Total Pageviews

Sunday, April 24, 2011

While It is Dark (A reflection on John 20)

This Easter , as always, was full of celebration and gratitude.  As a Christian community of faith we recognize God's grace in the invitation to reconciliation.  For those of us who have accepted, it was a day of joy.  However, the text today was focused on Mary Magdalene.  Specifically, it focused on her first Easter experience.  It was dark and she went to anoint her teacher as he lay dead.  She had traveled with him and witnessed his last breath.  She had stayed close to him while the others had deserted him. I would dare to say what hope she had lay dead with him.  Yet she still went. It was the least she could do after all she had received from him. Apparently, she went alone. 

While it was still dark.

I can only imagine her feelings of shock, panic, anger, and whatever else as she came to the tomb and found it empty.  Even then she didn't understand.  What could anyone possibly want with his body after everything else that had been done to it?  Her faithfulness would not let her rest until the anointing with oil and herbs was finished to her satisfaction.  Apparently, she didn't know that Joseph of Arimathea had already cared for the body. Maybe she did and it didn't matter.  She had her own obligations to fulfill. Yet her faith could not comprehend that his promise to rise again had been accomplished.

Have you ever had faith to move forward yet not expecting anything but the script you had already written in your head?  Perhaps what you envision may not have value to anyone but you but you are determined to see it through. No matter the cost to yourself. I admire Mary's courage.  I'm sure it was not the safest, most intellegent thing to to a tomb before daybreak by herself. I can relate to her wanting to show Jesus a little dignity after the painful, suffocating death she had witnessed. It wasn't much but it was all she had.  I'd like to think she had heard Jesus speak about the woman who had only given a little yet was commended because she had given all she had. Maybe that gave her the courage to come. We'll never know all of what prompted her to come to the tomb while it was dark.

And Jesus wasn't there.

Turning in a panic she runs back to the disciples to let them know that the body has disappeared. Peter, another disciple and Mary rush back to tomb.  While Peter and company examine the burial clothes, Mary is outside.  Perhaps she's waiting for her worst fears to be confirmed.  Maybe they would have an explanation because she was all out of them.  Yet Peter and this friend leave not knowing anymore than she does.  What else is there to do but to go back to the house until they decide what to do next?

But Mary stays and she is alone again...weeping.  Too much courage to leave, too devastated to remember.  Maybe it is no longer dark, but it doesn't matter. She can't appreciate the coming dawn. She can't see.

Not yet.

She takes one final look and much to her surprise there are two persons in the tomb.  Didn't Peter and the other just leave?  It doesn't matter, she has to find out where Jesus has been taken. So instead of asking who they are, when they ask why she is weeping, she explains.  Grief can make you blind and deaf. Too blind to see the hint of a new beginning and too deaf to comprehend what is being said to you. The text tells us that angels were addressing her.  She clearly didn't recognize them as such.  She just wanted to know how to complete the script she had come with.  She owed him that.  We don't know the angels' reply but she turns to leave and runs into Somebody Else.

"Where have you taken him?  If you would just let me know, I'll take him away from here."  She responds differently to his question about her weeping.    She's already decided that she will handle this herself this time. It doesn't seem that anyone else is willing to help.  And all these questions are not helping her complete her task. Maybe being more direct will get her point across. I'm sure she was in the midst of making her plans when she hears her name...She didn't recognize the angels but she recognized THIS voice.

Hearing Jesus call your name is the most beautiful sound in the world.  I'm sure it wasn't the first time she had heard it. And that voice had been silenced.She really didn't think she was going to hear it again. Knowing that time in her life was over was part of her grief, I'm sure. But moving on almost always starts with letting go.

Is it really him? He's not dead?...How?...  When?...Where?...and she reaches for him and the answers to her questions but isn't permitted to hold on to him.  THAT time is over. As beautiful as it was. Before she has a chance to realize that her mourning has turned to joy, she has a new assignment. So much more joyful than the one she had given herself yet with more responsibility, too.  Jesus asks this first ordained preacher to go and spread the Good News:  He has risen.

And so she goes.

To give the same hope that she has received.  To shed light on someone else's darkness by simply telling what she knows. She was not looking for it and didn't expect it.  Jesus could have chastised her for that.  But he didn't. He recognized her, gave her just enough time to let go of her script and embrace his. The time would come when she could rejoice for eternity but not now. Perhaps his response was not the one she wanted. Maybe he was moving a little too quickly. I know I would have preferred to talk before I left. A change that quick is always disorienting. But sharing the good news for our hope in Jesus Christ is not always convenient for us. And the seed for it is often planted in our most painful experiences.

But hope beyond hope can be found. Joy, light, direction can be found. Courage to speak the truth boldly can be found. Even if we can only start with steps that are overshadowed with grief, unfulfilled dreams, and low expectations.  If we have to courage to keep going, even while it is dark.

No comments:

Post a Comment