“Where is Jesus?”
Easter 2018 – April 1, 2018 – Year B
Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
Those of you who are movie fans no doubt remember the 1973 “Jesus Christ Superstar,” 1973 “Godspell,” and 1986 “The Last Temptation of Christ.” Each of these wonderful dramas tell with vivid detail, gripping suspense, and powerful emotion the amazing story of the Good News of Easter. But, there again, so too does the Gospel writer of John. It is a down-to-earth story about something with which just about every Christian struggles – having a physical relationship with Jesus.
Even though we have never had the experience of Jesus standing beside us, nor have we talked with him on the phone, yet we have a real relationship with Jesus. That is why we are here today. Even though we know that dead people do not rise from the grave and walk around, yet we claim to have a real relationship with Jesus. That is the stuff of an Easter faith.
Mary Magdalene’s encounter with Jesus is extremely innate, emotional and deeply, deeply personal. Mary looks the gardener in the eye, listens to him speak, and when her back is turned hears whispered, “Mary.” The sound of his voice saying her name helps her to see Jesus. Jesus does not offer a general address – oh no – he uses the simple, but profoundly personal address that is uniquely hers – her name – “Mary.”
This tells us much about how we know God. Like Mary, we long to be know by God. We long to be held in God’s gaze. We yearn to be seen by God as the object of God love and desire and care. This longing is not “general” or something abstract. We do not want to be loved by some distant abstract entity who relates to us in the same grand way God relates to the universe. Instead, we want to be seen for who we are in the most intimate, far-reaching corners of our inner lives. We want to be known and understood in our bodies, our histories, our dreams and our losses. When Jesus says, “Mary,” his words travel towards these most private places of our own lives. And when Jesus’ words hit home, there, in that very name space, Christ is made known. Christ is Risen. Alleluia!
So, what does this reveal about the form of God’s appearing in our lives? Surely it shows that God comes to us in the deeply personal ways invoked by the speaking of our name. This experience is fully embodied and very physical, just as it is intellectual and an idea or a concept. Just as Jesus did with Mary, Jesus comes to you and me, not as an abstract or general idea or some kind of ghostly figure. Indeed, Jesus the Christ, comes as a presence that reaches far beyond our mind’s power of knowing and touches our lives in ways we cannot see. Christ’s power is felt. Christ is tasted, touched, smelled, heard, seen in images. Often these are unconscious. I have woken up from dreams, where God has spoken to me with such clarity. God is known in our muscle memory, in the turn of the lip in that garden smile, in the stuttering voice of a trusted friend, in the fall of the foot’s arch in wet grass at sunrise. In the barefoot walk along the beach, God’s coming unfolds in the world of our emotions – when we sense that the world suddenly shifts into place and has meaning. Sometimes when I am meditating I hear Christ’s voice, calling me to the way of peace and gentleness.
Does this mean that Jesus will come to you in the garden? Will Christ whisper your name?
Serene Jones writes in “Feasting on the Word,” “It means that as people of faith, we are called to attend as much to our physical lives as our spiritual and intellectual lives. If Jesus comes to us through the senses, it is important that we go to church and be in a space where we physically, emotionally, communally, experience Jesus in our midst – in the taste of communion wine and bread, in the residual scent of cleanser on sanctuary pews, in the familiar sounds of a favorite hymn that stirs us in places too deep to be named, in the closing circle where we hold the hand of our sister or brother of faith, in the feel of the hug you receive as you enter and leave this sanctuary.
In this yearly Easter event, we enter into the ripe cinematic fullness of our embodied, uniquely personal lives – this is the shared space where Jesus meets us, calling our name, receiving our touch, calming our anxious worries, and reminding us again and again that grace is not an object to be known but a gift to be lived.
In our busy lives there are a cacophony of sounds that vie for our attention. Will we slow down enough that we hear the gentle whisper of Christ calling your name? And when you hear Christ’s bidding, will you reach out your hand and let him lead you along the path of love.
My friends, I tell you Good News. Christ is Risen. Alleluia! Amen.