Christ is risen!
And Love incarnate will show up in times and places you do not expect.
"Bidden or not bidden, God is present."
God seeks after us, and will show up for us in unexpected places as Jesus did for Peter out fishing, or in our suffering as he did for Mary Magdalene, in our chores like the Samaritan Woman…Maybe even in moments of callousness and cruelty like Paul…
Suddenly we are awakened, by a stranger - Or by someone we know who suddenly turns to us and we realize: they see us in our suffering, or in our efforts - and we remember who we are. We are healed in that moment of connection.
Jesus showed up as a human to affirm just that. Jesus shows us the nature of God is love by becoming one of us. He identifies with us in every way… not in perfection, but in our disordered lives…in order to help us be connected - to teach us how to be connected to one another and God.
Loneliness is the way that so many of us are experiencing the world right now, even with all of the “connecting” technology. We are experiencing the isolation of business, and the overwhelm of information; the pain about war and atrocity in the world; fear and the feeling of being out of control. The antidote is Human touch, a human ear, a human shoulder. That is why God shows up as incarnate: as human.
…And in today’s Gospel, the way the disciples respond to the story of the empty tomb is also very human. In the experience of grief there is loss, confusion, fear, disbelief.
The Gospel describes this reality so clearly. After the experience at the tomb, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the Mother of James, and the other women go to the apostles bearing the good news: Jesus is risen! They try to share the experience of the empty tomb and their vision with their brothers.
“But these words seemed to them an idle tale and they did not believe them.”
It is not hard for any of us to relate to that. What are the facts? Is Jesus simply gone?
It is a human response, a self-defense actually to walk in a cloud of denial through the thickness of grief. The apostles were terrified. They are hiding out in the upper room where they held the last supper. They are afraid for their lives, and for their future, and they are heartbroken. Grief and fear shuts us down. It may paralyze us. It makes new possibilities seem futile: Like “idle tales.”
It is easy to understand where they were coming from. We are clouded by the stresses and grief in our own lives that make it difficult to be awake to the possibility that “new life springs” that, there may be an order other than the "World Order.” As Jesus said to Pilate, “My Kingdom is not from here.”
The women share a vision of two men in dazzling clothes who suddenly appear. Visions are an element of prophetic identity. It places the women directly in the prophetic tradition; a tradition conveying a message between God and people. It is communal, which makes it that much more difficult to deny. A group of important
women-leaders among the disciples, tell us what they saw and heard. They remember Jesus’ words: the message God has been sending to the people through Jesus.
It is not always easy to believe in the resurrection even after we’ve heard the story a thousand times like the apostles. They called him “Lord,” and listened to his teachings. (Even those so close, were too immersed in grief to believe in other possibilities.)
Metaphorically, death is described as being separated from God: Separated from love. We may spend years, maybe even decades separated and wandering. And I don’t mean not attending church. I mean wandering in a cloud of fear and anxiety, death, like the Israelites with Moses. We stop trusting. We walk away from our identity as the beloved of God - and our commission to love one another.
But our story this morning doesn’t end this way.
There is one person who hears the good news. Peter is moved from his frozen state. He comes out of this paralysis of fear… and runs to the tomb. He runs toward the possibility that love is stronger than death: that the Spirit is life giving.
"Bidden or not bidden, God is Present."
It took more than courage for Peter. He had denied Jesus three times. He had walked away. His pain with that knowledge must’ve been excruciating. But Fear is a reaction, Love is an action. Peter moves into action. He runs toward the truth. The truth that God loves and forgives. God Loves and Forgives us. And that is radical.
Jesus died because of the way he lived, loving and forgiving everyone he encountered in a counter-cultural fervor that was contagious. And this got him killed by the authorities who wanted to maintain control. Jesus undeniably represented a way of life that surrendered to the Spirit of Love and not to the powers of control and fear and denial.
His last teaching was to love one another as he loves us. Seek the face of Christ in one another as God seeks us; be receptive to it in all your encounters. Move in the direction of love. And as Jesus asks us, be that one person for someone else. Through him we are raised to that new life where fear and death also do not have the last word.
It is radical and it is counter cultural.
Resurrection is possible because Jesus did not rise once, but is Christ who rises again and again in us and through us in unity, constancy and peace. God raises us in the fullness of our being into the one body of Christ.
Nothing, not even death separates us from the Love of God.