He is Risen: God is with us
What a year it has been my friends. Recall that last Easter, we celebrated Jesus’s resurrection with the addition of one more member to his and so to our family, young Zara who has shown quite some potential for church fundraising and/or being a minister in the church! We’ve had four new families join our parish, including Ling and Terrence who were married just a few weeks ago in this church. And of course again this year, we have also had to say goodbye to long-time members of this parish family who have died, most recently of course Felix and Helen. And my friends, as most of you know, we have had to grapple with what to do and how to go forward in living out Christ’s mission faithfully, as both our financial and our personnel capacity has really declined. All of these things have brought a mix of emotions from sadness to joy, and probably some frustration and worry, along with some wondering and questioning: here we are Lord, where are you?
In this morning’s Gospel account, Mary sees angels where Jesus’s body had been, one where his feet and one where his head would have been. And they ask her why she’s weeping. I’m tempted to say here, well duh. But Mary answered earnestly, they’ve taken my Lord and I don’t know where they’ve laid him. Where are you Lord? Mary says with us. Notice she still refers to him as her Lord, her Messiah; the hope is there, that he is still her Lord, her God, the one who loves her in the most personal of ways, the God who came into the world for her.
This makes the pain of his seeming absence all the more difficult. Then she sees a man standing there and she thinks he’s the gardener and so repeats the same thing to him when he asks her why she’s weeping: please tell me where they’ve taken him and I will take him away, I will care for him for I love him. But then Jesus calls out to her, “Mary.” And as with the transfiguration suddenly it is apparent to her that this is her Lord, her God: “Rabbouni, teacher” she replies. And he gives her the message that she’s to go tell his disciples his message to all of them confirming what he told them before his death: I have been raised on the third day as all the Scriptures foretold of me. But you can’t hold onto me yet because my mission is not complete. I am ascending to my Father and to yours, to my God and your God.
And so Mary goes and confirms the truth: I have seen the Lord. He has done what he said he would do. He came into the world for us, he followed his Father and our Father in proclaiming the truth, he took our place on the Cross when we refused to do this, the tomb was empty because he was raised and now he is going to ascend to our Father so that we might be reconciled to God; so that we might have life in God.
And so this morning, even as we struggle with the losses, the changes and the challenges that we have been given as a parish and as individuals, as we face the questions of determining how to adapt to new circumstances, and how to meet the needs of new and younger folks who communicate and work and live very differently from older generations, we are reminded of one thing: we do not face into these things alone. Jesus will come to us just where we are; he will meet us on the road of whatever business we have, of whatever path we end up taking, of whatever anxieties we have; of whatever adjustments we must make, and he will carry us through all of these things from our birth, our new life in baptism, in marriage and even as a parish community of people, and all the way through our deaths, until we see God face-to-face.
This is the reality he won for us in his resurrection: God is with us. No one can separate us from his love. No powers of this world, no angels or demons, no political or social divisions, no one can separate us from the love of God. For it is God who has us. It is God who unites us to himself in his Son. This is what we proclaim today: He is risen and we are in him as he is in us. Alleluia. Alleluia Alleluia.
Today particularly, we come full circle to recognize, through Baptism, one more addition to God’s family: Ishotan. In her baptism, we recognize publicly, that God has called her and will continue to call her, with all of us, out of sin, into new life. Her parents will take the reigns in teaching, and nurturing her in Jesus’s ways, helping her to know that God is with her, that God loves her, that she can rest in him and find peace, hope, and love, so that she can grow into a person who can act in and with that Christ like love with others. All of us here will commit to helping her and her parents and Aunt and Uncle to following God so she can take up the reigns of being a witness to him. This commitment that we all make to the family is not merely a responsibility. It is a gift from God because helping nurture her renews us in our own faith, in our own ability to see and know God in our lives, in our struggles, in our hopes, in our joys, and in our questioning.
In our lives, we move between being in the shoes of those disciples mourning the loss of those we love, of sometimes being disappointed or grieving the things that we’d hoped for that are no longer; and being in the shoes of Mary, seeing God in brief glimpses. All of us, the disciples, Mary, you and I, share in this common human condition of struggle and loss, of hope and joy. We cannot overcome this on our own. Instead, we are met by the one who is raised, who raised himself on the third day. We are met by the one who loves us, who gathers us to himself so that we might see and believe, so that like Thomas, we might stick our very hands into his wounds, into the wounds in our own lives, and be assured that he remains with us for this is what he came into the world to do: to bring us to his Father; to our Father. AMEN.