Jesus greets Mary Magdalene in the garden near his tomb. He has come back from the dead, alive, resurrected, and yet he is very wounded. Jesus’ body is still wounded by the scourgings that preceded his crucifixion, and the horrific piercing wounds to his side and to his hands, hanging from the cross. None of these wounds is healed. And Jesus’ heart is also wounded by the betrayal and abandonment of his closest friends, the disciples who literally left Jesus hanging. The women, who were there when their Lord was crucified, witnessed it all, a horrific experience. And this surely leaves the women wounded by the trauma. Meanwhile the disciples are hiding – hiding in their own fear, sorrow, and shame – and this, too, shows a wounding.[i] No one can hurt us like we can hurt ourselves, when we become our own worst enemy. On this day of resurrection, everyone in the Gospel story is not okay. Everyone is wounded, and this is likely true for many of us here. We can simultaneously acknowledge Jesus’ resurrection and, at the same time, acknowledge that everything is not all right in our world or in our own lives. Many of us here today may bear the wounds of life, of one sort or another. Bishop Barbara Harris says, “We are a resurrection people living in a Good Friday world.”
This is why Saint Paul speaks of “the hope of the resurrection.”[ii] He says, we have hope in the resurrection because we do not yet completely see it or experience it.[iii] We have some early signs of the resurrection; we surely have a desire and expectation for resurrection. Yet meanwhile we must wait patiently for what Jesus’ resurrection will fully mean. Here is what can we claim for eternity, about the power of Jesus’ resurrection.
We have hope for the resurrection of the dead, especially for those whom we have loved who have already died: for children and youth, and for those in the prime of life. We have hope that those who have died in old age with disease, or diminishment, or in tragedy, or in terror. We have hope that they will know the healing in death that they did not know in this life. So many people in this world die in unexpected, sometimes tragic ways, or by the slow stealing of their lives by disease and diminishment. So many people – those whom we hold in our hearts and love for all our lives, and those who are unknown to us, whom we only read about in the media– so many people die with a measure of tragedy. You may find enormous comfort in looking to Jesus for those who have died, praying that Jesus complete in death his healing work as their Messiah, their Christ. We are given a picture of this in the Book of Revelation, where we hear that those who have passed through the ordeal of this life will be given an eternal sheltering by God. “…They will hunger no more, and thirst no more… and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”[iv] This hope of heaven may be an enormous source of comfort to you in this life.
The hope for the resurrection of the dead, the hope of heaven, is also about reunion with those who belong to one another, who love one another, those who have already passed from this life to the next. The Scriptures give us a kind of impressionistic picture of heaven, which includes streets of gold and pearly gates and other things of great ornamental value. You can keep all that, so far as I’m concerned. Another picture of heaven I find much more compelling: about the reunion with our loved ones. I want to sit on my Grandmother Anna’s lap again. Maybe you wish something similar from your own lineage. I’m not sure how all that works, because we talk about the resurrection of the body, of our being given new bodies, whole bodies, healed bodies. My Grandmother Anna always seemed old to me; I cannot imagine her with a young body, a whole body, a new body. And yet, in God’s economy, we are all children of God. Somehow – no matter our generation – we will know one another and be fully known to one another, and yet be made new and whole.
Meanwhile, claim the hope in Jesus’ resurrection for you in the here-and-now. At this time in your life, you may be keenly aware of your own woundedness. For the present, we can claim our hope in the resurrection, not from what we see, but from what we remember.[v]Perhaps in the face of many odds, you are a survivor; your life has extended into this new day. Past events in your life may have just killed you, but look at you. You’ve come back to life. It’s not just Jesus who is a walking miracle; you also are a walking miracle. You can draw on the hope of the resurrection out of your miracle memory. Christ has been with you, and Christ is with you yet: Christ before you, Christ behind you, Christ within you, Christ beneath you, Christ above you, Christ at your right, Christ at your left, Christ when you lie down, Christ when you arise.[vi]This morning many of us arose in darkness. When you are in the middle of the dark night, there is absolutely no clue that a dawning will ever happen, no reason to even imagine light again filling your world… except if you remember that, amazingly enough, it has happened before, even after the darkest of nights. This gives us hope that the dawn shall happen again, miraculously.[vii]In the early third century Clement of Alexandriasaid, “Christ has turned all our sunsets into dawns.”[viii] The resurrection will dawn on you, as it has before, and that is a promise Christ gives us: the hope of the resurrection.
Live in the power of the resurrection today:
- You will never be alone. Jesus gives us the promise that his presence and power are with us always. It’s true. If you’re not completely convinced, try this. Try living your life as if Jesus’ promise were true. Take Jesus at his word – the promise of his presence and power with us always, with you always. If you’re not completely convinced of this, try living your life as if Jesus promise were true… and you will discover that it is. Give it a try.Emily Dickinson said, “Instead of getting to heaven at last, I’m going all along.”
- If life is just hell for you right now,take great comfort in Jesus’ promise that he’s come “to seek and to save the lost.”[ix] We say, in the Apostles’ Creed (in the traditional language) that Jesus “was crucified, dead, and buried [and] he descended into hell…”[x] Into hell. Why to hell? To rescue lost souls. To save those who are lost in hell. You can visit hell many times before you die. If you’ve been there, or if you are there, know that Jesus has come to rescue, retrieve, redeem, restore you back to life with his healing light and life and love. You are not lost. You are found. And what Jesus finds in you, Jesus loves.
- If you are afraid just now, if fear holds sway in your life, just remember that fear is getting in the wayof Jesus who is the way, and the truth, and the life.[xi] Jesus shows us the way to live our life from the inside out. There’s nothing to be afraid of “out there.” Jesus speaks of this endlessly: to not be afraid. He’s not scolding us that we shouldn’t be afraid. (There’s plenty of things you could be afraid of.) Jesus says you don’t need to be afraid, because he is with us always, even to the end. The end of life on this earth is death. In the beginning, God created life and life includes death. Don’t be afraid of either life or death. In death, Jesus goes before us to ferry us, then to welcome us home. Don’t be afraid. You don’t need to be afraid. You are not alone.
The early Middle Ages was a time of terror, warfare, injustice, insurrection, and greed. From this very time comes a Celtic Prayer of resurrection:
Lord from this world’s stormy seas
Give your hand for lifting me.
Lord, lift me from the darkest night.
Lord, lift me into the realm of light.
Lord, lift me from the body’s pain,
Lord, lift me up and keep me sane.
Lord, lift me from the things I dread.
Lord, lift me from the living dead.
Lord, lift me from the place I lie.
Lord, lift me that I never die. Amen.
[i] See Mark 12:12; John 20:19.
[ii]Saint Paulis quoted in TheActs of the Apostles 23:6.
[iii]Saint Paul in Romans 8:22-25 “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in* hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes* for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
[iv] See Revelation 7:9-17.
[v] See Romans 8:19-25.
[vi]Paraphrased from the breastplate of Saint Patrick (c.390-460), a Roman Britain-born Christian missionary, the patron saint of Ireland.
[vii] The ancient prayer, “The Exsultet,” is sung at the outset of the Easter Vigil at the lighting of the Paschal Candle: “…How holy is this night, when wickedness is put to flight, and sin is washed away. It restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn. It casts out ride and hatred, and brings peace and concord. How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined and man is reconciled to God. Holy Father, accept our evening sacrifice, the offering of this candle in your honor. May it shine continually to drive away all darkness. May Christ, the Morning Star who knows no setting, find it every burning – he who gives his light to all creation, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.” The full text for the Exsultet is found in The Book of Common Prayer, pp. 286-287.
[viii]Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215), a Christian theologian, was head of the noted Catechetical School of Alexandria, Egypt.
[ix] Matthew 18:11; Luke 19:10; John 3:17.
[x] “The Apostles’ Creed” in Morning Prayer – Rite I, The Book of Common Prayer, pp. 21-22.
[xi] John 14:6.
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