9 April 2023

9 April 2023


A florist mixed up two orders on a busy day. One was to go to a new business, the other to a funeral. The next day, the guy with the new business stormed into the shop, “What’s the big idea?” The flowers that arrived for our reception said, “Rest in peace.”

The florist responded, “Well, if you think that’s bad you should have seen the people

at the funeral who got the flowers that said, ‘Good luck in your new location.’”

When some people think of Easter and the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection, it means little more than belief in an afterlife. I don’t think any of us here would question that the resurrection of Jesus offers hope that there is “more” after death. But of course, it’s possible, one might believe in life after death and not believe in the resurrection of Jesus at all.

Let us pray… Lord Jesus Christ as we think about the account of the resurrection, stir our hearts by your spirit that we may renew our hope, strengthen our imagination and build our ambition to live with you in new life. Amen

Every Easter Sunday, Christian people all over the world greet each other with “The Lord is risen: He is risen indeed!”. And throughout the year, we repeat the central affirmation, that “God raised Jesus from the dead”. For many Christians the claim that Jesus was raised from the dead is central to their faith.[1] And for others they don’t feel that they could believe that Jesus was raised from the dead.

According to Rev Dr John Squires, a Minister of the Word and a biblical scholar:

“The resurrection is regarded as the pointer to a new form of life, a liberating life, lived in the transformed state of resurrected being, which was first experienced by Jesus, and which is then promised to all believers. This promise is a liberating promise.

The life of resurrection is a liberating life. Claims about the resurrection also bring points of contention and discussion within contemporary Christian thinking.”[2]

Contemporary debate has canvassed several options as to the nature of the resurrection:

  • Must it be in a bodily form?
  • Was Jesus raised ‘in the memory of his followers’, but not as a physical body?
  • Is resurrection a pointer to a transcendent spiritual dimension?
  • What was meant by the reference to an “immortal state” in 1 Cor 15:53-54?

Some believers insistently promote the claim that we must believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, that we must adhere to a literal understanding of what the biblical texts report.

For me I prefer to advocate for ways of responding to the story which are creative, imaginative, life transforming and liberating, expanding our understandings and drawing us out of our comfort zones into new explorations in our lives.

I believe that the resurrection story is not to direct us away from this world,

into a heavenly or spiritual realm. The resurrection offers us both an invitation to affirm

our bodily existence in this world, and to explore fresh ways of renewal and re-creation in our lives, in our society and in our world. It is about liberating life, new life and new creation for renewal in our own time and place, here in this world.

On the first day of the week after that terrible week that had just past which ended with Jesus’ crucifixion and death, in John’s Gospel, we are told that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb where Jesus had been laid “and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb,”

the outward and visible sign that Jesus has conquered death and a new creation has begun.

And we are witnesses to the moment when Mary meets her risen Lord. Her grief turns to joy and she brings to us the good news that has been proclaimed throughout the ages,

“I have seen the Lord.”

This portion of John’s gospel (John 20:1-18) is a play that unfolds in three distinctive acts:

a story about people searching, about sadness and fear, about action, surprise, and joy.

The question I have for you is: “If you are Mary Magdalene how would you react if you saw

the stone had been removed from the tomb?  When Mary finds that the stone has been removed, she jumps to conclusions.

Her perception of what has happened is that someone has entered and stolen the body.

But the author does not tell us if she entered or even looked in the tomb. Did she really know that the body of Jesus was not there?

How often do we jump to conclusions about God’s actions in our lives or in the lives of others?

Nevertheless, she runs back to tell Peter what she believes has happened.

What does this story mean for me today? Or for you today? For some their entire faith hinges on a story that can be hard to believe factually or understand symbolically.

Walter Bruggeman speaks of this in his prayer titled “We are Baffled,” which begins like this:

Christ is Risen

He is risen indeed!

We are baffled by the very Easter claim we voice.

Your new life fits none of our categories.

We wonder and stew and argue,

and add clarifying adjectives

like “spiritual” and “physical.”

But we remain baffled,

seeking clarity and explanation,

we who are prosperous,

and full and safe and tenured.

We are baffled and want explanations.[3]

As people of faith, we don’t check our intellect at the door. We believe that God gave us minds and reason with the intent that we use them. And yet, this story doesn’t fit our paradigm.

The Easter story makes us think, and that’s good, and often presents us with gaps that we can’t quite connect. In some ways, this is the dilemma of Mary Magdalene in our text.

Her assessment that the body had been stolen begins the narrative, and seems just as likely, or perhaps more likely, of an explanation for the empty tomb. Something valuable has been taken from her.

I imagine she is not only sad, but also is a bit angry – outraged that someone would steal Jesus’ body. Her weeping is equally understandable – she has lost her teacher and a dear friend. It is in this upset and confusion that she brushes off the questions of one she presumes to be a gardener.

Her faith is shot, outweighed by the seemingly insurmountable evidence in front of her

as she is overcome with grief, stricken by the painful reality that comes with hope lost.

Mary Magdalene’s tomb is empty, with questions and lament echoing off the walls.

Brueggemann continues in his prayer, noting the many like Mary Magdalene who struggle with the shock of this news because they are so surrounded by struggle in their own lives.

He writes:

But there are those not baffled, but stunned by the news,

Stunned while at minimum wage jobs;

Stunned while the body wastes in cancer

Stunned while the fabric of life rots away in fatigue and despair;

Stunned while unprosperous and un-full and unsafe and untenured.[4]

On this Easter morning perhaps life and all of its challenges has taken a toll on you, body and spirit. You have come this day, hoping to hear the good news, hoping to be filled and transformed, but struggle to share in the joyful Alleluias because things are just so hard

for you right now. Some of you are held by grief in its many forms and see through your tears that the stone had been removed from the tomb.

Through the resurrection, God challenges us to not settle for a faith that keeps us comfortable, but rather to seek something that is all-encompassing instead and live fuller lives that are fully transformed by God’s grace.

Woman: Why are you weeping?  For whom are you looking? “Please, if you’re the one who carried Jesus away, tell me where you’ve laid the body and I will take it away.

” Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

We can’t help ourselves when love dies, we keep hearing and seeing that love all around us.

It is as if our beloved is right here, in the midst of us. We hear them call our name.

They meant so much to us. In the presence of our beloved we were transformed into the best of ourselves.

To hear them call our name…ah…the sheer beauty of their presence.

Perhaps they can tell us. Perhaps they know the answers.

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” 

She turned to him and said, “Rabboni! –which means “Teacher.” 

Jesus then said, “Don’t hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to Abba God.

And so, my friends, this Easter Sunday, my prayer is that we might hear Jesus calling our nameand KNOWING that Christ loves us, knows us, frees us,may we be set free to tell the world that WE HAVE SEEN THE LORD and, doing so, let us AFFIRM that: “Death is not the last word. Violence is not the last word. Hate is not the last word. Money is not the last word. Intimidation is not the last word. Political Power is not the last word. Condemnation is not the last word.Betrayal and failure are not the last word.

No: each of them are left like rags in a tomb,and from that tomb, Arises Christ, Alive.

The foolish life. The best life. Let it be so. Amen.
On this Easter Sunday are you ready to embrace the liberating life?

Are you ready to be embraced by this life?


[1] According to Luke, this was central in the preaching of the apostles (Acts 2:24,32, 3:15,26, 4:10, 5:30, 10:40, 13:30,37). It is repeated in the letters by or attributed to Paul on a few occasions (Rom 7:4, 10:9; 1 Cor 6:14, 15:15; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:20; see also 1 Pet 1:21).

[2] https://johntsquires.com/2020/04/07/liberating-life-a-new-way-of-being-easter-sunday-reflections/

[3] Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, Prayers of Walter Brueggemann, Edited by Edwin Searcy, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), 162.

[4] Ibid.

2 April 2023