Preacher Revd Ann Lynes, Team Curate, St Mary’s Barnes
Just last month, I had the privilege of visiting the Holy Land on a diocesan pilgrimage. We were lucky enough to stay at a hotel right next to the Sea of Galilee and it was wonderful to swim there.
Now I expect some of you will know a little about the Sea of Galilee (which is actually not a sea at all, but a freshwater lake – we have Jerome to thank for this). And that it is very prone to sudden and violent storms that sweep in from the Syrian Mountains…
And so, you will understand, that when one day I was out swimming and suddenly noticed that I could no longer see the other side of the lake, I was immediately alarmed… the clouds were coming in so fast they were obscuring my vision.
I went straight into ‘responsible adult’ mode, and looked around to see where everyone was…. and I was just about to suggest to everyone that we should probably get ashore, when I took off my goggles, and realised they were just fogged up!
Things are not always what they seem! Sometimes our perspective is wrong!
And so, in our gospel reading, Mary, naturally assuming that Jesus’ body had been stolen, did not even think to look closely at the man she thought was a gardener. It was only as Jesus spoke her name that she recognised his voice. The goggles were, as it were, lifted. And Mary realised that her perspective had been wrong.
There are all sorts of experiences that we can have in our lives that change our perspective.
A new job, or redundancy, the birth of a child, or the breakdown of a relationship. Moving house, or the death of a significant person.
Sometimes our experiences teach us new things about ourselves or our partners, sometimes we come to a new realisation of what is most precious to us.
Yet perhaps the most important perspective-changing experiences we can have are those that have a spiritual dimension; those that shed fresh light on who God is, and how God is operating in the world, and with us.
St Augustine came to faith in a Garden in Milan. Having led a fairly exuberant life as a young man, he was wrestling with an inner turmoil, when he heard a child singing ‘take up and read’. He took this to be a message from God to pick the bible, and the first passage that he read from Romans 13 spoke right into his situation; “not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” Augustine was converted on the spot, his perspective changed. He later he wrote, ‘our heart knows no rest, until it rests in God’.
In our epistle Paul talks about a Christian becoming a new creation. And this makes real sense in light of his own dramatic conversion; his perspective was altered radically on the road to Damascus. Even his name changed from Saul to Paul, it really was as if he had become a new man.
For Mary in the garden her encounter was not a conversion experience like St Paul or Augustine, for she had been committed to following Jesus for some time, yet Mary’s faith was incomplete until she had grasped the reality of Christ’s resurrection.
And I would suggest that the same is true for us too. We may have followed Christ for our whole life, but unless we see the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, our faith is incomplete.
Because actually, the whole Christian gospel either stands or falls by the resurrection. For if Christ was not raised – then he was no different from any other martyr. And none of us can have any confidence in our own eternal destiny.
But that is NOT to say it is all just pie in the sky when you die. Belief in the Jesus’ resurrection should change the way we live life now. The Christian journey is about seeking life in all its fullness. And striving to make a difference for others too.
Just as Mary went out to tell the others the good news, so we should do likewise.
Because our own hope of eternal life, and belief in a God who cares intimately about his creation, should inspire us all to care for anyone in need, and to work for a world full of justice, peace and security for all.
Not because we fear God’s punishment, and are avoiding the incoming storm, but because we have removed our goggles, and seen the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, and experienced his love and Holy Spirit.