08 April 2012
Rev. Kathy Sullivan Vandenberg
Mary Magdala had been crying for three days. Her beloved friend was dead. She went to the tomb when it was still dark, to anoint Jesus and be with him. He was gone!! She could not find him anywhere. The stone on the tomb was rolled back and he was not in the tomb. Desperate and afraid she ran to where Simon Peter and the other disciple that Jesus loved and told them that Jesus was not there. They did not believe her. They ran out of the place they were hiding and ran as fast as they could to the tomb. The disciples found the burial clothes rolled up together in a separate place. Great despair overcame them and they wept. They wanted to believe that he was alive but they could not find him.
I want to read to you the next few verses of John further on to let you know that in spite of not finding Jesus great Joy was coming!!! This Joy was experienced by Mary of Mandela when she saw Jesus.
A Further Reading from John
“Mary stood crying outside the tomb. While she was still crying, she bent over and looked inside the tomb and saw two angels there dressed in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been. “Woman, why are you crying?” they asked her. She answered, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have taken him!” Then she turned round and saw Jesus standing there but she did not know that it was Jesus. “Woman why are you crying?” Jesus asked her “Who is it that you are looking for?” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned towards him and said in Hebrew, “Rabboni” (This means “Teacher.”) It was at this time that Mary knew that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead. So Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord.”
Can you imagine the Joy that came over Mary when she realized that Jesus was standing next to her and was speaking her name? It did not matter that she, Mary, was a woman. Jesus was talking to her. It was a woman who saw the risen Christ first and made it possible for women, as well, could have a relationship with the risen Jesus. She became the first of the Disciples.
The disciples knew that his words were had been right. It meant that the way of life that he showed them was the way to new life. It meant that the man, Jesus, who they loved, was alive and had come back to life in three days as he said. Their sorrow had turned to great Joy knowing that he had done what he said he would do.
Easter is a great time for rejoicing and remembering all that God has done for us. It is a time to be extremely grateful for the death and resurrection of Jesus and the promise he made that we will be always with him. Being grateful is such an understatement that we often find it hard to express. Being able to express our Joy is a positive way we can be energized and be grateful.
Joy can be experienced in so many ways. I want to mention some that are meaningful to me and I hope for all of you:
Joy that we have our families together when we talk about the special meaning of today. Even if our families are spread about the country we can still have contact with them and talk with them. Families are the vivid expressions of great love that is modeled after Jesus.
Joy is remembering that we are saved from sin. Jesus opened up the doors of heaven and now we are going to be with him. Forgiveness is such a gift from God and forgiveness is freely given. All we have to do is ask.
Joy is appreciating the wonders of life around us. Everyday God sends us blessings that are to be reminders of the life we will have forever. These unexpected blessings also remind us of hope when we are discouraged and that God is firmly in our lives.
Joy in hard times is sometimes hard to see. It is the caring we receive from others that helps us remember that Joy is close at hand. It is also the caring that we give others help them know they are loved and appreciated.
Joy is the community of Jesus Our Shepherd with the special people we see each Sunday and other special days that helps us to know we are a community of hope and love to each other and to the community outside our doors.
Joy can be hard to experience when we are discouraged and tired. This is why we need to reflect on the Resurrection of Jesus and know that even though we may be utterly discouraged one day, there can be Joy in the morning.
Joy for me was following God’s urging to become ordained a priest and Joy is with me today when you have invited me to become a permanent priest for Jesus Our Shepherd. Thank you.
Have a Wonderful Easter.