“From Sorrow to Joy!”

1st Sunday of Easter, B

1 April 2018

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches

John 20:1-18 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=389420953)

 

Prayer.

 

Last Sunday our worship started with a bang!

Joyous “Hosanna” and waving of palm branches

Was followed by the reading of the Palm Sunday

Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey.

 

 

“All glory, laud, and honor
to you, Redeemer, King, 
to whom the lips of children
made sweet hosannas ring. 
You are the King of Israel
and David's royal Son, 
now in the Lord's name coming, 
the King and Blessed One.”

 

(Tune: St. Theodulph, Author: Theodulf, Bishop of Orleans, 820 AD)

 

The Messiah had come! We proclaimed.

We were giddy with revolutionary zeal.

We knew God was on our side

And our occupation and oppression was soon to be ended.

Our taste for freedom had been wet,

And the future never appeared so promising.

 

But, faster than a whiplash

The wind left our sails;

Our bellows collapsed like a deflated whoopie cushion.

 

 

Jesus was arrested, imprisoned,

Tried on trumped up charges,

Sentenced to death, flogged, humiliated,

Crucified, died, pierced,

and his bloodied corpse was buried in a borrowed tomb;

All within the span of three nights and three days.

 

Hope had been replaced by despair.

Life had been stolen and replaced with meat on a slab.

Light had been replaced by darkness.

 

My sermon last Sunday was likewise titled “From Joy to Sorrow.”

 

It doesn’t get much darker than defeat,

Especially when it appears that

Our God blew the lead in game seven.

 

 

 

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

 

(Words: Negro Spiritual, Tune: Were You There)

 

Night fell on Friday.

We left our service in darkness and silence.

 

 

Today, Good News!

With the dawn’s early light and the rising of the sun,

We have news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!

 

“Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia! 
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia! 
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia! 
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!”

 

(Tune: Easter Hymn, Text: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788)

 

 

Bust out the lilies.

Brush open the blinds.

Break out the Alleluias!

The embargo is over.

Light triumphs over darkness!

Life is victorious over death!

 

My sermon title today is just the opposite from last Sunday’s.

Today it is “From Sorrow to Joy!”

 

From our Jewish ancestry

We follow a similar path from Lent to Easter;

Remembering the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Our path resembles our Jewish sisters and brothers

Remembering Passover from a first-person point of view;

Freedom from Egyptian captivity, the gift of the Law, journey through the wilderness, and passage into the promised land of Israel.

To remember is to experience the journey.

 

We tell the story.

We live the story.

We become first-person, eye-witnesses to the story

Of freedom, redemption, and salvation.

 

When we become so intimately woven into the story

Of passion, death, and resurrection,

We become like the disciple,

 

 

“the one whom Jesus loved,” (20:2)

The first to the empty tomb and the first to believe.

We don’t need anything more

Than an empty grave and a pile of bloody burial cloths.

Our relationship with Jesus is so close

That we don’t have to witness his resuscitation.

We don’t have to see his face, his hands, his side, his feet.

We don’t even have to hear his voice.

 

We are just filled with joy!

We know that Christ is alive!

Christ is risen!

The most important divine interaction with creation has just taken place

And we’ve been privileged to have been a player on the stage.

Forgiveness and salvation become the capstone.

Christ’s historical ministry has been transfigured into one that

Glorifies God and brings to creation the gift of the Spirit.

 

Yes.

I took attendance at Holy Week services.

We had 7, counting myself, at the noontime Maundy Thursday service.

It was better at the 7:00 o’clock service; we had 17

Who experienced the story of Jesus washing his disciple’s feet

And sharing with them the bread and cup.

Low and behold, we had 33 attend our Good Friday service

Where the entire Passion narrative was read by a succession of volunteers

(Shamelessly recruited by myself to ensure a good attendance,

But, hey, if that’s what it takes to help us all remember,

I have no regrets).

 

 

At our Good Friday service light faded to darkness.

White faded to black.

Night fell.

 

By reason of work or responsibility,

Of illness or health,

Of Spring break, family, or travel,

Of faith, or lack thereof,

I know some of us are so closely in love and relationship with Christ

That we’ve become one with that beloved disciple

Who just knows,

And are ready to witness to,

The resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

Yes, life sometimes gets in the way of faith.

I get that.

It is sometimes true for me, too.

But, for the majority of us,

We need something more.

Often, I need more than just the memory or the experience.

 

 

We might be more of a kindred spirit with Mary from Magdala.

Mary Magdalene finds faith another way.

 

Mary’s examination of the empty tomb and cast aside burial clothing

Resulted, first, in her anger -

An assumption that Jesus’ corpse had been stolen,

To, secondly, sadness and weeping –

Over her apparent failure

To care for, and respect, the dead:

“They have taken away my Lord,

and I do not know where they have laid him.” (20:13)

 

Mary came and saw.

She saw the stone had rolled away.

She saw two angels in white through the tears in her eyes.

Angels! Mind you! She saw angels!

 

Mary hears the voice of angels, “Woman, why are you weeping?” (20:13)

Mary responds to angels from the Lord by answering their question.

Mary turns and she saw.

She saw Jesus, face to face.

Jesus! Mind you! Mary saw Jesus!

 

The corpse she had seen dead and buried no more than 72 hours ago

Was standing right in front of her

Fully breathing, alive, and engaged in a conversation.

Holy, Zombieland!

 

Mary sees, but, as of yet, fails to recognize her BFF.

 

 

Mary hears the voice of Jesus,

Asking the same angelic question, “Woman, why are you weeping?” (20:15)

One would think his voice would be familiar to her.

After-all, she had been on the road with his “Traveling Salvation Show”

For the past 3 years.

 

She thought she was talking to the gardener.

Resurrection was so outside her realm of understanding

It wasn’t even considered.

In her mind

She was talking to the gardener.

 

Mary only comes to recognition and belief

When Jesus speaks her name,

 

 

“Mary!” (20:16)

 

“Very truly, I tell you,

The one who enters by the gate

is the shepherd of the sheep. 

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him,

and the sheep hear his voice.

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 

When he has brought out all his own,

he goes ahead of them,

and the sheep follow him

because they know his voice.” (10:1-4)

 

The Good Shepherd calls his own by name

And they know his voice.

 

 

Like Mary, many of us come to recognize the Risen Christ

Through the Word of Christ,

And by his Word,

We are sustained.

 

“The Word was made flesh … and dwelt among us,”

The Gospel of John begins. (1:14)

The Word,

Christ’s spoken word and his broken body,

Together with his willingness to claim us by our name

over our baptismal waters,

Is what keeps our ever ebbing and flowing faith

Confined within acceptable limits.

 

The Word speaking our name

Brings recognition to us.

Now we know who we’re talking to!

Now we know we are seeing the resurrected Jesus!

 

Christ is made known and present,

Inviting each of us to engage deeply in relationship with him

And with one another.

 

 

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To experience the story,

Many will join the movement from sorrow to joy

With the proclamation, “Christ is risen!”

Others will come from sorrow to joy by another route.

We half to have our creaky scaffolding of faith

Sustained and supported by the Word of Christ.

Regardless of how we make progress on the journey

Together we can join the movement from sorrow to joy

Blending our voices this day, proclaiming, “Christ is risen!”

Christ is risen, indeed!

Alleluia!

Amen.

 

 

 

(Thanks for the creative insights to the Beloved Disciple and Mary Magdalene are extended to Craddock, Hayes, Holladay, and Tucker in their 1990 commentary, “Preaching the New Common Lectionary Year B Lent, Holy Week, Easter”.)