Easter Sunday Sermon 2011 – review and reminder

Readings: John 21:1-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-11


Do you remember the song:  “I can see clearly now the rain has gone”

Here it is:

I can see clearly now the rain has gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s going to be a bright, bright sunshiny day

I think I can make it now the pain has gone
And all of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day

Look all around there’s nothing but blue skies
Look straight ahead nothing but blue skies

I think I can make it now the pain has gone
And all of the bad feelings have disappeared
I can see clearly now the rain has gone
It’s gonna be a bright, bright
Sunshiny day
Test time – who wrote the song? Johnny Nash. When? 1972. If you know that – you’re no spring chicken, pardon the pun.

It ages me – and many of you! It’s a song that has a melody that sticks – like many older songs there is a melody of sorts!

When thinking about Mary on Easter Sunday – this song came to mind.

It’s the seeing clearly thing that intrigues me.

Do we see things clearly? Or is our judgment and view of life confused?

I want to suggest that the resurrection is in fact the lens through which we should be seeing everything.

So back to Mary to see this – a woman who knew sin and forgiveness – and the amazing grace through which Jesus takes the most broken of us and restores us to health again – in the sense of being whole forgiven and reborn people.

It’s dark when she gets to the tomb. In John’s account anyway. Mark’s Gospel places this visit “very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen,”

I suspect that John’s reflection places this in the dark for good reason – the theme of light and darkness in his gospel is central.

But more than that – there is the darkness Mary is in. How hard it must have been for her to see the man die who had restored her to a dignified life. People who lose the plot through unhelpful choices – whose lives are burnt out and tainted by failure, or overwhelmed by darkness – who then find love or light only to lose it again – are in danger of a deeper darkness.

You only have to work with the depressed to see that – or feel it, because it’s too dark to see.

Writers have suggested that the darkness is Mary’s darkness. And the exciting thing is the way in which it lifts! Listen to her words initially:

“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

She is in mourning and doing what one would do with the dead – seeking to complete an appropriate burial with dignity. Part of the indignity of crucifixion – apart from being stripped naked – was that often people’s bodies were not buried – but left to rot or be consumed by wild animals.

It’s the body she is looking for. It’s still dark for her.

Confused and shocked, she runs to the leaders of the group – Peter and John – announcing that the body’s gone.

It’s good that two men are fetched. Mary’s testimony as a woman in those days would not have been valid – it required two men. Such was the prejudice of the day that two partially blind men would have been accepted as witnesses, I suspect, rather than one woman with 20=20 vision.

The men are not much better. They’re not seeing clearly either. John – the writer of the gospel writing about himself – says this:

Joh 20:8  Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

Joh 20:9  (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

And then they go home – a clear sign that the lights are not completely on in their minds either. Probably went home to think about it. They certainly aren’t telling people the good news at this point. There’s no proclamation like ours – THE LORD HAS RISEN! HE HAS RISEN INDEED.

Mary stays there. She looks inside the tomb – and gets much more than she bargained for. It’s a lovely thing – that she sees angels. Even though the angels don’t shift her emotions.  Joh 20:13  They ask(ed) her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

Still looking for the body. Someone’s put the body somewhere –disposed of it in an inappropriate way.

Then she sees another someone, who says.

Joh 20:15  “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she says, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Still in the dark. Mary. Until she hears the voice – the personal call of her name:

 Joh 20:16  Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She turn (s) (ed) toward him and cries (cried) out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

One can hear the words of John elsewhere in the gospel:

Jesus words:  “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice” (10:3-4).

Mary calls him “Rabboni!” Teacher!

There is recognition – that this really is the one who was dead. It doesn’t matter what the scholars say about the words – whether kyrie – translated as “Lord” or “Sir” is higher or lower than “Rabboni” – Teacher – is higher than Sir and less than Lord.

Anybody dealing with a dead person coming alive again would take time to figure out the theological implications and the title doesn’t matter.

“I have seen the Lord” is the stuff of transformation! Death is overcome. Grief is dispelled. Life is changed forever.

The resurrection is the lens by which we see the world from that day on.

And here’s the curious thing – even though our faith depends on this amazing event from the past – the resurrection means that “The present is determined by the future not the past.”

This is the power of hope. The forgiving Jesus who took Mary as one of his disciples despite her shady past gives new impetus to her future. This woman sits down and tells the men! “And she told them that he had said these things to her.”

Some people think that men have been forced to listen to women every since! It settles the idea that women should or should not speak in church, I think!

But this is Mary the messed-up one – she is now the transformed person and the credible witness.

She is given the task to tell then. And she does!

And Jesus backs up her testimony by appearing to the others too – even to Thomas who needed the tactile experience and confirmation.

The resurrection is the lens through which we see the world as Christians. If an apparent defeat and horrendous flogging and execution of an innocent man can lead to a sublime and glorious victory – and a woman like Mary can say with such certainty “I have seen the Lord”, then we need to see our brokenness and despair from this point of view as well.

The present is determined by the future!

We live in anticipation of a complete transformation of all things!

 1Co 15:21  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

1Co 15:22  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive,

says St Paul.

 1Co 15:23  But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

1Co 15:24  Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.

1Co 15:25  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

1Co 15:26  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

 I can see clearly now the rain has gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s going to be a bright, bright sunshiny day

Johnny Nash could see things better when the rain stopped and the clouds had gone.

The resurrection ends the misty rain and dark gloomy clouds of all kinds!

It makes no sense to watch 3D movies without the 3D lenses.

Once we’ve seen this – even though we have not seen the Lord like Mary – we have Jesus’ word to Thomas as a reminder:

Joh 20:29  Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

We can hear his voice! We can live lives with a completely different agenda! Because we are his agents ushering in a new order.

The Lord has Risen! He has risen indeed! Nothing but blue skies!!!

How are you doing this resurrection day?

Still in the dark? Still looking for the body? Hankering after the past?

Look to the future – and Jesus will take you into it and through it!


About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. Preaching and teaching remains a joy.. More recently I have been doing some part time voluntary prison chaplaincy.

Posted on April 3, 2012, in Archive sermons, Sunday Morning Sermons and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Reblogged this on Robin Palmer's space and commented:

    This was last year’s Easter message. I wonder if people remember anything about it! 🙂

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