"I have seen the Lord"
Message preached April 15,
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA
based upon John 20:1-18 (see gospel parallels)
Order of Worship
(note - this is transcribed as remembered. It was delivered "amble and ramble" style)
"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, Ďyour God reigns.í" So said Isaiah long, long ago. (52:7) As you listened to the story of that first resurrection day, as revealed by the gospel of John, did you pay attention to the feet? ... Does that sound like a silly question? Should it for those who take seriously the words of Jesus, as recorded in the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of John?
Many of us here today gathered last Thursday in this very place to remember the events of that night in which Jesus was betrayed. Before breaking bread and drinking from his cup, we washed one another's feet. In doing so, we remembered his cleansing - the washing away of our sins. We also remembered his calling to have the "feet" of a servant. "How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of those who bring good news."
So, let me ask again. As you listened to the old, old story, did you pay attention to the feet? The story as we have received it from John involves a great deal of running. Feet are in motion. It begins with the feet of Mary Magdalene. On the day after the Sabbath, she was headed to the tomb of Jesus to complete a task she did not really want to do.
If you recall, those preparing Jesus' body for burial on the previous Friday were unable to complete the job. Sunset, the beginning of the Sabbath, was rapidly approaching. They had to stop their efforts before then and place the body in the tomb. The requirements of the Sabbath ceased even that kind of labor. Once Sabbath was over, then the job could be finished. That is what Mary went to the tomb to do.
She didn't really want to. She had to. The first resurrection day began on a very depressing note. If you have ever experienced depression, you know how difficult it is to pick up your feet and get moving to do something, especially something you don't really want to do. That was Mary. We can come to worship on this day and fail to see that Easter was not, at first, experienced with all the joy and celebration we associate with it. Think of those women, according to Markís gospel account of that first morning (16:1-8), who came to the tomb and were frightened into silence by what they saw. Indeed, for us this is a "terrific" day, but do understand that "terror" is found within the word "terrific."
"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news... ?" Mary's feet brought her to the tomb on that first resurrection day, however difficult it was to pick them up and get them going. There she saw the stone rolled away. She could not, though, take another step in that direction. Instead, she turned around and ran.
"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news... ?" No, Mary's feet took her to the disciples were all she could bring was bad news. "They've taken his body, but I don't know where." Her news caused other feet to run. Peter and another disciple raced to the tomb. There, they took a few more steps than Mary did, and they looked into the tomb. It was empty. While the other disciple "believed," it says, Peter was not sure of what to make of it all. Personally, I picture Peter standing there with a big question mark over his head.
I wonder if there are a number of us here today who approach Easter in the very same way. We have heard the message of an empty tomb, but we're not sure of what to make of it. Like Peter, there's a big question mark over our heads. Oh, we've heard the words, but what they mean in our day-to-day life? What does it mean for Jesus to be alive today?
Anyway, Peter and the other disciple then raced back, presumably to tell the others - though we are not informed as to what they said. "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news... ?" There was another who had come with them, apparently, to the tomb. Mary. She stood outside the tomb, the stone of which had been rolled away - crying, lost in despair.
At this point a voice spoke from the tomb, the sound of an angel. "Woman, why are you weeping?" ... Have you ever kept something hidden within you, behind an outer mask? You hold it within, and then someone comes along and speaks a kind word, or touches you in some way, and it is like a dam bursts. You let go of what was held so tightly within, and it just comes spewing forth.
That's how I picture Mary at this point. She cannot control the words coming from her mouth. "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." Another voice, another kind word is spoken from behind her. "Woman why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" A response comes rapid-fire from her mouth, words she cannot control. "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take away." She is lost in her sorrow.
And then this voice behind her, whom she had presumed to be the gardener, speaks a word which sets her free. He speaks her name. ... "Mary."... In that moment, I propose, the day of resurrection begins. Mary recognized the One who spoke her name. "Robbouni," she said, "teacher." Jesus gave her word to speak, and from there she went straight to the disciples. "I have seen the Lord," she told them... "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news." Indeed!
[Bulletin cover art by Paul Grout.
From Church of the Brethren Living Word Bulletin series,
copyright 2001. Used by permission of Paul Grout.]
This story of the resurrection lies at the heart of our faith as followers of Jesus Christ. It is the foundation upon which everything else is built. It is the linchpin that holds it all together. But, you know, we can't just sit on this story. If it is to have any power in our lives, we must do something with it; we must act upon it; we must allow it to come alive in our experience. Too often we gather on Easter Sunday and hear the old, old story. We then return home and continue on our way, "business-as-usual." However, this story demands of us that we act upon it, that we get our feet in gear, and step out by faith.
When the church of Jesus Christ came into being after that first resurrection day, after Jesus "ascended to the Father" (20:17), on the day when the Holy Spirit arose with fire among the disciples, Peterís feet got in gear and he delivered his first sermon. It was powerful - so powerful, in fact, that as he finished those who heard it asked, "what should we do?" Indeed, the resurrection story demands of us that we act upon it. Peter responded with these words, "Repent (i.e. turn toward God), and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you..." (cf. Acts 2:37-42).
"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good..." This morning I want to challenge you to live out this story. Donít just sit on it - act upon it. Make it your story... Perhaps you have never planted your feed upon the floor and stepped forward by faith to claim Christ as your living Lord and Savior. Now would be a good time, on this very special day - this resurrection day - to do so. I invite you to come forward as we sing our final hymn... On the other hand, it could be that you have earlier professed your faith, but your feet have grown weary. Perhaps you've lost the fire of an earlier day, and once again it is your desire to step out in faith and follow your living Lord and Savior anew. Now would be an appropriate time. I invite you to come forward as we sing.
"Lord, I want to be a Christian, in my heart." Let's all stand and sing this old, old spiritual. Then we will pray together, and end our worship on this Easter Sunday with a new song. Come...
©2001 Peter L. Haynes
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