It’s early morning, still dark, when Mary heads to the tomb. But when she gets there – and sees that the stone is rolled away and the tomb has been opened – she runs to tell the disciples what she assumes has happened, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." She’s still in the dark.
The disciples aren’t much help. They run back – find the tomb empty with two piles of neatly folded graveclothes – and then go home.
Mary, back at the tomb, weeps. Not only did her Lord die a shameful death, but now even his body is gone. Mary loved Jesus. He was her Lord. He gave her hope, dreams, faith. But now…all of it - her hopes, dreams, beliefs… dashed. Mary grieves. She weeps.
A visit from angels usually inspires fear. But when angels appear in the tomb and ask Mary, “Woman, why do you weep,?” she simply replied as she had to the disciples: "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." She was still in the dark. Even when Jesus himself asks her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" she did not understand - she was still in the dark.
“Who are you looking for?” Mikayla, a young woman from our neighborhood, didn’t know. A couple of months ago I heard her tell her story - growing up with two parents who picked drugs over her - every day. These drugs released in her dad an anger that he took out on her - brutally kicking her, hitting her, and dragging her by her hair. Mikayla remembers running for the bathroom because it was the only room in the house with a lock on it. And she would sit there, afraid – sometimes all night, in the dark. Abused at home, bullied at school, Mikayla had reason to despair. “Who are you looking for?” Mikayla didn’t know… yet. But this is not the end of her story.
Who are you looking for?” Sometimes that’s a hard question. Whether you grew up hearing the Easter story or you are hearing it new – or as if it was new today - there can be times in our lives that we find ourselves in the dark - lost in darkness, grief and despair. A relationship ends; A loved one dies or gets sick; A job or other opportunity slips through our fingers; dark days of depression waft over us; everything goes wrong… and we feel alone, in the dark. We grieve; we weep; we wonder… where is God? Where is Jesus in all of this heartache?
That was Mary’s question for this man– she assumed he was the gardener. She begs him to let her see Jesus’ body. But then… he did more than that -- he called her name: Mary.
Jesus called her by name (or maybe it was Ma Ma Ma Mary) and with that one word -- Mary’s world was transformed. What was dark became light; what was hidden was revealed; death became life and sorrow was turned into JOY!
This transformational joy is not only for Mary. Jesus has come – and is calling….you…. by name. Jesus is calling you out of darkness, out of despair, out of hopelessness and into light, hope and joy.
Yes, I know, we live in a world in which tyrants still rage and poison their own citizens. People die of hunger, illness, disease and war. Our world is still filled with deception, “fake news” and violence, darkness, pain and distress. And yet… it is into this very mess of a world that Jesus came – for Mary and for you…and you… and you… and me.
Even in the midst of sorrow and despair or maybe especially in those times and places where we feel lost, alone and in the dark, Jesus is with us. Even here. Even now. And so… we dare to hope. Because… this – sorrow and pain -- is not the end of the story.
It wasn’t the end of the story for British Statesman Winston Churchill either. At the end of his funeral – a service that he planned himself -- a solitary trumpeter played taps at the western door of the chapel symbolic of the setting sun – a fitting song for Churchill’s life and career of service. A few moments of silence followed. But then…breaking the silence came the sound of another trumpet – this time at the Eastern Chapel door, playing First Call - “Reveille,” – the morning wake-up song for the light of the new day.
It’s a new day. It’s a new day for Mary. Because Jesus doesn’t give Mary a great big hug and say, “See, I told you it would be ok.” Instead, rather than let her hold onto him and stay at the tomb sobbing – even tears of joy -- Jesus sends her out – on a mission.
Her mission is to share this good news – darkness has been changed to light; death to life, sorrow to JOY!.
It’s a new day. And Jesus has give us this mission too.
But it takes courage – Easter courage -- because the world around us is still living in Good Friday sorrows. The world around us still sees death, destruction and despair. As Christians – we acknowledge that those things are still there. But they don’t have the last word. It’s not the end of the story.
It wasn’t the end of the story for Mary and it wasn’t the end of the story for Mikayla either – although her life got worse – much worse – before it got better. You see, one day, Mikayla had had enough. And so she found a bottle of pills in the medicine cabinet – and thought she would end it all. Luckily, her mother found her and took her to the hospital. The next day she was taken to Treehouse – a neighborhood place for troubled teens that offers counseling, care and the love of Jesus. Over the next six years, Mikayla’s eyes were opened and she learned that she too was a child of God – and that Jesus has called her by name. Today, her mission is to share the good news of Jesus’ love with other youth who – like her are stuck in darkness and despair and have not heard of Jesus’ love.
Mikayla has a mission – and so do you. Jesus calls us – like Mary and Mikayla – by name and sends us out to carry with us – to bear on our lips the message of the Good News of Jesus’ love into a world that desperately needs to hear it.
We are sent out bearing a light to shine in the darkness, a word of hope to the hopeless and a message of Easter Joy to all we meet until this Good News of Jesus’ love has spread to the whole world and the world is filled with… JOY! Amen.
Pastor Pam Stalheim Lane
Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran church
Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017