Christ is Raisins!

imageEaster Sunday – Christ is Raisins!
April 20, 2014
John 20:1-18

I heard a story
from a clergy colleague of mine this week.

He has a five year old daughter
who is quite proud of herself that she is learning to read.

She’s at that stage when she tries to sound out everything…
menus, cereal boxes, road signs,
(she’s also at that endearing age when she very happily will point out to her dad that he’s going over the speed limit too!)

Well last week, they went to an Easter egg hunt
and afterwards the little girl was sitting at the kitchen table opening her eggs.

Inside each egg was a little piece of paper
(Don’t worry – I think there was some candy too!)
But the five year old took out the slip of paper and slowly tried to sound out the message…
“Christ is……raisins!”

Christ is raisins indeed! Alleluia!

We laugh because it sounds so ridiculous…!
Christ is raisins!

But really…does “Christ is risen!” sound any more rational?
If you think it sounds normal, then you haven’t ever tried to explain
Easter resurrection to someone who’s not Christian!

On this day, on Easter Sunday, we celebrate the marvel of the miraculous,
the wonder of the weird,
the joy of the just plain bizarre…

(And It’s a good thing a lot of us are here today,
because if just a few of us started talking about this publicly
others would worry about our sanity!)

But can I tell you something?
It’s getting harder.
It’s getting harder in our world to maintain the illusion
that belief in the resurrection is mainstream!

Because – let me break it to you – it’s not.
For most people in the world,
saying “Christ is risen!” is just about as meaningful as saying “Christ is raisins!”

And I think that is kind of neat,
because it makes us go back and wonder
why we believe in resurrection;
or how we believe in resurrection.
If Jesus’ disciples didn’t quite take the message on face value,
it’s okay if we don’t either.

In John’s gospel Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb
early in the morning.

She’s alone…it’s as quiet as cemeteries are supposed to be.
She gets to the tomb and she discovers that something’s wrong.
The stone which was meant to seal the tomb,
has been pushed or rolled or dragged away.

She doesn’t go any farther at this point.
She runs to Simon Peter to tell him what happened,
and her first thought is that ‘they have taken his body.’

We don’t know whom she meant by ‘they.’
Perhaps the Roman authorities, perhaps burglars…

Her alarm alarms Peter and he and the other disciple run to the tomb themselves.
There’s a race to get to the tomb.

Peter also sees that the stone is no longer guarding the tomb,
and he goes inside.
There he finds graveclothes, lying on the slab where Jesus’ body had once been.

Both disciples look,
and the gospel writer John says they believe —
but it’s hard to know what they believe…
Most likely they believe what Mary surmises has happened,
that someone has taken the body.
And they go home.

But Mary stays.
She stays and weeps – weeping for a body which is now gone.
Weeping for a body she cannot hold or touch.

These last several weeks,
we have seen too many pictures of families,
weeping for bodies of loved ones they are not able to hold or touch;
– the Malaysian airline;
– the Washington mudslide;
– the ferry in Korea which capsized.
Families stand or sit or fall down to the ground – like Mary, weeping for bodies that are missing.

Mary finally enters the tomb herself,
sees the graveclothes herself,
and also sees two angels, who ask her,
“Why are you weeping?”

As she explains the absent body,
Jesus in the flesh, also asks her, “Why are you weeping?”

She thinks he’s the gardener – the caretaker.
After all, who else would be at a gravesite at this hour of the morning?
She doesn’t recognize him – maybe because of her tears, maybe because of the way he looks…
But then she hears his voice.
He calls her, “Mary!”

And then she knows.
She who was weeping for his body,
sees his body standing before her,
and she rushes to embrace him, to hold onto that what she thought she had lost…

But Jesus tells her,
“Wait…don’t…not now…not yet…”
Don’t hold onto my body – for now, be my body in the world.
Go and tell others.

Who better than Mary Magdalene to tell others about resurrection?
Who better than a woman who had loved and lost Jesus to show others what it means to have him alive again.

When those we know have experienced great loss,
when they tell us they have experienced resurrection …we believe them.

An alcoholic is more likely to believe that there can be resurrection
when she hears the stories of others in recovery who have experienced it.

A couple who has just gone through a divorce is more likely to believe that there can be resurrection
when they have heard the stories of others who have lived it.

A man who has been diagnosed with cancer is more likely to believe that there can be resurrection even if the cancer is not cured,
when he knows someone else who experiences new life in the midst of the disease.

A woman who has lost her spouse is more likely to believe that there can be resurrection
when she knows someone who has experienced fullness of life in singleness.

Mary is told and is trusted
to practice resurrection (as the poet Wendell Berry once said) now that she has experienced it herself.

Don’t hold onto the body.
Go out and be the body,Jesus tells her.

Let us practice resurrection ourselves,
so that those who hear “Christ is risen!” and think it’s just as meaningful to them as “Christ is raisins!”
will hear it from one who has experienced it.

Then all may celebrate with us the marvel of the miraculous,
the wonder of the weird,
the joy of the just plain bizarre…

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Amen

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