A number of years ago when I was serving as an interim priest in a little parish, early on in my ordered life, I went into the church early in the morning on Easter Sunday (we did the vigil late on Saturday night there) and I hid a bunch of plastic eggs around the sanctuary. We had a large cohort of children in the Sunday school – so that was going to be fun.
On Easter morning, I invited the kids the kids to get up and look around for the eggs. So as you would expect, they jumped up and raced around the church, collecting as many eggs as they could find, but they weren’t allowed to open the eggs until we were done with the hunt.
And then, once we thought we had found most of them, they came and sat with me on the floor in front of the altar and I re-told them the story of the morning when Mary Magdelene and the other women went to the tomb only to find Jesus not there and how completely freaked out they were.
And then I invited the children to open their eggs. And rather than disappointment, I was met with sadness and frustration. Those eggs were empty.
Because, I said to them, the tomb was empty – it is our job as followers of Jesus Christ, to look for them in everyone we meet. We are all, from now on always on an Easter hunt – searching for the risen Christ all of the time and in all of the places.
And then, because I’m not a total jerk, I traded them the eggs for some chocolate that I had in a basket.
But I would say the same to you – our work now is to seek the risen Christ in everyone and in all places all of the time.
Because ours is not a faith that lays still in the coldness of a tomb, it is alive and well and the world needs it and us and this search more than ever.
And it is particularly important to tell this story of hope and redemption, I think, on mornings when we wake to terrible news that bombings have taken place in churches and fancy hotels across the globe.
Not because we ignore that devastation, we must not – we have to pay attention to the grief and to the sorrow that is so real, because we must turn out hearts towards those who mourn – towards the grief – we offer prayers of accompaniment in deep pain.
We claim out witness to the resurrected Christ because we know that Jesus died in the face of powers that opposed his very being so we claim signs of hope here and now.
I have seen the Lord.
This is the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. And it is really, really is.
So, to be clear, in the version of the Gospel story that we hear tonight, we don’t know what the women said exactly – though in the other Gospel reading option for today from John, this is exactly what she announces.
In Luke, we only know that Mary Magdelene and Joanna and Mary, the mother of James and some other women said something to the eleven and that the men didn’t believe them – it just seemed too incredible and Peter had to check it out for himself. Their grief was maybe still too real, the women’s story too impossible.
And perhaps for us too, it is almost too incredible to believe – that we too might have seen the risen Christ, but I know that we have. And I think that it is the thing we need to hear the most right now. We need our own version of ‘I have seen the Lord.’ And we need to tell each other about it.
The stone has been rolled away, the tomb is empty, death is not the end – I have seen the Lord.
Karoline Lewis writes:
…in the end, resurrection is not only the promise of life after death, which, after all, would be enough, but also the assurance that the life-giving love of God will always move the stones away. Tombs are just that — containers for the dead. And while we seem rather content these days with such spaces — those dead places that fuel corruption, deception, racism, sexism, suspicion, rejection, marginalization, misogyny, judgment, and fear — God continues to roll those stones away that keep life at bay. And when the stale air of decay meets God’s breath that creates new life and the possibility of hope and peace, death truly is no more.
The promise of the resurrection is not only secure because God made it so by raising Jesus from the dead. The promise of the resurrection is certain when we speak into our own lives “I have seen the Lord!” — words which roll back the stones that confine and constrain in order that all life might be free to know dignity and regard and respect.
The promise of the resurrection is certain when we speak into our own lives “I have seen the Lord!” — words which roll back the stones that confine and constrain in order that all life might be free to know dignity and regard and respect.
I have seen the Lord is an invitation to life. It’s a reminder that we are people of a living faith that will not be constricted or contained to one way of being or one kind of experience.
I have seen the lord is a statement that each of us can claim, we say it and claim it as our own. Our job is hear and to believe. To live into the hope that these testimonies inspire. No matter how crazy or ordinary these I have seen the Lord, stories might be – we are called, not to write them off as nonsense but to say yes, I believe that you have seen the Risen Christ. Felt their real presence.
We witness to one another, to our accounts of the living Christ – to the places where stones have been rolled away and incredible life has been revealed.
This is what our faith requires of us – proclamation and witness to the Risen Christ, to our stories of where they can be found, to those risky, vulnerable, beautiful moments when what we are experiencing can be none other than God among us.
So I went on a bit of a hunt of my own this week, thinking about where I have seen the Lord and then asking where you – or where members of our community – I sent a message out on our facebook page asking this: if I ask you to complete this sentence: I have seen the Lord, what would follow?
And there this sermon was born. Members of our community shared beautiful and vulnerable stories.
The risen Lord experienced in prayers said aloud in a gathering of indigenous peoples, all spoken in their own language – ‘It was our own Pentecost’ this person said.
The risen Lord in bread and red juice in a cafeteria, by another who closed their eyes and said the words: “I do this in remembrance of you” and the very real presence of Jesus at table with them.
The risen Lord in whiskey and a cracker beside a Lake – a sacred moment.
The risen Christ found in church for the first time after a long time away. Jesus who showed up in community and friendships of those who gathered around after death or in moments of profound loss.
I thought about my own accounts – the time just after I had Gabriel, Jacob, my middle child got sick and ended up in hospital. And while Mark and I tried to juggle a 5 year old and a new born while sitting in hospital with our toddler – and I am terrible at knowing what I need when I am in the middle of grief or sorrow.
But my community knew – they came, they sat with me beside his bed, they took my daughter to play, they made food. And they celebrated with us when he came home.
I thought about one of the first communions we ever shared in this community in the park room, when my friend Markus came shortly after he’s moved away to Scotland to be a priest there – and I was not so sure that we had made the right call in starting this thing – because who would come? And we sang and prayed and Jesus was so real and so present in that sunlit room – I still know that feeling in my body – I rely on it when I am unsure even now.
My words don’t do these accounts justice.
I have seen the risen Christ in the invitation to witness to my faith in the sacredness of death and love and relationship and grief.
The experience of deep pain transfigured into gift of life.
Each of us carried with us real and true experiences of the risen Lord. And acknowledging Jesus as alive and well in each of us in each of these extraordinary moments is one of the most counter-cultural claims we can make.
Because these claims that love has no death, that we keep showing up for one another, that we search for the love, the hope and the possibility and that Jesus shows up with us – that is Hope and Beauty. Those moments point us to the very real and true knowledge that while death is real, so is life and possibility and love.
Death is not the end because these moments claimed and named by us point us to life.