Preacher Ruth Martin
When the unexpected happens, we each respond in our own individual ways. Mary wept when she saw the stone rolled away from the tomb assuming that this was very bad news indeed. The tomb was empty. Jesus had gone.
It didn’t matter how much Jesus had tried to teach his closest disciples, including Mary, that he had seen that he would die a terrible death, that his earthly ending was a necessary start to a new world, a new kingdom; Mary perceived that empty tomb through her own human limitations – and wept.
Even when she bent into the tomb and saw the angels there, which must have been an extraordinary sight, even when they asked her ‘woman why are you crying’, and she told them how she felt, she was so consumed by grief she was unable to consider anything other than what her own human inclinations told her. She still did not believe that Jesus had risen.
Even when she saw Jesus, but did not recognise him, seeing instead ‘a gardener’, her grief continued to prevent her from seeing that Jesus was speaking to her. The veil of our limitations causes all of us to be blind and not see things that, in hindsight, and especially two thousand years of hindsight, we see differently.
What made the difference was when Jesus called her by name. She recognised his voice and responded with joy.
Resurrection, for each of us, is about that Call, when we feel that we are being pulled to see things in a way which turns upside down our own normal limiting vision and we seek to embrace a new way.
Mary had to reject her natural instinct to see the empty tomb as having a human, pragmatic cause. This was a woman who had seen, walked with, learned from and witnessed Jesus work directly, personally, in the flesh. Yet a massive stone did not move her, not angels dazzling in the empty tomb, or Jesus appearing to her. What moved her was when she heard His call.
The Carmelite Nun and writer Ruth Burrows, refers to discipleship as cooperating with God in his great work of universal saving love, and that discipleship is a Calling. Now some of us might be thinking, perhaps sadly, ‘I have never received a definite Call’. Yet Ruth Borrows points out that to think it, to want it, is the Call.
Why are we here tonight? It is not about rational argument, but because each of us is drawn here.
It is earlier in John’s Gospel (John 10.3 and John 10.27) that the nature of that call is explained.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.’ And ‘My sheep know my voice. I know them and they follow me.’
It is responding to that deep call to change, to grow, to walk with God wherever it takes us that enables us to walk in the Light, the Easter children.
We will of course get it wrong from time to time. What we have to change in order to live a new life will vary for each of us. If like me you enjoy gardening you will know that in order to flourish, plants need to be cared for very differently and if they are to be moved, their needs vary. If a plant is grown in a pot, then the pot can be moved from place to place but for the plant its freedom is curtailed; yet it can blossom and bear fruit if it is fed and watered and if its soil is changed from time to time. Essentially it stays in its pot.
Then there are plants that in order to move them you need to choose a particular season, time of day, and transplanting them to a new place to flourish is a risky business. Then there are plants that cannot be transplanted at all and need to flourish where they are.
As human beings God knows our needs and our potential to blossom and if we let God be God will direct us.
So what does the Call of resurrection mean for each of us?
It means we need to recognise what blinds us when we stoop to look into the tomb where Jesus lay; it means we need to recognise what frightens us when the unexpected happens which dislodges our routine. It means we need to seek the face of God in unlikely people and situations. It means we need to give our most precious that we can , holding nothing back.
In an excerpt from Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem Easter , he says
‘Break the box and shed the nard,
Stop not now to count the cost;
hither bring pearl, opal, sard;
reck not what the poor have lost;
Upon Christ throw all away
Know ye, this is Easter Day.
…..Henceforth let your souls always
Make each morn an Easter day’.
Faith demands of us a trust that goes beyond the rational and the ordinary.
Over the last week there have been some dreadful examples of situations which appear to have gone wrong in our world where people were blind, afraid, and unable to see beyond themselves. Continuing historical abuse cases, continuing warfare in Syria, continuing conflict in Ukraine, ever increasing queues for food banks here in the UK.
What moves us when God comes calling will vary, just as our capacity to respond will vary. But we have to learn to see, to let the proverbial scales fall from our eyes, to remove expectations and assumptions.
And what after the call? Mary rushes off to tell others, and that is the tricky bit for us too. Mary was rushing off to tell those already close to Jesus, the disciples, to enable them to believe the resurrection; and we know that the resurrected Jesus appears to disciples, gathered together in the upper room.
Do we rush off to tell others about our own faith? Our own beliefs? It is easier to talk about faith to each other, as Mary did, when we understand and share some common foundations, when we know we are talking with others who believe. Much harder and not yet to be revealed to us until Pentecost, is how we try and tell others in ways that they understand.
The resurrection therefore is a wonderful day for us to celebrate, but surely it only becomes real for us in our own lives when we not only recognise Jesus’ call to us, and respond with fear and amazement and joy, but when we do something with it that benefits others as well as ourselves.
Resurrection is therefore a beginning and not an end; we need the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, to set us alight to live as the Easter children of today. Let us pray for each other therefore and the new beginnings that each of us yearns for.