He is risen! He is risen indeed! Hear, o hear, beloved of God, the good news of the gospel: “They tried to buried us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
Let me tell you a story: Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdelene made her way to the tomb. She was deep in grief, having lost her dear friend and leader. Maybe she went so early because she couldn’t sleep. The tears wouldn’t stop falling. Her mind wouldn’t slow down enough to let her rest. The ache in her soul could not be ignored. So she went to Jesus’ tomb. Maybe she hoped to find some solace there. Maybe if she could just be a little closer to the one she had lost, maybe she could stop crying for just a few minutes, stop raging for a few minutes. Maybe she could find some solace for the bone-deep pain of loss for just a few minutes.
When she arrived at the tomb she immediately knew there was a problem. The stone had been rolled away. Panicked she ran to get her friends, her fellow disciples. She told them, “they have taken Jesus’ body away”. This is fresh grief upon grief, a knife blade into an already open wound. The other disciples came running. They each drew their own conclusions. And then they went home. It was as if, regardless of what they thought had happened to their Lord, they went back to seal themselves in their own tombs, to hide with their fear, to grapple with the guilt of their denial and desertion, to figure out what should happen next, if anything.
Only Mary stayed at the empty tomb. Mary, broken and lost. Mary, weeping fresh tears of grief. Mary, whose dearest leader has died because of anger, fear, politics, and institutionalized violence. At this point it must have seemed like by every available measure The Jesus Movement had lost. While enjoying large crowds and some small acknowledgements of a following at an earlier point, now all seemed gone. Their leader killed. His followers scattered and gone underground after abandoning him. The promise of a better life to come destroyed. Jesus and his followers were not winners in any sense of the word. They had lost everything. Mary only knew grief at that point, deep deep grief.
Maybe you too know something of that deep grief. Maybe you too have lost someone. Maybe you have been watching the news this week and thinking, “What is happening?!” So much loss. So much violence. So much pain and hatred. Maybe you too worry that all is lost or at least moving very quickly in that direction. And the dirt piles up and on us and the light fades and we despair.
But the good news of the gospel is that being overwhelmed and buried by grief and pain and hopelessness isn’t the end of the story. Because in the midst of her weeping Mary has a truly remarkable encounter with the risen Christ and everything changes. Mary learned, and through her we learn, that weeping is not the end of the story and all isn’t as lost as it seems.
For if Jesus isn’t dead, if Jesus isn’t still in the tomb, if what Jesus has been saying all along about God and love and forgiveness and healing is true, then Mary can wipe away her tears and know that his death wasn’t the end, that indeed death itself isn’t the end. Resurrection is the ultimate answer to death in all its forms. Resurrection says that no form of death can stand – poverty, disease, racism, sexism, discrimination, hatred, greed, indeed all the forms of death you can think of, cannot stand. Brussels cannot stand. The attack in the Ivory Coast is not the last word. Bombings in Iraq are not the end of the story. Laws allowing discrimination and hate will not work. Domestic violence will not win. Disease does not get to consume unchecked. Death isn’t the end. God has said that there is enough love, forgiveness, abundance, and hope to wipe out every form of death there is.
When Mary first encounters the Risen Christ she mistakes him for a gardener. And maybe she wasn’t that far off. For Jesus has been planting seeds all along, seeds of resurrection. And during Holy Week Jesus had been planting ridiculous seeds of compassion, forgiveness, peace, and hope – washing the feet of those he knows will betray and abandon him, refusing to let violence be done in his name and healing those who came to arrest him, even asking for forgiveness for people who called for his death and for the criminals he is crucified next to.
“They thought they could bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” They tried to put Jesus in a tomb, they didn’t know he would not be held there. They tried to scatter his followers, make them doubt themselves, use fear to silence them. They did not know the women would not keep silent, that Mary would not go home to hide but would go out and tell. They would try for years afterwards to persecute and kill those who followed Jesus. They didn’t know that the message of love and forgiveness could not be contained.
The powers of death and greed and fear try again and again to bury us, to pit us against each other, to make us embrace violence, to believe that you and I are other, that your children aren’t my children, that your fate doesn’t matter to me or mine to you. Disease wants us to believe that cancer wins or because you are disabled you are less than. Scarcity whispers there is not enough, that I must have more, that in order for me to win you have to lose, that forgiveness is dependent on how much or often I beat myself up, that there are no second or seventy second chances. And so they bury us.
They buried Jesus, thinking that was the end, that the Spirit was contained. They didn’t know he was a seed. That through his resurrection he would touch ever more. That through his rising he would say that God has not now, nor ever will, forget us or forsake us. That God is still, and ever will be, working to build a world of justice, peace, and love for ALL people. That we who seek to follow Jesus, even 2,000 years later, while often finding ourselves buried by power, greed, hate, fear, and death, are seeds whose wild growth will spread like ivy covering this world until once and for all love wins. They thought they could bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.
Where are the seeds being buried right now? What signs can you point to of hope? Where can you see resurrection? The helpers and healers at work after violence erupts, seeds of resurrection. The Pope washing the feet of Muslim refugees, seeds of resurrection. The friend who sits with the one suffering, holding their hand through the darkness, seeds of resurrection. The community who brings meals to those in need, seeds of resurrection. The shelter that gives individuals and families a second chance, seeds of resurrection. The hours spent in sacred conversations on race here at Hope to bring about a more just and loving world, seeds of resurrection. Baby eagles hatching, seeds of resurrection. Children’s laughter and an alleluia arriving in a shower of balloons, seeds of resurrection.
For me personally, the most meaningful sign of resurrection I saw this week happened as part of our Maundy Thursday service here at Hope. It is one of my very favorite services of the year. It is deep, powerful, contemplative, and prayerful. And because of that it tends to attract mostly adults, or adults with their older children. But this year was different. This year we had five children under 6 years of age attend our Maundy Thursday service. I wasn’t sure how the children would react to the rituals, long readings, songs, and silences. And while there were moments of noise, for the most part they did a fabulous job. But perhaps more importantly for me, they made me get out of my own head. For to me children are life. They are the seeds that grow, that are growing before our very eyes. To watch them experience with wonder the washing of hands, or communion around the table, to sit with them in the garden or the silence of the cross, to lead them in song at the tomb. I was suddenly reminded that God is still very much alive and at work in the world.
Out in the garden while we were listening to the scripture of the authorities coming to take Jesus away, the authorities who would win temporarily by nailing him to a cross and sealing him in a tomb, one child refused to leave because he wanted so badly to hear the story and stay in community. And another child in a burst of excitement stomped her pink light up cowboy boots on to the stones in front of her lighting up the night with red flashes. I know their parents tried to shush them and keep them aware of the reverence of the moment and while I appreciated that, all I could think of was, “No powers of death, you might have the upper hand for this one single moment, but you will not win. When we are standing here in community with love oozing out of our very pores, when our children are learning and absorbing our faith in their very stomps and cries, when pink cowboy boots will not be contained, and the birds are still singing loud and proud all through the garden, do your worst death because you cannot win.” God has not and will not ever abandon us. That night I found proof of that in the people and children around me, in the rituals of our faith, in a baby’s babble, in washing small hands decorated with pink nail polish, in voices and instruments raised in song, in boot stomps on garden stones, in scripture read with reverence and hope, in the assurance that spring is on its way. That night I saw seeds of resurrection begin to germinate.
It is Easter. And we might weep or worry for our world and for ourselves, but be assured, weeping is not the end of our story. Resurrection is. Injustice and despair are not the end of the story. Resurrection is. Disease and poverty are not the end of the story. Resurrection is. Violence and structural inequality are not the end of the story. Resurrection is. Isolation and fear are not the end of the story. Resurrection is. For we might be buried in an avalanche but we are the seeds of life and love that God planted and Jesus nurtures and we are growing out of control with a message of peace and joy for the whole world. They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds. He is risen. He is risen indeed. And so are we. Amen.