22 March 2008

Easter Matins

Mary's great anxiety on Easter morning is "they have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." That's her message to the apostles and so Peter and John race to the tomb, only to find that Mary was right. The tomb is empty.

That the tomb is empty is not yet good news. Indeed, an empty tomb may mean nothing more than Mary supposed: that someone had come and taken him away. The good news of Easter is NEVER that the tomb is empty. Such a message still leaves Peter puzzled, John in half-belief, and Mary weeping.

The angels in the tomb ask her "why?" Again her answer: "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." Even the appearance of angels is not enough to drive away the sorrow from Mary's heart, if she doesn't know where she may find her Lord.

Mary is asked one more time: "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" She, thinking she was talking to the man in charge of the garden, says: "Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away."

Mary was desperate on Easter morning to know where she could find the dead body of her beloved Lord. And the answer was nowhere. She'd never find that dead body again. Instead she'd find the body that had been dead alive and never dying again. Her desperation blinded her to who was standing right in front of her. Her eyes did not reveal Him to her. It was her ears that did the job. "Mary," he said.

And in a blinding flash she knew. Only one so spoke her name. She knew who was standing in front of her. She knew where her Lord was. And joy came flooding over her soul. Relief and with that a sudden rising fear, fear that He might get away from her again. So she lunges and tries to grab hold. To hold him so tight that He'd never be able to leave her grasp again. "I've got you, Rabboni! I've got you forever!"

"Do not cling to Me," says the Crucified and now Risen Lord. "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father."

Mary's heart must have sunk to her toes. She had thought it was going to be like it was before. Like it had been for the last years on the road in Galilee and Judea: He preaching and teaching, and she being able to be with him and serve him and love him. She thought that His being alive again meant a restoration to the good old days. Jesus has to pry loose and give her new vision, new sight.

No, not like before. Better than before. Bigger than before. Unimaginably more than before. Better than walking around Galilee with the Rabbi is the Risen Lord taking up His abode within you. Bigger than an earthly home is a heavenly one. Unimaginably more than a human companionship with Jesus is the gift of being made a brother or sister of Jesus and so an heir of the heavenly Father. With Jesus, there's always more.

"Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father. But go to My brethren and say to them, I am ascending to My Father and to your Father, to My God and to your God."

And so Mary was sent as the Lord's chosen Apostle to the Apostles. She was sent to bring to them the word of pardon from the Risen Christ, for He called them His brothers. She was sent to bring the word of hope to the despairing, for Death had not proven victor over Him, and so it will not prove victor over any who belong to Him. She was sent to bring the word of love to the grieving, because Jesus had announced that His Father was now their Father.

Off she ran to tell them that she had seen the Lord and to convey to them "that He had spoken these things to her."

No more anxiety then about where to find the Lord. It is the Lord who does the finding. Only a dead Lord would need you to go in search of Him. But when it is the Risen Christ, He is the one who goes in search of you. He is the one who finds you. He is the one who drives away fear, who pardons sin, who tramples down death, who embraces you with an embrace so secure that He will never let you go until you feast your eyes upon Him whom you have learned to love only with your ears.

For that is how the Lord finds you and me today, in the post-Resurrection church. Through our ear-holes. He finds us by sending out His Word, His message. It's a message from our Brother who lives, whom death could not hold. It's a message from our Brother who gives His own Father to be our Father, and who gives His own God to be our God. It's a message from the One who has gone on ahead of us to prepare a place for us so that He may one day come again and take us to Himself that we may be with Him where He is.

Where is He? He who is in heaven is at the same time He who is in His message, in His words, words which He places in His chosen messengers' mouths to speak for the peace and joy of His people.

Hear them now: Alleluia! Jesus is risen! Trumpets resounding in glorious light! Splendor, the Lamb, Heaven forever! Oh, what a miracle God has in sight! Jesus is risen and we shall arise: Give God the glory! Alleluia!

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