Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Meeting Jesus on the Road to Emmaus

Acts 2:14a,36-41
1 Peter 1:17-23
Luke 24:13-35
Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17

The question that struck me as I read the Scripture appointed for today was:  “How does the Risen Christ come to us?  He came to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary in a vision at the tomb.  He came to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus but they didn’t recognize him until he took bread and blessed it and broke it with them. Do we really see Jesus? 

The story of the disciples on the road speaks about faithful followers who know all about Jesus’ work.  They know about his death.  They have heard from the Mary’s that he is risen.  They believe that he is the Messiah and yet, in spite of all this knowledge, they are still sad.  There’s something missing for them.  They believe and yet, they don’t really see him.  [T]heir eyes were kept from recognizing him.”  Why were their eyes still clouded?  And why was it that the breaking of bread was the moment when they knew him?

Let’s put ourselves in these stories.  Do you see yourself with Mary at the tomb?  Are you the one who has the vision?  Would you see the angel, would you know Jesus this way?  Or are you with Cleopas and the other disciple, believing but not quite seeing.  I have occasionally had visions.  I can think of times in my life when my faith has been confirmed by a message that seems to come out of nowhere.  A sign that has comforted me when I needed it most.  But these visions have been rare for me.  In general, I’m not having dreams in which Jesus speaks,  I’m not seeing angels.  Maybe it’s a time in my life, when the supernatural intervention is just not my every day experience.

Most of the time, I think I’m with Cleopas.  I’m walking along the road of faith, the road of the disciple-- believing, but not quite seeing.  The sequence of events in this passage seems important.  The disciples are walking along discussing the things that have happened.  Jesus comes to be with them and asks them to explain.  The disciples aren’t sitting alone in their rooms mourning Jesus’ death.  They are walking together and discussing it.  They are discussing the terrible things that have happened.  And they say to the stranger—we thought he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. 

We can see this scene as a Holy conversation.  They tell one another what is wrong with the world.  They mourn together over their personal losses.  And they name their hope.    Have you had a Holy conversation today?  When did you last say to a friend or a family member, these are the things that matter to me.  This is where my hurt is.  Or this is where my hope is.  Are we stopping for a moment and telling one another what matters most?  Or are we just keeping things light, talking about the weather, telling one another about the surface details?

I was waiting for an airplane on Friday evening and I had a long conversation with the man sitting next to me.  He told me about his father and wondering if his father was beginning to lose his memory.  We talked about his time as an enlisted soldier in the Marines and what he learned there about himself and who he wanted to be.  We talked about his daughter who is getting her Masters at University of Massachusetts and his son who is still in college.  We talked about health care and worries that people won’t get the care they need.  I learned about his wife’s work with a big insurance company and his work for a major corporation.  Our conversation went on for over an hour. It rambled from subject to subject.   It was a deeper and more meaningful conversation than any other that I had had all day.  There was another man on the other side of me, and he got into the conversation too.  He told about his parents dying in their sixties and how that changed him.  He got teary eyed when he thought about trying to live up to his parents’ expectations.  He said,  “Now it’s on me.  I’m the one who has to carry on and make the world right for my kids.”  This was a Holy conversation.  I just got their first names—Steve and Lance.  I won’t meet them again.  But there we were telling one another about what matters to us.  We articulated our hopes to one another.    Maybe I invited the conversation because I was wearing my collar.  Maybe it was the way I sat down and opened a casual conversation about how often we wait for airplanes.  Hard to say why this was the most meaningful conversation of the day.  But somehow each of the three of us contributed, opening up our fears and hopes.  I think that we were like Cleopas and the other disciple,  walking along the road—just travelling together and talking about what mattered. 

Cleopas and the other disciple were having this Holy conversation, when Jesus broke in.  He rebuked them and said,  “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”  And then he interpreted Scripture for them, reminding them of his work in light of the stories of God’s work throughout history.  There were moments in my conversation with Steve and Lance that were like that.  There were moments in the conversation when each of us offered perspective, hope, sustenance to one another.  When we talked about aging parents, Steve was worrying about his dad suffering as he lost his memory.  His dad knows he’s losing his memory and it’s a source of shame and worry.  But Lance asked Steve—Would you have it any other way?  Even if your dad is suffering, aren’t you glad that you have this time with him?  Even if he eventually totally loses his memory, isn’t there another way of being with him that really worthwhile.  Maybe it’s just a new phase of life, Lance said to Steve.   He didn’t say,  “Don’t worry”, but he did encourage Steve to appreciate the blessing of having his dad in his life. 

Of course, I don’t really know Lance, I don’t have any idea who he is.  But at that moment, I think he was opening Steve’s eyes.  He was showing Steve something about God’s work.  He was offering Steve a human connection that reflects the connection between Jesus and all of us.  They were talking with me and one another Spirit to Spirit—not focused on money or power.  They were connecting around the hope that God provides.  Now I don’t know how they are reflecting on this conversation today.  Maybe they still don’t see how Jesus is walking beside them.  Maybe they didn’t recognize that this was Holy conversation—but I do.  I know that  there in the airport,  I met Jesus on the road.  And Jesus is working in them.
But before we close, let’s go back to the story of Cleopas and the other disciple.  When Jesus was inclined to leave them, they encouraged him to stay with them.  But the disciples still didn’t recognize Jesus until he sat down to a meal.  He blessed and broke the bread to share with them—this was the moment when they knew him.  I’ve been thinking about meals and the sacred nature of sharing food. 

I was at a conference on environmental and sustainability issues.  One of the topics of the conference was sustainable food.  We heard a great talk about a NY Times writer—Mark Bittman.  He talked about veganism and the energy and water used to produce a pound of meat as compared to the energy used to produce a pound of vegetable protein.    He talked about how much more meat Americans eat than our European counterparts.  He encouraged us to cut out meat for 12 hours a day—eating just one meal with meat instead of three.  He talked about our health—the need to get off junk food and high sugar drinks and desserts.  He talked about eating “real food” that doesn’t have additives or processing.

I got thinking about his talk and wondering why he never mentioned eating with other people.  Because meals aren’t just about what’s on the plate.  It’s about how we related to food and to one another.  It seems to me that it changes our eating significantly when we eat together.  A cup of coffee taken as an energy drink in the car on the way to work;  it’s so different than a morning coffee with a friend at the kitchen table or at the coffee shop.  The first gives us quick fuel, but the second connects us to another person giving us real soul food.  Think about what we eat for lunch.  I remember Margaret Jackson leaving church on Sundays after coffee hour.  She was always looking forward to the grilled cheese sandwich that her husband prepared for her while she was at Church.  I think about the times when my boys and I go out on an ice cream walk—finding the best frozen yogurt place.  It’s a chance to talk on the way, share the snack (even though I don’t eat ice cream)  and then return to conversation with one another.  This is the Holy meal that the disciples had with Jesus.

Jesus cared about them and an expression of his caring was sharing the meal.  When he broke bread with them, they recognized him.  And this is how it is for us.  When we share a meal with someone we can be seen, and we can see.  When we stop and eat together instead of tuning into the television, or eating at our desk at work, something new and different happens.  There is an intimacy in sharing food.  I may have told this story before and if so, I apologize for repeating myself.  I remember working with a colleague in South Africa when I was in my twenties.  I always brought my lunch from home and she brought hers.  Day after day, she offered me some of her lunch and I refused.  I was thinking that my friend Sisanna needed her lunch.  Sisanna is Zulu and she lives in one of the townships outside of the city center.  At the time her house had an outside kitchen and a little propane burner.  She shared the house and her food with four siblings, her own daughter, her mother and lots of friends and neighbors.  There was not a lot to go around and dinner was often a mixture of greens that were gathered alongside the road with rice or cornmeal mush and sometimes a little bit of meat or a tin of sardines. 
But finally one day Sisanna broke down in tears and asked why I always refused her invitation to share her lunch.  She said it was like I thought I was better than her and wouldn’t touch her food.  She thought I was so unkind to never accept her offer.  I was so ashamed of my behavior.  I had missed that this offer was not about the food, it was about the shared experience of breaking the same bread.  Sharing was much more important than what the food was or how much there was.  I had missed an opportunity to know Sisanna’s generosity and love for me when I refused her meal.  Our friendship changed after that.  We got closer and shared lots of meals.  She came to my house and I happily went to hers.  I knew that her cooking was an expression of her love for me.  In those years, I would never have named those as Holy meals, but they were.  Christ among us, unseen, unknown—but made known in the breaking of the bread.

I want to close today with a short look at the last lines in the letter to Peter:
“Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.”

The purification of the soul is the faith in Jesus.  The letter reminds Peter and his community that they have turned away from idolatry.  They are now living  differently because they are disciples of the Risen Christ.  But the key point is that the fruit of this faith is “genuine mutual love.”  Love one another deeply from the heart.  This loving from the heart is a hard thing to do.  As we trudge along the road to Emmaus, our vision gets dimmed and we miss the opportunities to love one another.  We miss the stranger who might need our love.  We miss the Holy conversation that might open us up to the love that is already in our lives.  When we are going about our daily routines, we might forget to invite someone to share our snack, to stop for coffee, to come by for grilled cheese sandwich.  Our focus on physical health might blind us to the opportunities for Holy meals—spiritual connection and real mutual love in the breaking of bread. 

The living and enduring word of God that the letter to Peter mentions, this is the deep truth that comes to us when we hear Scripture here on Sunday mornings and when we know God’s truth as we go along our own roads.  Our blindness is cured by the breaking of bread here in our Eucharistic feast and when we invite a stranger to sit down at our table to share a lunch.  Let us hear the Word today as the in-breaking of God into our daily lives—this is the message that we need, this is the disruption, the reminder to participate in the Holy conversation the opportunity to invite someone to share in our Holy meal.  Let us tell the story when we leave here today:

“That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!”

Doubting Thomas (Easter 2)

Acts 2:14a,22-32
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31
Psalm 16

Today we hear the story of doubting Thomas.  At least that’s how we’ve always named this story.  For generations, we have focused on this story as a moral tale about taking a leap of faith.  We have thought of doubting Thomas as the disciple who should have believed in the resurrection as a result of his faith, but because he was weak in faith, he needed to touch Jesus’ wounds to know the resurrection.  I think our reading of this passage has been significantly shaped by the art that depicts this scene.  Maybe the most famous is the Caravaggio painting—Jesus has opened his cloak and is putting Thomas’ finger into the wound in his side while the other two disciples (scholars think that one of them was Peter) look on.    When we see that painting, we are inclined to feel justified—we are the blessed ones, the ones who have believed without touching the wounded body of Christ.  We are good, faithful Christians who accept the resurrection as the truth even though we don’t have physical evidence.

When we read this story this way (the most popular way for generations), we are suggesting that the best way to be a person of faith is to put aside our rational, reasonable minds and focus on miraculous, the unbelievable truth which is God’s way.  We are suggesting that a good Christian doesn’t need to see or touch God, they just need to have faith.  I wonder if this isn’t like “alternative facts”.    We’re asked to reject what we know is true about the world (that people die and are buried) and accept what is least plausible—that a man who was dead and buried returned to walk and live among his friends.

I want to suggest that there’s another way to read this story—not as encouraging us to believe the unbelievable, but instead as a story about God breaking into our human existence and showing us something that is generally hidden from us.

Let’s go back to the text (putting aside the Caravaggio image that we carry of this scene).  In verse 19, we see the disciples locked in a room, afraid that they will be found and persecuted by the Jewish authorities.  They have seen what happened to Jesus and they are afraid that this could happen to them too.  While they are all together, they have a collective vision or a collective experience.  Jesus comes to them and says,  “Peace be with you.”  He shows them his wounds and then he repeats his statement,  “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. 

The key to this exchange is not the state of mind of the disciples who are locked in a room, wondering what’s going to happen to them.  The focus of the story is on Jesus’ actions—Jesus comes into the room to comfort and encourage and empower the disciples.  Jesus knows their fears and brings them a message of hope.  He refers to the Father—reminding them that this is how the God of Israel has always worked—just like the Father sent me, so I send you.  We can hear in this sentence, the reminder,  God sent Moses to lead the people out of Egypt.  God sent the other prophets, then God sent Jesus to do God’s work.  And after those prophets died,  God continued working.  God sent his only Son, to live and die as a human being to know our suffering and pain, but also to continue God’s work in the world.  Jesus comes, fully divine,  the Son of God to the disciples to assure them that God’s work is not yet done.  Even though his physical body has died (as all human bodies die), still God’s work is continuing—and they are the ones empowered to do it.  Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit upon them.  He commands them,  “if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."  Forgiving sins is not about pardoning someone who has done something terrible so that they can continue going out and doing terrible things.  Forgiving sins is about repentence and reconciliation.  Forgiveness is about encouraging and building up the community so that every person is oriented towards God’s way, not towards the human ways of oppression and violence.  We can hear Jesus’ words as a reminder to the disciples that they are on the right path.  He is saying to them, “Carry on!”  “Keep building up the community of followers.  Keep showing the people what real freedom looks like.  Keep fighting against the oppressive rulers of your day.”  And then warning them,  “if you don’t do it—if you aren’t out there forgiving, reconciling, healing, preaching and teaching and showing the people God’s way forward, then the sins will continue.”  Jesus breaks into the disciples’ closed room, their locked minds with a vision of hope.  As he shows them his hands and his wound, he is showing them that the truth is different than what they thought it was—the truth is that his death on the cross is not the end of God’s work with them.  The Holy Spirit is working in them.  They can go forward and build up the Jesus movement, even after the devastating death of Jesus. 

What an amazing experience it must have been for them.  Hope in the midst of sadness, assurances of peace and new life, right after the death of Jesus. 

So with this scene in mind,  Jesus has  acted on the disciples in the locked room,  now we see Thomas coming.  He was the one left out, but Jesus doesn’t want to leave him out.  Jesus comes to him too.  Thomas says to the other disciples,  "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."   Thomas is expressing his reality.  He is in a crisis.  Just like the other disciples, he needs reassurance.  I don’t see him as any less faithful than the other disciples,  he’s just expressing his reality—he’s afraid, he is discouraged.  Everything he has come to believe about God’s way in the world has been challenged by Jesus’ death.  He’s been following Jesus, preaching and healing and feeding people--building up the community of God’s people and now the authorities have killed his leader.  He is not willing to accept the “alternative facts”—that Jesus has risen--on the say so of the other disciples.  He needs to have a real experience. 

And so Jesus comes to Thomas just like he came to the other disciples.  This account of Thomas’ interaction is prefaced by the naming of Thomas as “the twin”.  Bible scholar and theologian, Dr. Charles M. Stang,  from Harvard Divinity School suggests that this naming of Thomas as the “the twin” is about Thomas being the other half of Jesus.  They are not just two human brothers, they are like twins—sharing essential DNA, two expressions of one being.  Thomas is the one who has fears, Jesus is the one who provides hope.  What is remarkable in this dialogue is not Thomas’ doubt, what is remarkable is Jesus’ reassurance.  Before Thomas says anything to Jesus,  Jesus knows that he has doubts and fears.  Jesus recognizes Thomas.  Jesus, Thomas’ other half,  his twin,  steps in and offers comfort.  “Peace be with you.”  And then "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe."  The emphasis is not on what Thomas does.  In fact, the passage never says that Thomas did reach out and touch Jesus.  The passage emphasizes Jesus’ reassurance. Jesus is inviting Thomas to see the truth.  Thomas’ other side, his twin is showing him that death was not the end of God’s work. 

Does Thomas recognize his twin, Jesus?  Instead of just feeling hopeless, he has been given the promise that God is still working in the world.  And with that promise comes a blessing.  “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."  Jesus is reaching out to all of us,  blessing us, offering to show us his wounds, present us with the hope of life after death.  Whether or not Thomas did actually reach out and touch (and the passage doesn’t say he touched Jesus’ side), the issue is how Jesus, Thomas’ Lord and ours, is working.  He is blessing those who are willing to follow Jesus, even when their human vision is limited by the finality of death. 

Today, I want to encourage us to read this story as a story about God working in our lives.  Our twin sides—the human “Thomas” side of us is stuck with limited vision.  The Jesus side is full of hope, seeing in a different way that God has saved us and is saving us—working in our lives to build up our divine nature—that goodness that is always in us.   Jesus recognizes and blesses us.  Jesus by his resurrection, breaks into our human experience and grants us peace.  Jesus breaks in collectively,  when we are all together, facing doubts.  And Jesus breaks in when, like Thomas, might feel like we’re the only one who is not sure about the right path forward. 

The response to this passage is not “blind faith”.  This is not a passage about hiding from the truth and wishing for a miracle.  This is not about accepting “alternative facts” just because it soothes our worries.  We know that bad things are happening—God’s work isn’t done on this planet.  Human beings continue to hurt one another, just as they did in Jesus’ time.  There is still inequality, oppression, pain and death.  We know this reality.  We’re not expected to act as though death doesn’t happen. We’re not supposed to pretend that the planet is not getting warmer, that people of color aren’t being imprisoned at higher numbers than white people, that income inequality is still rising or that some of us are not getting our basic needs met.  We’re not being asked to make a leap of faith that is contrary to our reason.   Jesus recognizes us, knows our truth AND blesses us with a new reality—a reality of hope and promise.  Jesus steps in to show us that He is Risen.  Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on us so that we will be empowered to go out and change our reality.  Jesus is sending us all, just as the Father sent him.

We are being called to go out and work with God to bring God’s forgiveness, God’s justice into a broken and sinful world.  We are not being asked to sit back and wait for Jesus to prevail as a result of our faith.  Jesus is acting in us—recognizing us and building us up to work with Him.


Sermon of Rev. Kirsten

We enter the Easter story today from the perspective of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (the wife of Cleopas).

Mary Magdalene had been a faithful disciple. She was present when Jesus died.  She was there when they rolled the stone against the tomb.  She was there when the guards were directed not to let anyone take the stone away.  She knew that he was dead and buried.

So why did she and the other Mary go to the tomb on the third day? 

I imagine Mary Magdalene’s state of mind:  A terrible injustice has been committed.  Jesus has been crucified by the Roman authorities.  She has been with him throughout his ministry, and she has been with him from the last supper through his trial and on the walk to Golgotha. She has been following her teacher, she believes that he is the Messiah.  When he is killed, she must have been just distraught.  I imagine that she is incredibly angry at the authorities for having killed him.  She is just seething with the injustice of his death.  I imagine her wailing—this is just not right, it is not fair.  Mary must have been outraged at the system of justice that would allow a good man to be killed.   And it wasn’t just that the system of law was unjust, but the way he died was so terrible.  He suffered being forced to carry his cross.  He endured the pain of being nailed to the wood.  A painful death, so unfair, so unjust.  She must have been so angry and at the same time, so full of her own pain. 

Maybe like Mary Magdalene, we come this morning with anger at the powers that control our world, the authorities who create unjust systems.  We know the injustice that led to the use of chemical weapons against the people of Syria.  We know the injustice that leaves some of our neighbors here in destitute poverty without places to live, or access to care for mental health issues.  We are outraged and overwhelmed by the powers that threaten us with nuclear weapons.  We see what seems to be perpetual violence in places like Suday.  We see child slavery, the flight of refugees, the oppression of women.  We know that the world we live in is unfair; that power is corrupted and that good people are suffering.  We know good people who serve for the good of all—people like Jesus who serve as teachers, firefighters, nurses, police or soldiers; people who are trying to do what is right for this world and who aren’t paid enough to live well here.  Around the world we see people who are targeted, persecuted, imprisoned because they don’t agree with the policies of their governments.  We read the news, we meet people on the street, we visit places and know that the systems that humans have created are not good.  When we witness suffering and death at the hands of unjust rulers, we are angry.

But Mary must not only have felt anger;  she has lost someone she loved.  She has lost her teacher, her friend.  The hole in her heart, this gaping raw wound of grief—where is Jesus?    Mary must have been inconsolable, because there are no words to comfort someone who has suffered the loss of someone they love.  Maybe we come today, like Mary, because we are suffering loss.  Someone we love has died.  Someone we know is dying.  Maybe we are full of grief, there is a hole in our lives, holes in our hearts that cannot be filled.  And where else can we go with that loss?  We go to the gravesite, we sit with our lament.  Suffering is so hard to witness and yet, when the person is gone we may be overwhelmed with our own feelings of  loss.  We are praying with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, who are unspeakably sad, lost in their grief (our grief).

Mary must have been also very afraid for her community.  She had been part of a tight knit group of Jesus’ followers.  They had been together with him, learning from him, doing what he taught them to do.  She and the others had been out preaching and teaching, healing and building up the community around them.  They had been speaking out against the authorities and they were united in their opposition to the Emperor and the systems that oppressed the poor, and the weak.  With Jesus, they had been imagining a new society, one in which the least would be first.  The poor would get their fair share, those who were unjustly imprisoned would be set free.  But now, the most faithful disciples were shaken—Judas has betrayed Jesus to the authorities.  Mary must have felt this betrayal personally, they had been so close, how could he have done this.  And then Peter.  When he is asked if he is also a follower just before the trial, he denies Jesus.  Three times, he claims that he is not a follower.   A second faithful member has fallen—not standing up for Jesus when he should have.  Peter, maybe too afraid for himself to stand with Jesus when it mattered most.   And now Jesus is gone.  Mary must have seen her community being torn apart and wondered how they could continue.  Would there be anyone left to carry on the work that Jesus started?  The fear and confusion about the disintegration of her community, the Jesus movement that she had been a part of, must have been profound.  She had been part of this big project and now it was not clear who would lead, how they could continue, whether the community would even continue to exist.

Maybe we come today because we fear that this world, or our most immediate community is at risk.  There are forces that threaten our security.  Countries are pitched against one another.  Our allies may not stand with us when we need them.   Maybe at a national level, it seems as if we are becoming so polarized that we cannot work together to build a better society.  Maybe in our families or neighborhoods, the people we thought we could trust have disappointed us.  Maybe our identity, like Mary’s , our identity as a Christian is shaken—we have seen people who claim to be Christian doing terrible things throughout history and here today.  What movement can we be a part of that will be steadfast and trustworthy?  What community is going to support us when there is so much dissention and polarization?

And Mary must have been afraid for her own safety.  Having just seen what the authorities did to Jesus,  she must have known that being identified with him might lead to her own death.  She must have been petrified that they would come after her too. Maybe we also feel some fear.  Maybe we like Mary wonder if we will be safe.  If the rulers of our world don’t protect the most vulnerable people, how can we be sure that we aren’t also at risk? How will we be protected from evil, how can we keep our children safe?  We worry about what will happen to immigrants, refugees and activists.

And yet, in the midst of these overwhelming feelings—anger at the injustice, sorrow and loss,  fear for her community and fear for herself, Mary goes to the tomb.   Maybe Mary is so overwhelmed by her feelings that she can’t think straight.  She is so full of grief and anger and fear and loss, that she can’t think rationally.  Surely if she had been rational, she would have gone far away, not to a gravesite in full view of the guards and the authorities. 

But something drew her there.  Something brought her to the sepulchre in spite of these complex feelings.  I believe it was faith and hope.  I don’t think that Mary Magdalene was sure that Jesus would rise and appear again to her or the other Mary.  But I do think that she was drawn to the tomb by a longing and a hope.  Jesus had promised that he would come again and Mary Magdalene hoped, hoped that his promise would be true.  Maybe in the midst of her emotions, this hope was the only thing that she could hold on to.  She wanted so much for it to be true that she would go to the tomb, against everyone’s recommendations, she would sit at the tomb and watch.  Her faith was the only thing that could carry her through these first days.  I imagine her saying to the other Mary,  this just can’t be the end, the end of everything.  He promised that he would be with the Father, that he would come again.    She believed that Jesus’ promises would be fulfilled.  Maybe Mary couldn’t even fully grasp the idea of Jesus and God the Father as one being.  Maybe she believed in God the Father—the God of Abraham and Sarah would make things right, even though everything was wrong.  Hope and faith, believing even with doubts, enough to go to the tomb and wait and watch.  Mary was ready for an epiphany, she hoped and believed that in the person of Jesus, understanding and relief would come. 

And we come today in faith and hope.  In the midst of hard times, in the midst of sorrows, anger and fears, we come.  We come, even if we are not sure, because we hope and hold onto our faith.  Today our hope and faith is confirmed.  Breaking through the power of death, the angel comes to Mary and to us. 

The angel says:
“Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

Mary’s anger, sorrow, fear are answered by the angel of God who comes to tell her that Jesus is not in the tomb.  He has been raised from the dead.  Mary’s rage at the authorities is met by this triumph. The authorities didn’t win, Jesus is not dead.  His opposition to Emperor and his authorities, his message of peace and reconciliation to the communities where he preached, his healing of people who were infirm, his teaching about how to live in the fullness of God—everything that Jesus taught Mary is now proven.  This human life, the life of her friend and teacher was not the end of his work.  Jesus has risen from the tomb as the new life that he promised to his disciples.  While it might have seemed to Mary and other disciples that the authorities triumphed when they killed him, now the angel shows them that Jesus’ power is greater than theirs.  The Father has raised Jesus up to new life and he is going to Gallilee to meet the disciples.

The angel speaks to Mary’s mourning, to that hole in her heart.   While she will still miss her friend and teacher, the angel assures her, Jesus will be with you—he will not leave you for he is alive with God the Father. 

The angel speaks to Mary’s anxiety about the divisions in her community.  Jesus will bring you together, if you gather the disciples, he will be with you always.  And maybe the angel speaks to Mary’s fears for her own safety—giving her courage.  God’s love, God’s power is greater than any torture or death that the authorities threaten.

But Mary leaves the tomb with great joy and still some fear.    Her sorrow has been transformed, but the fear still remains. 

And then Jesus meets the Marys on the road to Galilee.  When they meet him, the fall down and worship him,   Jesus says to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”  This miracle, the vision of the man they loved, their friend, their teacher, their leader—he has come to them to quell their fears.    In this vision, Jesus’ identity as the Messiah is confirmed.  Mary’s faith is built up, her hope is fortified.

This story speaks to Jesus’ presence in our lives. Jesus is speaking to us:  “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”  We celebrate with great joy Jesus’ triumph over death.  We know in the Paschal mystery, the resurrection miracle, that there is nothing of this world that is greater that the power of our God.  We know that whatever divisions there might be in our human communities, God unites and brings peace.  We know that when we see suffering and death, that God is present, working in those places with those communities to overcome the powers that be.    We know that when we are afraid, afraid that we may be so divided that there is no common ground, that our faith can bring us together.  Our God unites us, guides us on the road to Galilee and encourages us to “be not afraid.”

And this brings us today to look at Mary Magdalene’s response.  What does she do when the angel comes—she goes out with joy and fear.  And this is how we are to respond today.  Our hopes, our faith are confirmed again by hearing the words of the angels and seeing the miracle that God is alive and with us in this place.  We are called to express our joy.  We are called to worship him, to reach out and touch his feet and honor him. 

In our communities today, we will meet Jesus on the road to Galilee.  We will meet Jesus as the man on median strip asking for change.  We will meet Jesus as the student who comes to school without any lunch money.  We will meet Jesus as the person who is alone in the hospital, or the person who needs a phone call because they can’t get out.  When we meet Jesus—the one who has been marginalized, oppressed or forgotten by society, we will reach out and touch their feet.  We will recognize them, know that they are Jesus Christ here in our midst.  We will honor them and express our faith.  We will go to Jesus’ brothers—other faithful people, and people who do not yet know God and we will tell them that God is alive and well.

Wherever we find ourselves, we will show by the way that we love one another that Jesus has given us new life.  We are called by Jesus to live in faith.  We are called to preach the Good News and build up the movement of God’s holy people so that they too may meet him in Gallilee.