“Easter Hope”

John 20:1-18

Easter Sunday

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb . . .  And Jesus said to her, “Mary!” And Mary said to Jesus, “Rabbi!”  And Jesus said to Mary, “Do not hold on to me,” making Mary the first, but not the last, to try to hold on to the risen Lord.

We have two thousand years invested in holding on to the risen Lord; turning the unspeakable wonder of the resurrection into a doctrine of the Christian religion, and making the right belief in that doctrine a prerequisite for becoming a Christian and going to heaven, which is the ultimate holding on to the risen Lord.

Which is understandable.  When we get to heaven, we may all discover that all the world’s religions, as important as they are, were interim arrangements, and that our faith traditions were never God’s eternal divisions.  But, we’re not there yet, so it’s understandable that we would want to try to hold on to the risen Lord, as though the risen Lord belonged to us.

But, it won’t always be that way.  In the book of Revelation, John’s vision of eternity is that the ultimate and eternal Hallelujah Chorus will be sung by every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and even in the sea; aardvarks to Anglicans, manatees to Methodists, a brief and beautiful glimpse of the way it will be over on the Other Side.

Which is why I believe that, once we get over on the Other Side, we will discover that while, in our eyes, the cross was always a uniquely Christian symbol and the resurrection a uniquely Christian hope, in the eyes of God, the crucifixion and resurrection, like the creation, have always belonged to the whole human family the same; God, in the crucifixion, entering into all the suffering and sorrow, pain and death of all people of every time and place, and, God, in the resurrection, prevailing over all that pain and suffering, sorrow and death, for all people of every time and place.

That is the ultimate Easter hope; the hope of the resurrection, the hope and comfort which came to Mary at her most broken moment on that resurrection morning, and which comes, to us, in our most broken places, on this resurrection morning; the risen Lord, calling us by name, giving us the strength to go through the worst we must face, with the sure and certain hope that the God who is with us and for us is the God who, in the words of Carlyle Marney, can take what looks like the end of everything good, and turn it into the edge of something new.

Which is exactly what God did on that first resurrection morning.  When Jesus’ body was removed from the cross and placed in the tomb, it looked as though everything was over.  But, then, when God raised Jesus from the grave, God took what looked like the end of everything good and turned it into the edge of all things new.

And, ever since, we have been living on the leftovers of that one great, sunrise surprise; finding, in the resurrection of Jesus, the hope that keeps us always leaving room in the room for God, even in the hardest and worst of life, because we take the resurrection of Jesus to be a sign of the way God is; relentlessly taking what looks like the end of everything good, and turning it into the edge of something new.

That is the hope of Easter.  And, while I cannot speak for you, I can tell you that, in my experience, the deeper we go into that hope, the wider we go with that hope until, eventually, we no longer have any need to hold on to the risen Lord; content, instead to know that the risen Lord is holding on to us.

(And knowing that, even if we tried to hold on to the risen Lord, we couldn’t.  In fact, as recently as two days ago, Friday afternoon, to be exact, others tried to nail Jesus down, but, with no success, thanks be to God.)