Let us pray: Holy and living God, on this holy of holy days, we are awestruck by your love for us and all of humanity. Alleluia! Christ has conquered the grave and has restored us and all of humanity in relationship with you. How can we keep from singing? How can we keep from sharing this good news of great love with the world around us? So, help us, to be like Mary Magdalene. Help us to seek you until we see you, and then grant us the courage to go and announce good news: that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Amen.
Each week, in our worship bulletin, there is a list of events of the ministry opportunities for the upcoming week followed by a handful of written announcements. We have a ministry opportunity every week for a person to be the announcing greeter: the person who will greet us at the beginning of worship.
In seminaries across the country, would-be and student pastor’s debate where in the order of worship the announcements should occur. “Put them at the beginning,” some say. “They are not a part of worship, and we should get the business out of the way.” “Put them at beginning, that way it gives a buffer for those who might be wandering into worship a little late.” “No,” others argue, “worship is our priority, therefore, the announcements should come at the end of the service after worship.” Of course, even if you miss the announcements on Sunday, we give you an additional opportunity through our Tuesday Email. It is part of our three-prong approach. Print the announcements in hopes that you will take your worship bulletin home, read the announcements and make any notes of the events in which you choose to participate. Read the announcements to you to reinforce any special opportunities we may have for you, and then send out an email blast for good measure.
Today, though, I have just one announcement for you. It is an announcement that is important enough to our lives as the Christian Church that is recorded in all four accounts of the Gospel: sometime before sunrise on this day, the stone covering the tomb of Jesus was moved. Jesus is no longer in the grave. He is risen! None of you look particularly surprised. In fact, I would guess that in some form or fashion, you have been preparing for this day: readying your homes and meals for your family, purchasing new clothes and small treasures for the children. In fact, within the church, we have developed a formula for this announcement. It begins with one person announcing, “The Lord is risen!” and the people responding, “He is risen, indeed!” Let’s try it. “The Lord is risen!” “He is risen, indeed!” Eh, not bad.
Today, in our lectionary, we are given the account of Jesus’ resurrection and first appearance from the gospel of John. These accounts are important because they help us to remember what the first disciples may have experienced; they help us to remember our story as the Church, and in remembering our story, these accounts of the resurrection, empower us to share our stories with others. So, let us take a look at that first day of the week as recorded in the gospel of John.
Before the light of day, before she could even fully see, Mary Magdalene got up and went to the place where Jesus’ body had been laid on the Day of Preparation. When she got there, she saw enough to know that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. The stone had been moved. The stone which had blocked the entry, the stone which prevented anyone from being able to enter in, the stone which was intended to keep her Lord’s body in a safe and secure location has been moved. Mary does not yet know what has happened, but she knows something has happened.
After a footrace between two disciples, Simon Peter and the one whom Jesus loved, these two confirm what Mary has already said, and then they go back home where we will read later that they locked the doors for fear of the Jews. Mary, though, stays at the tomb. She has come on this day for Jesus, and she will not be deterred from looking for him. As she weeps, she finally looks into the tomb, and where Jesus’ body had laid, she sees two angels in white who ask her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” And Mary offers her confession, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” “I do not know.” I thought I knew where to find my Lord, but now I do not know.
When she turns around, Jesus is there, but Mary does not recognize him. So he asks, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Mary says, “If you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him. I will carry him away.” Mary is seeking her Lord, and she will go where she needs to go in order to find him. Then, Jesus, speaks her name, “Mary!” and just as the sheep always recognize the voice of their shepherd, Mary recognizes the voice of her Lord and responds, “Rabbouni!” or “Teacher!” Mary has watched her Lord and teacher suffer under trial and be crucified and buried. She has witnessed the stone moved from the tomb, and now she is standing in front of her Lord, clinging to him, no doubt. Jesus tells Mary do not cling to me. Do not hold onto me for yourself, but go and tell my brothers that I am ascending to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God.” Mary Magdalene is charged with the task of announcing that she has seen the Lord, that she has been a witness to the hope of a future relationship for her, for the disciples, and for all of humanity because Jesus Christ is no longer in the grave. The stone is gone, and he is risen!
So, what about us, church? Are we ready? Are we able to leave here today and to share this one announcement? The thought of evangelism usually makes us feel uncomfortable. Last year, I attended our Cornerstone District Day, and I took a class called, “Can I get a Witness?” that was offered by the Oneonta District Superintendent and the district lay leader. The Superintendent pointed out that when we think of evangelism, we tend to think that it is our responsibility to take a person from not knowing Christ at all to a saving relationship in Christ, and that is a monumental task for the most seasoned evangelist. Instead, perhaps, we need to take our cue from Mary Magdalene. Let our desire to share this one announcement flow from our desire to know and love Jesus more deeply. Let us be willing to acknowledge that we do not have all the answers, but we are sure of the hope that we find in our relationship with God through Christ. It is not our job to save anyone; that is work of God, and God alone. Our job is to make the announcement. Our job is to share the experience we have each had with Christ with the hope that someone who has not yet heard the good news may also experience the love of God through Christ as well. Are you ready? “The Lord is risen!” He is risen, indeed! Amen.