Easter Sunday – Sermon 67

13th February 2011 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ

AMEN


Introduction

“Love” is probably the most talked about, written about, sung about word in the human vocabulary –

when we think of love – we think of God –

Mother Julian of Norwich in her – Revelations of divine love describes love as “The light”, which God in His wisdom measures out to us – Love keeps us in faith and hope, and hope leads us in love. And in the end all will be love.”

Throughout history there have been many women of devotion that have inspired love in others

None more so than Mary of Magdala – who has a special place – not only because of the love she showed towards Jesus in His life and His death – but because she was the first to see Him after His resurrection-

On that Easter morning Mary came to the tomb to grieve – when she arrived – there was no king – no kingdom – no healer – no friend – no teacher – no guide – nothing

But as our NT reading shows us – that empty feeling would soon go – the experience of that morning would take her from sorrow and grief – to Joy and excitement – to freedom and life

Point 1 – First Point Mary’s love for Jesus

Someone once called this – the greatest recognition scene in all literature –

The whole story is scattered with indications of Mary’s love for Jesus –

She came back after taking messages to Peter and John – got separated – and by the time she arrived – was on her own – in front of the empty tomb –

She was distraught – she had expected to come and anoint His body with spices and oils – but now there was nothing to do –

Not only had they taken away what they had together in life – they had also taken away what little they would have together – in death –

Her life was in darkness – her one wish was to weep her love over Jesus’ body – after all He had done so much for her –

Jesus was the one who had saved her – when she was processed by Demons – set her free – of the illness that had had control of her life – He made life worth living – and in response to His act of love – she chose to stay and care for His needs – to become one of His followers – Mary’s Love was no fair weather love – He love wished them never to be apart –

She was there at the trial – during His suffering – on the cross –was near to Him when He died – sharing every painful moment – and now – beyond death –

The disciples had gone home – but not Mary – she stays – she weeps – she searches – she needed to be near Him – like a moth fluttering in the darkness – mysteriously drawn to His light –

her feelings perhaps echoed those of the young shulammite woman in out OT reading from the Song of Solomon :

“I will rise and go the round of the city, go through the streets and squares seeking my love. I sought Him but could not find Him”

The Song of Solomon or – Song of Songs – best of all songs – its a series of love poems – snapshots – of the exchanges between two people in love –

For centuries it was read during public worship – at one of the Passover days –

Many believe it was written to celebrate the love of a newly married couple – others see it as a allegory between God and His people – where the bridegroom is God Himself – or Christ – and the bride – the Jewish people – or the church –

– it presents a love so rich and unspoilt – that when we read it – its natural to think of God and His love for us

Losing someone we love – is one of our most painful and heart searching experiences – its natural to grieve – but it takes our eyes off God – we feel mostly our own pain and loss – most of us are like Mary – try to focus on something positive – that we can do – to keep us busy – to prevent that huge emptiness – opening up and devouring us

All Mary knows is that the body is missing – despite what Jesus had said to her earlier – despite what she had seen with Lazarus – she was not expecting a resurrection – she had no hope – only grief – for Mary it was still night –

Point 2

so Mary concentrates on the search for the body – so much so – that she doesn’t see anything else – even the presence of the two angels – doesn’t startle her –

“Why are you weeping” –
“They have taken my Lord away – and I do not know where they have laid Him”

In Mary’s mind there could have been only one person who might have moved the body – the gardener –

How often – when faced with desperate or difficult circumstances – have we – like Mary – jumped to conclusions – thought the worst of people – someone says no thank you and we take it to mean they don’t like us – a comment that we don’t understand is taken to be much more than intended – that holiday with a few days rain means a ruined holiday – rather than a different experience – we make huge jumps in logic – to explain away our problem – when all the time the real answer is right there beside us –

We are not told whether Jesus comes up behind her – or if He was standing there all along –

“Why are you weeping, who are you looking for”

And when she turns around – to who she thinks is the gardener – she becomes so irrational – that she even offers to take the body away – by herself –

Then came that single word – “Mary” – and suddenly her pain is transformed – into overwhelming joy – her single answer “Master” – confirms – that she now realizes – it is Jesus standing next to her all the time –

This was the defining moment in the history not only for Mary – but for the rest of mankind – when – “The light shines in the dark – and the darkness never mastered it” – Mary was the first to see the Risen Lord

But – Mary’s joy didn’t come until she saw Jesus clearly – until she recognized Him – through the eyes of love

How often have we failed to see Jesus’ love in our world today – not only in our lives – but in the lives of the people around us –

Our goal must be to know Jesus better –

Matthew puts it very clearly in his gospel
“Just as you did to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did to me”

Jesus calls her by name
We must pray – that we will – each one of us – recognize Jesus when He speaks our name –

Hilary Faith Jones, in her book “awakenings” – puts it like this –

Hold me for a moment,
Caught into that space in time –
When heaven burst with exultation
As recognition changed the world
And hold me just a little longer,

As awesome joy of such unprecedented force pours over me, roller-coasting my emotions

And hold me, please, just a fraction more –
So that I can
hear again the voice that speaks and unbelief is broken.

For quite clearly I hear not “Mary” but another called. And my heart races with delight for the name you call is mine.

Point 3

But Now that Mary knows – things must change – be different – Those who see clearly – must tell freely – She must not hold on to the past – but go forward – and tell others –

“Do not cling to me – for I have not yet ascended to the Father” – go and tell

there is work to be done –and little time to do it – the other disciples must be convinced too

Jesus tells us – that in order to take the good news to others – we have to stop clinging on the things that limit God’s mission –

Our bond with Jesus is not a priceless treasure – not something to be kept close – but must be revealed and displayed for all to see –

For our love is “strong as death …..fiercer than any flame … waters cannot quench it …no floods can sweep it away”-

Jesus is alive
He is here for us all – no longer tied to a human body – but free to help each one of us – His love is to be shared – and available to everyone who asks for it –

Like Mary – we must go and tell – and find Him where He is already – alive and at work, in the community around us


Conclusion

Mary’s Easter morning is full of images – the empty tomb – the voice of the angels – the encounter with Jesus –she started the day – empty of hope – she was looking for the wrong thing – in the wrong place –

But Jesus found her – the one who knew her best called out her name –

As Julian of Norwich puts it –
“when our grief comes to an end – and our eyes are opened – we see clearly that – the light is God – our Maker and Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ our Saviour”-

Today as we go forward in the light of the resurrection – Jesus calls us by name –

Let’s pray that we will recognize Him –and respond like Mary – with the greatest gift we have – love –

Closing prayer

In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit

AMEN