death and we know that we can’t avoid that.

We weep because we’re looking for our Lord Jesus to be alive in our lives, and we can’t find him most times, most days.

We don’t understand. And we don’t see him. Like Peter and John at first. They come and see the empty tomb, and believe what Mary says, that it’s empty. But the Evangelist says they still don’t understand he is risen.

We just don’t get it, either. Jesus’ resurrection is too often a fact for us, but it’s a past fact, a history. And we don’t know where he is now. We don’t know, because we don’t yet understand what it means for Jesus to be risen for us.

But go back to the story: it turns out the answer is not about what you know, or even who you know, but who knows you.

As we hear the story, we know that Jesus is speaking to Mary. But she doesn’t. She’s looking directly at him, and can’t see him for her tears. She who thought she knew him so well, couldn’t see him in front of her.

And the interesting point is not why. Because others weren’t sure they were seeing him at first – I mean, when someone whom you know to be dead suddenly stands before you, and not as a ghost but a real flesh-and-blood person, it takes your mind a bit to get used to it.

No, the interesting point is when. When does she understand? When does she know who he is? When he calls her by name. “Mary,” he says. Then, then she says, “Teacher!” Now she knows. Now she understands. Now she sees him.

Because life is not about what you know, or even who you know, but who knows you.

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C. S. Lewis, Eustace asks Edmund if he knows Aslan. Aslan is the Christ-figure in these books, and Edmund knows him, has met him, talked with him, been with him often. But Edmund hesitates with his answer, because Aslan is Christ in these stories, and how do you easily answer that question, do you know him?

But finally he says, “Well, he knows me.” And that is our first and greatest answer this morning.

We weep because many times we do not know where Jesus is in our lives. But he knows us, who we are, and where we are. And that is all that matters.

Jesus asks, “Whom are you looking for?” We think we’ve come here to find out if Jesus is really
alive in the world for us. And instead, we learn that he has already come looking for us.

In our baptism, he called us by name, and still knows it. Still calls to you. To me. By name. You may not always know him, but he knows you. And that’s more than enough for us.

We hear him calling to us from the Word. We come here to hear it read and preached; we read it at home, too. In God’s Word, our Lord calls us by name, and we suddenly begin to recognize him in front of us. We see him in our lives. He’s been with us all the time. Now that we’ve heard his call, we begin to sense his presence.

And we hear him call to us this morning from his Supper table. When we come to the table, at his invitation, we receive his real presence right now. We are filled with his Body and Blood right now. He has called us and blessed us and forgiven us and filled us up each time we have shared this Meal, and now he calls to us again. By name. And we see him. In the bread and the wine we see him. And we begin to understand.

And we hear him call to us by name this morning with those whom he has made to be his Body. These believers whom you greeted as you came, who share the Meal and hear the Word next to you; he is calling to you from them. And we are here together in Christ, he has put us together so that we all can be our Lord’s strength to each other. Our Lord’s voice to each other. Our Lord’s love to each other.

And when he calls to you and me by name this morning, like Mary we see and begin to understand.

We see that he is the Answer who has found us in our many questions.

He has come to calm our hearts and tell us that there is nothing that can harm us, nothing we need fear, nothing that can overwhelm us, for we are standing firm in the Lord’s love, with peace in our hearts, because he is risen.

He has come to re-center us on what is important in life, giving us meaning and purpose, so we’re not running after emptiness, but finding there is life for us in the Lord, because he is risen.

He has come to comfort our fears by assuring us that all who suffer are in the Lord’s hands, no matter what, for he is alive, always with us, and evil has no more power, because he is risen.

He has come to ease our pain of loss by promising that all who die in the Lord will live again, and death has no more power, because he is risen.

When the One who knows us by name comes to us, then we understand that he is risen and alive for us even today. And he comes to satisfy us deep down, where we need it most, because he in his Word, and Meal, and presence, can give us what we truly need: life lived abundantly in him now, and when we are raised from death with him.

Here is our Easter joy: instead of having us find answers, God comes to us in Jesus and is our Answer.

And our joy is complete, even in a world which still raises more questions than it answers.

And now that we have seen him today, we can do the same as Mary. She ran from this encounter in joy, saying “I have seen the Lord!” Now Mary would say to us, “Go and tell others how you know him in this life, how our Lord is real to you. How you have seen him. How he speaks to you, and fills you up, and surrounds you with his strength and promise. Now you are the apostle. You are the messenger,” she says. “Go and tell. It is too good to keep to yourselves. Tell the world this love is for them, too.”

My dear friends, whom are you looking for? Never mind – he found you already. He is calling you by name, and is risen from the dead. And that’s all the answer we need, ever.

In the name of Jesus. Amen

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