21 April 2019 – First Sunday of Easter

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

(Video of Easter Message, “Risen!”)


John 20:1-18 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=422592227)




In the beginning was darkness.

Ancient Hebrew members of our family tree wrote:

“In the beginning

When God created the heaven and the earth,

The earth was a formless void

and darkness covered the face of the deep,

While a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”

(Genesis 1:1-2)



Pitch as black,

Dark as ink,

A formless void, like

A fertilized egg’s undeveloped brain, like

A student’s ignorance on the first day of class, like

An enthusiastic disciple who does not understand the scripture.



The predawn moonless hours

Far removed from city lights,

Of such power that one is uncertain if eyes are open or closed,

When sound is amplified, distorted, absent, unknowable.



It was still dark when Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb,

A tomb in an Eden-like garden setting.


His tomb was in a garden.


Ah, a garden in the Spring!

Soil so full of potential

That invites the gardener to prepare, plant, water, and steward the crop.

The gardener knows the rhythm of life,

The harmonics of sun, moon, and clouds,

The melody of new birth, new creation,

The restoration of all, and

The promise of harvest

That keeps the hand on the plow and

The eye on the prize.



Wait! What is going on here?



The garden is agape.

The tomb is unsealed!

The tomb is empty!

All that’s left behind are the bloody cloths

The corpse of Jesus was wrapped in, and

The cloth that covered his face when he was buried.


Simon Peter and the other disciple heard her startled report,

But, their belief, like hers,

Was an assumption of theft,

So they return home uninspired, probably

Back to bed.


“Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.” (20:11)


Startled. Alone. Weeping.

Tears like those shed by our Lord at the tomb of Lazarus,

Tears of mourning welling from deep inside the belly,

Triggered by the traumatic memory of cross and nail,

Tears of anger that

Someone has violated and plundered the tomb.


Startled. Alone. Weeping. Angry.

Bewildered by the mystery confronting her.

Two angels appeared,

Rhetorically ask,

“Why are you weeping?”

She did not understand that he must rise from the dead. (20:9)

“They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” (20:13)


Startled. Alone. Weeping. Angry. Bewildered.

One would expect to find a gardener in a garden.

Recognition comes with a name

By a shepherd who knows his sheep by name.


“Mary!” the Risen Lord recognizes.

“Rabbi! Teacher!” Mary the sheep recognizes.

Mary recognizes her risen Shepherd;

Risen from the dead,

Risen back to life,

Risen to call her by name,

Risen to call her to follow:

“Go to my brothers and say to them,

‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father,

To my God and your God.’” (20:17)


Go and testify,

Witness to what you’ve seen,

Tell what you’ve been told.

Mary Magdalene becomes the first resurrection preacher in the Bible,

When she proclaims with joy and astonishment,

“I have seen the Lord!”

(Don’t ever tell me that women aren’t called to preach!)


I have seen the Lord! Mary obediently proclaims!

I have seen the Lord!


On this day of resurrection, like Mary,

We, too, are stunned to recognition.

We, too, are challenged by the call

To go and swear witness to

What we’ve seen,

What we’ve been told,

What we’ve come to know and believe that is true.



Is breath,

The same Spirit that swept over the waters on the day of creation.


Is life,

When Word became flesh and dwelt among us.


Is victory,

Breaking the chains of death, and

Spilling forth light into every crevasse of creation.



Is the springboard to our Lord’s ascension,

Reunion with God,

Our heavenly Father.


Resurrection propels the world forward

With anticipation

For Christ’s promised return,

When a new heaven and new earth come into being,

Like a bride adorned for her husband.


Resurrection becomes promise

When tears and pain will be no more,

When God will come and dwell with us,

Making all things new.

Resurrection is the Alpha and the Omega of our God.

(Revelations 21)


Light has come to the darkness!

Go, and testify, “I have seen the Lord!”

Life is restored!

Go, and witness, “Christ is risen!”

Christ has ascended!

Go, and proclaim the promise, that

Christ will come again!


Dearly beloved,

He is risen!