Come, it is the Lord who invites you. Easter morning Year B

Come, it is the Lord who invites you. Easter morning Year B

So, come, you who have much faith and you who have little,
you who have been here often and you who have not been for a long time,
you who have tried to follow and you who have failed.
Come, it is the Lord who invites you.

 On this Easter morning, this invitation to the Eucharistic prayer tells us that this altar where we will break bread together, belongs to God and not to any particular church. It speaks to us of a physical and spiritual place where we will be known by God and we will know God through the grace and glory of the Risen Christ. It speaks to us of an offering of God who knows each one of us intimately, compassionately, and completely, and who calls us by name, in the same way Mary and Jesus know each other when we witnessed them in the garden of the empty tomb.

Jesus’ calling Mary by name tells us that the bond of love they and we have shared inherent to our relationship with God is recognizable in all times and in all places, through life and in death, and most especially in the new life offered to Mary and to our world on the still dark morning when Mary came to find Jesus’ body.  The Risen Christ knows you by name and is calling you.

So, come, you who have much faith and you who have little,
you who have been here often and you who have not been for a long time,
you who have tried to follow and you who have failed.

Come, it is the Lord who invites you.

Come, it is the Lord who calls you by name.

So come, because you have never been and never will be a stranger to the Risen Christ, the resurrected Jesus who reached out to Mary. Whether this is the first time you’ve set foot in a church or you come every week; whether you can maneuver your way through our service with ease and grace, knowing when to stand, sit or kneel, or whether our service feels like a disordered mess to you. It doesn’t matter; for you will never be a stranger to the Risen Christ, for from the moment you were gloriously made in the image of God, or, from the moment ofyour baptism, when the priest marked you as Christ’s own forever, when God affirmed and you said to the world, “I will never be a stranger to Christ.” This is why in our burial service, when we commend a person’s soul to God, we pray that God, “Acknowledge, we beseech you, a sheep of your fold”. We bury not just a person, but a sheep, someone who has known the Good Shepherd’s voice that lovingly calls them through all eternity. As we hear in Paul’s letters, “There is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ, neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” There is nothing that can make you a stranger to Christ. Christ knows your name and is calling you, as Jesus called Mary by name.

So, come, you who have much faith and you who have little,
you who have been here often and you who have not been for a long time,
you who have tried to follow and you who have failed.

Come, it is the Lord who invites you.

Come, it is the Lord who calls you by name.

Certainly, there might have been times when you may have felt estranged from Christ, when Jesus’ name has not been on your heart, perhaps due to intense pain or shame deep within your soul, or perhaps when questions about your faith have held your mind captive, or when fear of seeming foolish in following the counter-cultural ways of Jesus burdened your heart. There might have been times when our fear or pain were deep or arrogance steep, when Jesus warranted only a glimpse out of the corner of our eye and we believed we could live life without him.  Certainly, there may have been times when we feel that Jesus must have forgotten us, but we’re the ones who have forgotten Jesus, being too encased in our own worries to look up and see the newness of life offered to us through Jesus’ resurrection. It’s okay if that’s your story. It’s probably been each one of our stories at some point in our lives, but it’s okay, because Christ knows your name and is calling you, as Jesus called Mary by name.

Jesus and Mary’ early morning encounter is in confusion and pain, with Jesus meeting Mary in her passionate grief and her complete disbelief that Jesus could be gone. This is one of the most intimate and tender scenes in all of the gospels. I imagine it like this – Mary chooses to come in the still dark morning, almost daring the sun to rise, for how could it? How could life go on with Jesus dead? She inched her way along the dusty trail to the outskirts of Jerusalem, navigating the twisted and rocky path by the shuffling of her feet, her head hung low, her heart heavy, as she made her pilgrimage to the cemetery, to honor her beloved friend, Jesus, the one whom she loved and who loved her. A brief look inside the empty tomb and an exchange with Peter and the beloved disciple only deepens her confusion and despair. There are no answers and her body erupts in great sobs. All the emotions of the past week come flooding forth – the terror and the horror, the crucifixion and absence. Then someone speaks to her tenderly, asking, “Why are you weeping?” and she bursts into tears all over again, sputtering her response amongst the sobs. Someone kind has knelt gently beside her. Someone sweet has looked lovingly into her tear-stained eyes. Someone’s loving heart has reached into hers and her sadness is made known to the world. It is Jesus who looks within her and meets her in her pain. Jesus waited to leave his earthly being until he was able to console Mary. He could have left her to deal with this all by herself. That the first thing he does after his resurrection is to meet someone he loves in the worst moment of their life tells us that the story of the resurrection isn’t just about Jesus being raised from the dead. This miracle extends beyond Jesus – to us. Jesus’ meeting Mary in her pain tells us that Jesus gathers up the pain of the entire world and brings it into his new resurrected way of being– a new form of existence which is now accessible to all people of all times, no longer limited to a physical body. Jesus is bringing her and us with him, into a new reality, burgeoning with a plethora of new possibilities, a new way of being emerging which is not limited to our earthly existence. This is the paschal mystery we celebrate today—our participation in the dying and rising of new life in Jesus. For our faith to be whole and holy, we need both parts, that which needs to die and that which needs to be born. Our faith in the Episcopal Church is one that does not ignore the death or the pain or despair in the world but meets it with hopefulness and sees new life.

So, come, you who have much faith and you who have little,
you who have been here often and you who have not been for a long time,
you who have tried to follow and you who have failed.

Come, it is the Lord who invites you.

Come, it is the Lord who calls you by name.

Come, it is the Lord who meets you in the most difficult places of life.

 So, come and weep as Mary did, laying your troubles on the Jesus’ heart, and allow Jesus to kneel gently before you, to look lovingly into your eyes, and meet you wherever you are. Jesus will carry you through the darkness of the place that only you and Jesus know, where the depth of the horror of our world is known to you alone – and Jesus will breathe new light and new life into it. That’s the promise of the resurrection.

When Mary is asked why she is weeping and turns to look at the gardener in puzzlement, we grasp that something life-altering is going to happen. It is Mary’s turn toward the revelation of new life that contains the energy of the scene. When Mary Magdalene, the one who loved Jesus through life and death, turns toward the revelation, it contains the same energy of another turn, sung by Mary, the mother of Jesus, in her beautiful song, the Magnificat, as she proclaims the coming of a Messiah who will turn the world toward goodness. “My heart shall sing of the day you bring. Let the fires of your justice burn. Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near, and the world is about to turn.” The world did turn toward justice and the dawn of that new creation is about to happen with Mary in the garden, as the sun begins to peak over the horizon, as clarity and insight begins to drift into Mary’s heart, when recognition of the brand-new world burst through in her exclamation, “Rabbouni!”  The world is now viewed from a new perspective, one from which where Jesus’ resurrection makes all things new.

So, come, you who have much faith and you who have little,
you who have been here often and you who have not been for a long time,
you who have tried to follow and you who have failed.

Come, it is the Lord who invites you.

Come, it is the Lord who calls you by name.

Come, it is the Lord who meets you in the most difficult places of life.

Come, it is the Lord who offers you a new perspective. 

Mary’s turning her heart to a new experience, to walking into something new that is still being created, reminds me of sitting in a concert hall, as the musicians ceremoniously file in from off-stage, each musician settling into their familiar chairs, listening attentively for the oboist’s note, to which the whole orchestra tunes their instruments. I used to love to sit in four rows back from the stage at the Lancaster Symphony because I could feel the energy of the performers as they gathered and prepared themselves for the new thing they would be offering, opening themselves to the experience. Because I was so close, I could notice when the cellist’s breath began to settle into a new rhythm, a new place of longing and belonging; when the bass player’s eyes gently closed in what I assumed was a centering prayer. I could watch the amazing process of each musician reminding their mind, bodies, and souls of what would be required of them, and then entering and embracing that new with all that they had. This was the turning point, beginning a conversation between the performers, instruments, and audience from which something new would be created. In the energetic dynamic consuming the symphony hall, hearts humming, attention focused, bodies alert, the audience was called to something as well– in those pregnant moments just before the performance began, I always knew something life-changing was about to happen. The world was about to turn.

That’s the energy I sense in this garden scene when Mary turns, an explosive energy that leads Mary and Jesus to recognize each other. The world has turned and something new has been created. God’s dynamic, energetic, and creative love knows her and us by name.  Love is the connection: Jesus’ love of Mary, Mary’s love of Jesus, God’s love of the world through the Risen Christ, Jesus’s love of you.

So, come, you who have much faith and you who have little,
you who have been here often and you who have not been for a long time,
you who have tried to follow and you who have failed.

Come, it is the Lord who invites you.

Come, it is the Lord who calls you by name.

Come, it is the Lord who meets you in the most difficult places of life.

Come, it is the Lord who offers you a new perspective.

Come, it is the Lord whose love calls you to turn.

This is your Easter invitation. Pay attention to what is humming within you, pay attention to what is waiting to burst forth from within you in symphony with others. Pay attention to what is filling you with energy, guiding you forward to join with others to create something magnificent. Mary turned into that place and recognized Jesus whose love for us bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.

Although God raised Jesus from the dead and Jesus’ resurrection did indeed happen to him, you probably noticed that Jesus did not proclaim his resurrection by telling Mary what happened to him. He proclaimed it by calling something new from Mary, by giving her a new identity, a new vocation – his chosen apostle to the apostles, to join with her sisters and brothers in a new community formed by their love of the Risen Christ, the body of Christ of which we are members, through Jesus’ knowing of our names. Hear Jesus calling your name, inviting something new from you, then turn like Mary did, be a part of God’s new creation, as our world continues to turn toward justice.

So, come, you who have much faith and you who have little,
you who have been here often and you who have not been for a long time,
you who have tried to follow and you who have failed.

Come, it is the Lord who invites you.

Come, it is the Lord who calls you by name.

Come, it is the Lord who meets you in the most difficult places of life.

Come, it is the Lord who offers you a new perspective.

Come, it is the Lord whose love calls you to turn.

Come, it is the Lord who draws us together as part of the new creation.

Come, it is the Lord who invites you.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Amen.

 

 

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