“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’” (John 20:18).
That right there is the best Easter sermon ever. I agree with Karoline Lewis in her blog Dear Working Preacher, a weekly letter to preachers suggesting themes and ideas for a sermon each week based on the suggested scripture readings. “There’s your sermon, Working Preachers. It’s hard to imagine a better sermon than Mary Magdalene’s on that first Easter morning. Short and memorable and to the point.”
Right. Done, then. Saves me a lot of work. Thank you, Mary.
Except. She might have said just a little bit more. And John says she does, she tells them about meeting Jesus by the tomb and how she thought he was the gardener and then he said her name and she recognized him and she said “Rabbouni!” (which means teacher) and he said to go and tell the other disciples (John 20:14-17).
You can just imagine her breathlessly, excitedly, telling them. And soon, they will also get to say it. “We have seen the Lord.”
But the eternal message of hope isn’t that Jesus was alive. It’s that Jesus is alive. And in order to know that, we also need to be able to say “I have seen the Lord” for ourselves. Today. In this moment. It cannot be just a story we learn to believe. It must be a personal reality.
There’s our struggle. The world seems full of hurt and hate, violence and abuse, racism and prejudice, deceit and mistrust. Someone’s understanding - or misunderstanding - of religion is often part of it. Or power, always power. And if not selfishness, then certainly self-centredness. We seem content to be surrounded by signs of all kinds of death.
But I see the Lord. Don’t you?
When love is shared as Jesus did, freely and without condition. When people refuse to hate or judge. When dominance gives way to community. When religions stop arguing the authority of their traditions and embrace the common ground of grace. When we act in any way that brings life into places where death has been too long.
And when we see where others can’t, we proclaim it and live it as loudly and extravagantly as we can, I have seen the Lord!
I wonder if our vision is sometimes impaired by our preconceived idea of what we should see. “The Lord” is the language of structure and institution. It may be what Mary says to the disciples, but it’s not her first reaction to seeing Jesus. In that very first moment of realization in the garden by the tomb, Mary says “Rabbouni.” She calls Jesus “teacher,” a word that describes the personal, one-to-one relationship that she has with Jesus.
Maybe if we looked less for “the Lord” of dogma and tradition and more for the personal way Jesus comes into our lives, we might better recognize Jesus is there. Teacher, gardener, friend, lover, beloved, child, servant, revolutionary, maybe even a minister now and then. How Jesus comes to us is reflected in how we see Jesus around us.
I have seen. I see. And you?