Sunday, April 20, 2014

We Know His Voice

Year A Easter Morning 2014, 9 a.m.
“We Know His Voice”
St Thomas Episcopal, Richmond

Alleluia.  Christ is risen.  

[Response] The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia.

Thank you!  You proved my point.  Unlike us, they did not know the rest of the story.  Unlike us, they did not know what to look for.

Paul Harvey made a great deal of money telling a story in such a way, leaving out a key component for the suspense, “and now you know... the REST of the STORY.”  But we know what to look for.  We see the set-up, the foreshadowing, and anticipate the fulfillment alluded to in the telling.

Lazarus, and his raising which was the Gospel reading a few weeks ago, was an act of power to the disciples and followers, not a hint of things to come for them.  We read now with the end in sight.  As I mentioned Friday night, this is THE STORY of Christians.  All else is prologue.  Jesus was done and gone, and they wondered how to go on.  Could they?  Would they?

On that Easter morning coming on 2,000 years ago, it was unclear.  But because of their response to and empowerment from that day, we are all here this morning.  Thanks be to God.  We know, “the rest of the story.”

Mary Magdalene went early in the morning, just past dawn, and saw an empty tomb.  She concluded the only story that makes sense.  Someone took his corpse.  He had enemies galore.  The Temple officials, members of the Sanhedrin, Roman soldiers or officials, those that set up his death.  Any number of them would have reason to take the body.  To have “evidence” of his continued death if there were any preposterous claims from his band of radicals.  Jesus was not the only would-be Messiah that had been wandering around Palestine in that time.  In her grief, Mary ran back to tell Peter and the disciple Jesus loved.  "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."

Peter and the disciple ran back.  The disciple got to the tomb first, but did not go in.  Peter went in and saw the linens empty, and the head covering separate.  The other disciple went in and believed, it says.  But, then they went home.  Here they were, in what many believers point to as the pivotal moment in human history and they just walked on home.  

We can do the same.  Today can be a fun time.  Good, rousing music.  Pretty clothes.  Chocolate enough to put us all in sugar comas.  But what is it that we that we take with us?  When we see the empty tomb, do we acknowledge its emptiness without its significance?

How do we go back, whether walking or driving?  

Curious?  Confused?  Depressed?  Exultant?  

Do we see the implications and the ramifications, and the joy?  The absolute joy?

As the no-longer-curious disciples slunk away, Mary stood there weeping.  Like the men, she went inside, and it says that she saw two angels sitting where Jesus’ body had been.  “Why are you crying?” they ask.  It is very Socratic of them to try and teach with a question, but when someone is weeping, could there not have been a better way?  “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him,” is her reply.  She turns, and with her tear-filled eyes, gets smacked with the same question by the resurrected Jesus himself.  “Woman, why are you crying?  Whom are you looking for?”

She thinks him the gardner, so pushes, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”  Then in one of the most beautiful moments in the resurrection accounts, Jesus speaks her name.  “Mary.”  It is then that her eyes are opened and she sees, truly sees.  “Rabbouni!”  Teacher!

When I read this, I cannot help thinking of Jesus’ lesson from earlier in John.  John 10:  “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice...  ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Immediately Mary hears his voice.  Immediately Mary knows who he is.  Beyond her shock, she sees and believes.  Why?  Because Jesus called her by name.

I like that.  It is beautiful.  When Jesus knows our name, when we hear his call to us, we know who it is.  There is no question.  We are so attuned to the sound of the voice of those who love us.  Whether mother or father, child or friend, lover or spouse, when we hear our name in their voice, we know from somewhere deep within who it is.  Mary knew.  We all know.  It was her Jesus.

The Greek word that we still translate as church is ekklessia.  It literally means “those called out.”  Assembly or congregation is often used.  But, the idea that we are those who recognize our savior by him calling us out by name is a beautiful image.  We are the ones who Jesus calls by name.  With his resurrected body, his resurrected voice calls to us today.  “Beloved, whom are you looking for?”  Through the tears of Good Friday, we hear his voice, and we are found.

The thought of a God who knows us by name is not only beautiful, but a comfort.  In this day of nameless, faceless killing, where random strangers are terrorists, or home invaders, Jesus knows our names.  In this day and age where people take our names and identities to defraud and steal, we are not strangers to Christ.  In this day when someone half a world away can kill with the push of an anonymous button, Jesus knows me.  Jesus loves me, just as I am.  John 3:17 “For Christ came into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”  We are not the nameless, faceless masses to Jesus.  He knows us by name.  Heck, he has a picture of us in his wallet.  He will call our name and we will know his voice.

And it would be so comforting to stay here and bask in that love.  To hold close, to cling, but Jesus knew that danger, and warned Mary that this was not over.  The story, neither his nor hers, was yet complete.

"Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"  Jesus goes before us, having conquered death, the enemy of us all, and leads us to life.  Real life.  Eternal life.  Life that begins in the call, and continues in the sharing of his love, and power, and grace.

We are called out of this world, not to forsake or leave it.  That is not what Jesus did.  Why would we think that we should either? Remember John 3:17. “For Christ came not to the world to condemn (reject, scorn or debase) the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”  He does that by his actions.  We do that by our actions.  That good work continues on to this day.  When we care for those that are hungry, or thirsty, or lonely, or lost.  We do that when we learn their names, and call out with the loving voice of Christ, and invite them in.  Christ said that when we have done it unto the least of them, we have done it to him and for him.  May we see Christ in all we serve.  And even more, may they see Christ in us.  As Paul said...

Colossians 3:1-4
1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

The Lord is Risen.  And in his rising, we also are raised.  Called out ones of Christ, today we feast; our fast is done.  We fasted in preparation for this glorious Resurrection Day.  We feast today in joy and celebration of his Resurrection.  We feast today, for the good work we have been called out to do tomorrow.  May you be abundantly blessed this day!  Amen.

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Blessings, Rock