I Have Seen the Lord (8:30am)
Topic: Christ's Resurrection Scripture: John 20:11–20:18
Mary Magdalene gave the shortest Easter message on record: “I have seen the Lord.” She just put it out there. She had no well-reasoned talking points, no calculated defense, and no theology, really. She simply gave a plain report of her own experience. This happened, she said, and such was the strength of her conviction that no one dared to argue. Soon, others would be having their own personal Easter as Jesus appeared to them, too. He was, it seems, very much alive, and available for a stroll in the garden and some conversation.
Easter is Easter for us when we, in one way or another, can say, “I have seen the Lord.” Our tears might obscure our view for a while. That happened to Mary—she was distraught about her loss. We might not recognize him right away—Mary didn’t. It took her some time. We were in Honolulu recently to visit our daughter. We went to a Mexican restaurant. It had picnic tables and benches in an outdoor space. At the table right next to us sat a woman by herself. I said to Larissa, “Why do I feel like I know this person?” Larissa responded, “That’s Grace Park, better known as Kono on the TV show Hawaii 5-0.” I didn’t recognize her immediately. It took a little time. Often it takes time to be able see the Lord who is right here with us.
One of the stunning realities of Christian history is that it was a woman who first preached the resurrection. Mary was a rare phenomenon in the ancient world: a woman who was included as an equal in the company of men. She is sometimes called the “Apostle to the Apostles.” She is presented in scripture not as one whose status depended on a spousal relationship—her husband—but as an independent woman of strength, power, and leadership. Jesus treated her with respect, love, and equality. Mary’s connection to the divine through Jesus offers an alternative view of possibilities for millions of women throughout the world even today. Oppressed, exploited, sexually harassed, they are deprived of their true and equal place in the realm of God, often kept down by the misguided beliefs of religions. This too is part of the meaning of Easter: new hope for the oppressed.
Mary, according to church tradition, would go on to become a person with a mission. It is believed by many that she traveled to far-off Marseille and Aix-en-Provence in France to share the gospel of the resurrection.
Most humans don’t get to see Jesus in the same way that Mary and the others did on that first Easter. How then do we behold the Lord? When we discover or rediscover the spiritual dimension of life, then we can make our witness too. The sense of God’s presence, and of the living Christ, is the supreme sign that life is more than physical existence, more than material gain and power and status and instant gratification. It is to be connected with that inner source that Jesus speaks of in this gospel, living water, welling up from within unto eternal life.
This connection with the divine can be mediated through nature and the created world. The beauty around us is not an obstacle to seeing the Lord but an entry way. Jesus was revealed to Mary in the beauty of the lilies—in a garden. Barbara Brown Taylor writes in her book, An Alter in the World, “People encounter God under shady oak trees, on riverbanks, at the tops of mountains, and in long stretches of barren wilderness. God shows up in whirlwinds, starry skies, burning bushes, and perfect strangers. When people want to know more about God, the son of God tells them to pay attention to the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, to women kneading bread and workers lining up for their pay. Scripture itself suggests that people could learn as much about the ways of God from paying attention to the world as they could from paying attention to scripture.”
In an even more direct way, the Risen One meets us where we are and guides us to reconnect with our true Source.
The great psychologist Carl Jung wrote, “I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among all of them there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a spiritual outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he or she had lost touch with this God-dimension of life. And none of them has really been healed who did not regain this spiritual outlook.”
Christ walks among us to restore us to our true life. He calls us each by name, comforts and forgives and spiritually heals us, and sometimes wipes away our tears. Will we recognize him and open our hearts?
Author Anne Lotz tells of a parcel she received from her mother, a birthday gift. Inside was a gaudy multicolored basket, packed with tissue paper. Anne threw out the tissue paper and wondered if her mother had lost her senses. When she called her mom to thank her for the gift (politely) her mother laughed and asked her what she thought of the gift inside the basket. Anne said, “Oh, there was nothing inside the basket except a bunch of tissue paper.” Her mother gasped and said, “Anne, your real gift was inside the basket.”
Anne raced to the trash and went through it piece by piece until she found the wadded-up piece of tissue containing the gift. Inside was small gold ring with a lapis lazuli stone that had been created from the floor of the Persian palace of Susa, and sold by the British Museum. Anne Lotz asks, “What priceless treasure are you in danger of throwing out, simply because of the way it’s packaged? Could it be the treasure of seeing Him? Sometimes God’s glory comes wrapped in the “tissue” of hard circumstances, and it just never occurs to us that within those life-shaking events is a fresh revelation of the Lord.”
Today we’re glad to have Jim and Sharry Zimmerman among us. Their witness is, “We have seen the Lord.” A few weeks ago in Florida, Jim had a seizure. Throughout this journey—this medical ordeal—they have seen the hand of God guiding them, beginning with the fact that Jim’s brother, a pastoral counselor “happened” to be visiting them when it occurred. He was a tremendous help in the days that followed. They felt the hand of God as the logistics of transportation fell into place. They flew to Midway and were met by a church friend who transported them to Rush Presbyterian. At each step they experienced Christ through the kindness of strangers: receptionists, hotel workers, shuttle drivers who prayed openly as they learned Jim’s situation, hospital employees who were consistently caring, the skill of doctors and nurses. There was a doctor colleague of Jim’s who “happened” to be getting on the train to Normal at the same time as Jim and Sharry and he was a big help with luggage. Jim and Sharry are truly grateful for the love and prayers of this their church, and are deeply thankful they were guided to us. They appreciate so much the ministry of Pastor Matt and our choir director Phil Enge who maintained frequent contact and friend, Ann Lamkey.
Then there was the First Pres member who provided transportation, the card they received from a couple who themselves are dealing with major challenges, the member who sat with Jim’s mom at her Westminster Village apartment through Jim’s surgery, and the overwhelming welcome home that Sharry received from the Chancel Choir. Jim has some ongoing treatment and recovery ahead, and our prayers continue. Through the mystery of divine providence, and the miracle of a community of Christian faith and love, they echo the Easter message of Mary Magdalene: “We have seen the Lord.”
Our hope for you this Easter day is that you will know the love of the Risen Savior deeply in your life, until that day when we know as fully as we are known, and we see him face to face.