This sermon was delivered at Cobleskill United Methodist Church on April 4, 2021
20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look[a] into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew,[b] “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
There was a video that went viral a couple weeks ago. It’s a grandmother hugging her granddaughter for the first time in a year. I’ve got it here to show you. Let’s have a look.
Play video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTO1EylWVa8
Reunions like this have been and will be in the months to come happening all across the world. Grandparents who are finally protected from the coronavirus will be able to hug loved ones for the first time in more than a year. Whether this has been us, or we imagine it being us soon, or whether it’s just something you are seeing in videos and hearing stories about, these reunions provoke in us a deep, deep joy. Because these reunions fill a deep need we have in ourselves to be connected with one another.
Everything about this pandemic has strained our connections. Most intimately we feel it with the close family that we ache to hug again soon. But we’ve also felt it in a separation from our church community, our circles of friends, our support groups, and our traditions.
The story of Easter is a reunion story. Jesus died on Friday and left a group of friends who were broken by their grief. Overwhelmed and scared. Unsure of where to go or what to do. Separated from the only person in their lives who gave them purpose. It must have felt like time was standing still. What was only a period of three days probably felt like a year. Anyone who has lived with grief knows this truth.
And so Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ closest friends, unsure of what to do with herself, perhaps unable to sleep, finds herself at Jesus’ grave, before the sun had even come up. Her grief quickly becomes clouded with another emotion. Confusion. Things aren’t going as they are supposed to go. The stone is rolled away. The tomb is empty. There are angels; there is weeping; and then there is a gardener. And in the stress of the moment, she assumes the worst, that this stranger has moved her friend’s body.
And then the gardener, or the one who she thought was a gardener, says her name. “Mary.” And in that one word, recognition floods over Mary. Maybe it’s the way he says it, or the way he’s said it a hundred of times before. Or the way she desperately longs to be seen again as only he could see her. He says her name and with it the love he has for her surrounds her.
I imagine there was weeping for joy like that grandmother and granddaughter had, or like any of us would have after being reunited again with a loved one.
Easter is about reunions, but not just because of the physical reunion Jesus made with his loved ones after he rose from the dead or the reunions we make with our loved ones after a year of isolation or even the reunion we have right now in this space as many of us are gathered together for the first time in months.
Easter is about another kind of reunion, too. It’s about the bringing back together again of what has been broken. Specifically, about the power of God’s love to overcome every source of pain in our lives. We’ve been talking a lot about love over the last few weeks as we’ve moved through the season of Lent. But on Easter it all comes home with love. On Easter we know without a doubt the tremendous power of God’s love because it shows its strength over the greatest rival, death itself. And not just any death; the death of Christ, Love incarnate. A death that our sin, our selfishness, our greed and our pride caused. God takes the wreckage of our tragedies, all of them- the ones we caused to others and the ones inflicted on us- and God stitches this brokenness back together again. This is the tremendous power of God’s love. It cannot be defeated by death, or any other thing that threatens to separate you from the wholeness God desires for you.
Our lives can feel broken apart in so many different ways. Broken by grief. Broken by illness. Broken by estrangements. Broken by hardship. Broken by abuse. Broken by addiction. Broken by weariness. Broken by unrealistic expectations. Broken by so many things. But God picks up those broken pieces of our lives, no matter how many pieces they’re in, and with an undying, untiring, unselfish, unreasonable and unmerited Love puts us back together again. What did we do to deserve this wondrous love?
In Japan there is an old tradition of mending broken ceramic dishes when they break. Instead of throwing away of favorite bowl when it breaks, the pieces are glued back together and the cracks are filled in with gold. The process is called kintsugi (kent-soogi). The belief is that when something’s suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful. That it’s mending should be celebrated.
So it is with us. This is the reunion Easter offers us. A chance to be put back together again: in our relationships with one another. In our relationship with God. And in our very lives themselves with all their painful pieces.
With the hand of an artist, God offers us the opportunity to be made whole again. God’s love binds us and all our broken pieces together with beauty and strength and pride. This is what it means to be Easter people: reunited, made whole, and loved with a deep, abiding, restorative love.
Let us pray.
In the darkest moments of our life, you meet us and say our name….
We confess to you now, that we have not always wanted to be put back together. We have, at times, done some of the breaking. We resist your love when we turn our backs on each other. Free us from the bonds of that which separates us from your love. Reunite us and stitch us back together again. We long to be made whole.
Communion as a prescription. John 3:16. “For God so loved this world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”