April 21, 2019
“Midwifing the Resurrection”
Once again, welcome to all of you on this Easter Sunday. There is a wonderful old Yiddish Proverb that says: “Before you begin speaking say a few words.” And the few words I would like to say before I share a few thoughts on the readings and the Resurrection is this: I invite each of you to bring to the table of Eucharist today wherever and whatever in you that needs Resurrection. What darkness, or brokenness, or pain or suffering, or confusion or illness or death in you needs New Life…..needs Resurrection and light? New Life is always possible. This is partly what our Easter celebration is about today.
So…..that being said……I wish all of you a blessed Easter Sunday! I have always loved the Eastern Christian Orthodox greeting on Easter Sunday: “He is Risen.” And the response is: “He is Risen, indeed!”
Today we celebrate the bedrock of our Christian Tradition—the Resurrection of Jesus. And what a story we hear in the Gospel of St. John. So complex….yet so human. I wonder what it would have been like to have been there?
In the story, we see Mary Magdalene getting up early to go to the tomb. Peter and the other disciple racing and stumbling over each other to get to the empty tomb. Humorously enough, one of the Fathers of the early church says that the other disciple beat Peter to the tomb because Peter was a married man. I’m not sure what that says about marriage? We see that one disciple looks and believes and the other does not. We see Mary hanging around….learning the art of hanging around…..and weeping. Such love, it seems, that Mary had for Jesus. We see two angels…..and Mary sees Jesus but thinks he is the gardener. We hear the powerful and very intimate exchange of love and recognition between Jesus and Mary…..both calling each other by name. We hear Jesus instructing Mary not to cling to him. We see Mary running back to the disciples and announcing and insisting that she has seen Jesus. And we come to understand the Mary Magdalene is the very First Messenger of the Resurrection.
What are we to make of all of this here and now in our time?
I have two insights that I would like to share this morning: One has to do with Meaning and the other has to do with Response. What can this story of the Resurrection mean for us what is our response to the Resurrection?
The Resurrection of Jesus can have so many meanings for us. For me, the Resurrection is like an explosion of Goodness, Light and Wisdom that bursts forth from Death, Darkness, and the Chaos of the World. And it cannot be held back. Meister Eckhardt, the great spiritual writer and mystic says it well: “God is like an Underground River that no one can stop.”
Easter is like this for me. Out of death and chaos comes new life. Always and everywhere Evil is shamed and God triumphs! Jesus is Victor over the Powers of Domination of the world. We can believe whatever we want about the facts and historicity of the Resurrection, but the important question is: “What does it mean?”
Easter and Resurrection are about Waking UP! Whatever really happened on Easter Sunday morning we can discuss and theologize about forever….but what is most important is that the Christ-Spirit is really and truly alive and well and continuing to energize our lives. Resurrection says to me that there is always Something Loving afoot in the Universe beyond woundedness, betrayal, injustice and death. Resurrection means that God has the Last Word……that Love is stronger than Hate, that Laughter and Joy conquer depression and darkness, that Justice will ultimately prevail, and that the Cosmos and the Universe spiral upward in Goodness…..as Teilhard de Chardin proclaims. Resurrection keeps us open to surprise—-to newness and freshness in our lives. Resurrection says that every crucifixion of the world and creation can be healed and made whole.
Recently I saw an example of this on the PBS News Hour. There was a story about two churches holding a communion service and the border wall south of San Diego……and the story showed powerful images of church members handing pieces of Eucharistic bread and wine between the wire and steel poles to refugees and immigrants seeking asylum. It brought tears to my eyes. Such a powerful image of Hope and Justice in the face of pain and darkness.
John Shea, an American theologian and poet says this about the Resurrection: “What the Resurrection teaches us is not how to live, but how live again and again and again……over and over again!”
The challenge of the Resurrection and Easter is to trust that the Resurrection Works! And that we are called to Resurrect Daily. We can trust that in the Risen Christ, the Symphonies of our lives become complete. The Resurrection of Jesus promised that things can always be new again. God never gives up on us. We can re-virginize, regain lost innocence and move beyond darkness.
A few years ago I read of someone receiving an Easter Card which says: “May you leave behind you a string of empty tombs!” Easter invites us to leave behind us a string of empty tombs…..to let our hopes and dreams be so resurrected that, like Christ, our lives will radiate Truth and Joy!
This, at least, is a bit of what Easter means for me. I wonder what Easter and Resurrection mean for you? I wonder what needs Resurrection in you and I right this day?
My second insight on this Easter Sunday pertains to our Response to the Resurrection of Jesus? How do we respond? This past week I received a rather rather humorous, somewhat sarcastic, yet very truthful cartoon from a friend regarding the aftermath of the Resurrection. The cartoon shows a picture of an empty tomb with 3 women on one side of the tomb, and about 15 men on the other side of the tomb. And the caption has one of the men saying to the women: “So Ladies……..thanks for being the first ones to witness the Resurrection. And we’ll take it from here.” I laughed……but the cartoon had a bite to it.
Ouch…..ouch for us men. But….historically very true. The women were the first witness of the Resurrection and then the males took over. I’m not trying to start a gender way on Easter Sunday……but it is most significant that women…..especially Mary Magdalene….were the first witnesses of the Resurrection.
It seems to me that Mary Magdalene is so significant in this Easter Story. Mary goes to the tomb early. Mary runs back to tell Peter and the others. Mary stays at the tomb weeping. Mary hangs around long enough to engage in a loving tender conversation with Jesus. Mary runs back to the Disciples and says she has seen the Risen Jesus! Where would the Resurrection Story be without Mary Magdalene? Mary is the first messenger of the Resurrection, yet sadly, has been much maligned down thru history.
Ronald Rolheiser, in his significant book, “The Passion & The Cross,” honors the significant role Mary and the other women disciples play in the Resurrection Story. And he provides a powerful feminine image to guide us in responding to the Resurrection. Rolheiser suggests that the women in the Resurrection Story……thru their strength, their tenacity, their presence, their love……are like “Midwives of the Resurrection.” I love this image. Midwives help in the birthing process. Midwives encourage, help with breathing, gently affirm, and never run away when the pain of birthing soars. Midwives are the instruments of new life. Rolheiser says that Something New is being born in the Resurrection and the women are Midwives of Hope and Trust. He writes that the women of the Easter Story model for all of us the role we can play in Midwifing the Resurrection in our daily lives—being people of strength, tenacity, insight, love and trust….midwifing the reality that ultimately, in the end, God triumphs and the Universe rights itself.
Mary Magdalene, was certainly a courageous and deeply loving “Midwife of the Resurrection.” May we be so.
I close with two wisdom quotes that might touch our hearts this day. The first from lesser known theologian and spiritual writer of the 11th century, Hugo of St. Victor, who wrote somewhere:
“LOVE IS THE EYE”
When we see with Love, we see straight and clear—-we see with depth and meaning. Without the Eye of Love we’re blind to the Resurrection. With the Eye of Love—-we see Resurrection Everywhere.
And the wisdom of St. Benedict who said centuries ago:
“SAY ALLELUIA – NO MATTER THE TIME OF DAY NO MATTER THE SEASON OF LIFE!
May it be so!