It is Easter. Last year I wrote a reflection on Holy Week, and decided I wanted to write something this week. The thoughts for this reflection come from the topics that will be discussed today in the Sunday School class I’m leading on the Social Principles of the Methodist Church.
John 20: 10-15 — Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
You see He died day before yesterday. We placed him in a snug comfortable tomb. We put him where we could find him.
Mary was in deep grief and loss. Her future hopes were dashed. Her emotions were raw. Like the other follower’s of Jesus, she was scared and uncertain about the future.
She went to find the remains of her Lord to care for Him as He had cared for her. She knew it was over when He had been pulled from the garden and taken from judge to judge, handled by hateful hands and discarded as just another expendable religious fanatic.
And on this morning of all mornings Mary needed Him to be where He was supposed to be. Where was He? Who took Him, and how could she get him back? Could it be that her need to find Jesus where she left Him hindered her from seeing where He was?
Can our need to keep Jesus where we need him blind us to where Jesus is moving today? Can our need to confine Jesus keep us from participating in the real power of his resurrection? Do we waste our time by looking in a graveyard for a living, dancing, glorified Jesus?
Now let’s not think little of Mary. She represents many that are loyal, vigilant, and faithful to attending a graveyard where Jesus used to be and asking, “Where have they taken him?”
Someone said, “We’ve got Him. He’s over here behind stained glass and in the vaulted ceilings of mighty Gothic cathedrals. He flies in buttresses. He resides in shrines and holy places, in relics and shrouds. He whispers a lot.
“No, we’ve got him!”
Jesus is walking among things political and national. Jesus is the man. Proposition J. He is a plank on our platform. We put him back on the Supreme Court! He is on the banner that goes before us in war…He supports preemptive strikes! He is here with us on the right. We sealed Him up in our positions, our rallies and our mass mailings. We’ve got him, we’ve dressed Him up in prejudice. Made Him hate the poor, the immigrant, and Mickey Mouse. He speaks very little…we talk for Him.?
And I hear a voice from the left, “We really do have Jesus, but we’ve stripped Him of most of His power, His glory and His mystery. We made Jesus another great teacher, you know like Ghandi, or Martin, or Nelson. We made Jesus more manageable. We’ve got Him under control.
It did not dawn on Mary that nobody took Jesus. She did not realize Jesus got up and got out of there Himself. The living Christ does not dwell long where death is the lifestyle. She didn’t know that Jesus had come forth to usher in a new and living way.
Mary couldn’t imagine the full scope of his power and influence, that He could steal victory from his own death-that death had been turned into life.
There are those of us who would prefer a dead Christ in His place to a living one outside of our control. There are those who can only recognize Christ in certain forms and under certain circumstances.
Imagine the struggle for some quiet Protestant church folks watching some African American folks dancing in the spirit well into the night. I?m sure someone felt to ask the question, “How dare these people try to claim my Jesus?”
Or the group of patriarchal religious folks watching a group of gay and lesbian men and women limited rejoicing in the Lord in perfect freedom. I can see one of them shaking his head and saying, “What have they done with our Jesus?”
Can we hold him in our religions? Can we keep Jesus in the church? Can we even confine him to Christianity? Into what sect, denomination or order has Jesus crowded all the riches of heaven? Into which race, ethnicity, country, culture, gender or orientation has Jesus poured out all of himself exclusively? To whom has he given all the truth so that we may cease to seek him daily?
He’s up now, out of the confines of the tomb; He’s out now and He will not be held exclusively, by anyone. Just about the time we feel we have Jesus down to a science we see the wonder of His ability to show up in people and in places we never would have guessed possible.
Marginalized people often feel alienated from God because they/we are alienated from religion. We can’t do this or that because too many people are against us?; but the battle is already won?that is why the folk who oppose inclusion are so mad, and desperate. They know it too.
The first shot was fired in the 22nd Chapter of the Book of Matthew. Jesus was challenged by the Pharisee?s to define the Greatest Commandment. In verse 34 he responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” 38 “This is the first and greatest commandment.” Jesus didn?t stop there. Without missing a beat he went on to say in verse 39, “And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
In verse 40, just to be sure the dense Pharisees of that time (and maybe for some people of today) got the message, Jesus goes on to say, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
On Easter Sunday, when Jesus wasn’t “taken” from the tomb, but left it; the battle was won. Love and acceptance and inclusion carried the day, as Jesus left to be with us all.