Easter Day John 20-1:18 3/27/16 Epiphany, Norfolk

“Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he SAW and believed.”

For the writer of the Gospel of John, the Easter Event – this discovery of the empty tomb – is a very “visual” experience. Just in this morning’s passage, the word “saw” is used 6 times, and the word “seen”, once. For John, there is no doubt that these things happened. Everybody in his account “sees” his or her experience. It’s not a dream. It’s not a hallucination. It’s not something they heard. They “see” the stone moved. They “see” the linen wrappings. They “see” that there’s no body, where once there was. They “see” two angels in white. They “see” Jesus, who they at first think is the gardener. And it ends with Mary Magdalene telling the disciples: “I have SEEN the Lord.” The other Gospels don’t handle it this way.

But the writer of John wants it very clear that there are eye witnesses who attest to the reality that Christ was no longer dead. No one understood how, but “Christ had risen.” As unbelievable as it might be, Christ was risen from the dead. He was no longer in that tomb. He was visible. He was on the grounds. He was talking. He was NOT dead in that tomb where they had laid him. It made no sense, but these people had “seen” it.

We’re told that a crucifixion was, and is, probably the most horrible, torturous form of killing a person that humans had devised. We’re also told that as one approached Jerusalem, the roadway was outlined by crosses with bodies hanging on them, as a warning to anyone entering the city that this was what happened if you got out of line. And those crosses were left there along the road, with their bodies, for a long, long time. The Romans were not subtle. The whole thing was as horrible as anything we can imagine today.

In Jesus’ case, Joseph of Arimathea had asked the Romans if he could take the body and give it a proper burial, in a tomb that he had prepared for himself. Joseph didn’t want Jesus hanging on that cross along the road to Jerusalem. The Romans agreed. So Jesus’ friends took the body, and anointed it, and wrapped it, and laid it in that tomb. They knew he was there. Their own hands had put him there. But NOW he was out, and they had SEEN it. As Bishop Tutu likes to say, “God is loose.” And these people had SEEN it. They didn’t understand it, but they had SEEN it.

Now – this happened a long time ago. It has come down to us in art, and story, and music, and scripture. It is our lore. The whole Christian faith is based on it. But it’s not just something that happened a long time ago, in another land, in another culture. We experience the Risen Christ today, just as Mary Magdalene, and Simon Peter, and the disciples mentioned in John’s account.

The Risen Christ enters our hearts in different ways. My experience is not necessarily your experience. But for me, I experience the Risen Christ in two ways.

First the Eucharist – communion – where I join with you at the altar to experience the “Eucharistic Christ.” The “bodily Christ” isn’t walking around anymore. But what we have in its place is the Eucharistic Christ, symbolized by the bread and wine of which we partake, together, in community at this rail. That, for me, is one place that I meet and know the Risen Christ.

The other way that I meet and know the Risen Christ is as I relate to you, and to my fellow humankind. I don’t meet the Risen Christ in isolation – “just me and the Good Lord.” It doesn’t work that way for me. I meet the Risen Christ, in bodily form, as I interact with you, and as you interact with each other, out of love. And I see it all the time.

I could stand right here, and look at each one of you that I know, and I could say, “I saw Jesus in you when you did such and such for that other person, or for me, or for one of the least of them.” “I saw and experienced Jesus as I witnessed your act of kindness, your caring, your concern, your tenderness.”

People are always telling me that they can worship God just fine sitting home reading a book, or on the golf course, or on the boat, or whatever. Well, I’m glad they can, because I can’t. I have to be in community. Like the Gospel of John, I have to be able to say, “I SAW Jesus today when that person gave a loving hug to someone who I know needed that hug so badly. I experienced the Risen Christ when I saw your smiles. I know the Risen Christ in your laughter and in your tears. YOU are where I meet the Risen Christ, in body. “God is loose today.”

“She turned around and SAW Jesus standing there, but she did not know that is was Jesus.”

Be careful. Christ is Risen. He is all over the place, right here between you, and me, and the next person. Right there in the grocery store. At home in your kitchen. in the classroom. EVERYWHERE!

Alleluia! He is Risen.

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Posted March 29, 2016 by Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany Moments

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