A Sermon on John 20:1-18
Since Easter of 2000, my family and I have been celebrating our Lord’s Resurrection with you, here at St. James. Every year we wear our Sunday’s best, as we come to worship, enjoy an Easter Egg hunt, and sometimes even share an Easter brunch. However, last year the celebration appeared to be a little meager, due to the Covid Pandemic shutdowns. Therefore, the Vestry organized an outdoor’s drive-by flowering of the cross. And our worship was only meditative, since we were only allowed to come to our beautiful sanctuary individually to offer our prayers of thanksgiving and intercession. We didn’t get to gather or even see each other’s faces. It was dark. It was quiet. It was humbling. But nevertheless, I found it very up-lifting.
You see, I tend to be a workaholic, so I find it very hard to relax. Perhaps it’s because I was reared by two “A” personality parents who always expected my best. Perhaps it’s because I’m such a perfectionist, that it takes me longer to ensure that everything is just right. Perhaps I’m like Peter and the other disciple, who as many men do, I am always trying to fix things, instead of taking the time to reflect. Last year, with all the shutdowns caused by the pandemic, I was forced to slow down. In the darkness, I was forced to look and listen, without the usual fanfare of Easter pasts. No phenomenal music, no festive Easter egg extravaganzas, not even any alleluias!
In many ways, it was just like Mary Magdalene’s first Resurrection Sunday.
In today’s gospel reading, Mary experiences a life-changing encounter with the risen Jesus. While Peter and the other disciple take off to figure out what happened to Jesus’s body, after finding the empty tomb, Mary Magdalene stays behind. Rather than running away to find something to do about the problem, she took the time to grief. She stopped and noticed. She reflected on her personal trauma and loss. She did nothing but feel her pain. And she wept.
It was there in her quiet weeping that she was given the great privilege of being the first person to see the risen Christ... to see the face of Jesus right before her eyes. I can only imagine - can you? While Peter and the other disciple had gone off to do “important things,” Mary stayed to do nothing, which led “to the very best kind of something.” It’s like what our vestry members arranged for us to do here at St. James during our Covid pandemic Resurrection Sunday last year. The shutdown made it very dark and quiet, but it was simply beautiful!
We live in a very busy world. We live in a culture that forces us to constantly be on the go. This can be exacerbated by our own personalities or be influenced by those around us. Hence, we are often called to spring into action on important to-do lists, to worry about how to fix problems, to become preoccupied with innumerable details. Unfortunately, if we never slow down to notice the world within and the world around us, we might completely miss the transformative miracle of the Resurrection. We miss seeing our dear Lord Jesus!
Paul tells us in his epistle to the Romans (8:28), that “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” We also know from Isaiah (40:31), that those “who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” I believe that’s what I have learned from living through the Covid Pandemic. I learned that God can use a bad situation for good. I learned to be patient. I learned to appreciate the wonders of silence and solitude. I learned that some of God’s best work happens when the world is in the darkness. I learned the renewed strength that can be found in those moments. As Evagrius, one of the dessert fathers, said, ‘A wandering mind is strengthened by reading and prayer. Passion is dampened down by... solitude.” Don’t you agree?
It’s easy to take church for granted. It’s easy to make it a routine. But this Easter Sunday, we have the opportunity to be together once again. We have the opportunity to praise him as the family that we are. We have the opportunity to glorify his name. We can celebrate Jesus’ joyous resurrection. And we can see the Lord in each of our faces. Please, just look around you!
So let us be thankful for the wisdom and leadership of our vestry at St. James. Let us be thankful for the example of silence and solitude demonstrated by Mary Magdalene. Let us be thankful for the ability to congregate as a family once again. And today, let us go forth into the world, with a glorious Alleluia! Our Savior and Redeemer lives! So let us share the good news not only with our loving words, but with our loving actions, for we have seen the Lord - Amen!
Your Servant in Christ,
The Rev. Arnoldo L. Romero, MLA