A Thriving Spiritual Community

Annisquam Village Church Logo

Annisquam
Village Church

820 Washington St.
Gloucester, MA

Annisquam Village Church Logo

Annisquam
Village Church

820 Washington St.
Gloucester, MA

A Thriving Spiritual Community

photo of AVC sanctuary
Sermon: Easter Sermon: “Where Is The Risen Jesus?”

Easter Sermon: “Where Is The Risen Jesus?”

March 31, 2024

come-share-in-god's-joy

Where is the risen Jesus?

The passage from the Gospel of Mark we just heard tells a curious story, a story depicted (though not accurately) by our stained glass window.

Can anyone tell me who is portrayed here? (You can just shout it out…)

Actually the women in this scene, ostensibly from the passage we just heard, are Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Jose, and (Mary) Salome.  (Quite confusing! As you might imagine, Mary was the most popular women’s name at the time of Jesus. The Mary’s in the gospels often get conflated in our remembrance of them.)

In the previous chapter, Mark tells us that these three have been following Jesus since he was in Galilee.  Not only that, they ministered  to him. Now they have come to the tomb, continuing their ministry to Jesus, to anoint his body for burial, as was customary. 

When they arrive, the three Mary’s expect to find a stone blocking the entrance to the tomb. Instead, the stone has already been rolled away!

They expect to find the body of Jesus inside. Instead, there is a young man in a white robe. 

They expect to enter the silence of the tomb.  Instead, the young man has a message which answers a question they must have had on their minds: Where is Jesus?   

The man tells them: “Jesus has been raised. He is not here. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

Jesus is where?? Galilee?? How can that be?? What might the women, and we, make of this?  What is going on???

Someone had to have rolled the stone away – a stone that scholars estimate weighed 1-2 tons.  The young man certainly didn’t do it by himself.  The intimation is that God is at work.

What the three Marys discovered was so far beyond what they expected, it leaves them terrified and speechless.

Take a good look at our stained glass window.  (An image of it is also on the bulletin and in the daily email.)  

The stained glass artist may have been the renowned John LaFarge. Historical records are elusive.  So if you have any clues as to the provenance of this magnificent window, I’d love to know!

Notice that the portrayal includes an angel rather than a young man.  The angel is borrowed from Matthew’s Gospel – a story that includes not three, but two, Marys. Perhaps the artist thought the angel was a more compelling image than a young man? Impossible to know.

Now notice where the angel is pointing – the empty tomb.  

If I had been consulting with Mr. LaFarge, I would have urged him not to depict the angel pointing down.  Instead, I would have implored him to have this angel point forward – towards Galilee… Because the point of the story is NOT the empty tomb, but what the young man proclaims, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter, that he is going ahead of yout o Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

Mark’s Gospel is clear.  The tomb can not contain Jesus. Death can not contain Jesus.  No box we humans can create can contain Jesus.  If we want to see him, we must go forward… to Galilee. 

So what does this mean?  What does it mean to go to Galilee to see Jesus?

First, to see the resurrected Jesus, we must leave behind any box that says you will only see Jesus “here”, in this way, in this place.  The risen Christ can not be contained by any place, any belief, any limit we might try to put him in. 

To see the resurrected Jesus we are invited to leave behind whatever entombs us – whether toxic relationships, boundaryless work obligations, incessant scrolling, our own or others expectations of us that oppress mind, body, or spirit…  We must leave behind rigid, oppressive systems that put us, that cast us – or anyone else – down. 

More significantly,  to see the resurrected Jesus we are called to leave behind every tomb that has us locked in stagnating fear or despair. We must leave behind all that keeps us stuck thinking that when our wants or expectations are not met  that something is wrong, that grace can’t possibly be present.  

To leave the tomb is to live in such a way that our greatest shocks, disappointments, and traumas do not become THE LENS through which we see our lives or the world. It’s not that we don’t acknowledge the very real power that disappointment, suffering and death have for us. We just don’t make them the measure of our lives. Easter invites us to shift our attention away from death and into life. We will not find Jesus when we allow death in any form to dictate the narrative of our lives. 

We will not find the resurrected Jesus in any tomb. 

Second, the young man tells the three Mary’s to go to Galilee to see the resurrected Jesus. Why Galilee?

Because it was the place of Jesus’ ministry. It was the place where the disciples participated  with Jesus in his mission of teaching, healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation. 

To see the resurrected Jesus, we are called into the world, into all those places where the ministry of Jesus is active or needed.  

You will find Jesus wherever people are being raised up… Like at the Grace Center where everyone who comes in is treated with dignity; at the Open Door, where hungry people are fed; at Pathways for Children, where overwhelmed parents are supported and children are encouraged.  Raising people up is what the resurrection is ultimately about. 

The Gospel of Mark gives us an abrupt ending to the story.  It is an ending that invites our participation – for us to write the next chapter with our lives. Will we go to Galilee, will we be involved in the ministry of Jesus to the poor, to the hungry, to the sick, to the vulnerable?  

Nathan Nettleton writes, “The place you are going to find Jesus is not safely entombed in the past, but in the uncertain and unfolding present and the future. He is going ahead of you and there you will see him, just as he told you.” 

Where is the risen Jesus?  You will find him as you engage in his mission – as you love others the way he loves you.  The love of Jesus isn’t something that can be contained or put in a box.  It’s not a thing we can hold in our hands. Instead, we discover it and grow it when we do what Jesus did – when we share love by feeding the hungry, visiting the homebound and imprisoned, healing the sick, and showing up and standing up when unjust systems try to keep people down. 

Even though Mr. LaFarge’s stained glass merges the resurrection stories of Mark and Matthew, he conveys an essential truth.  Seeing Jesus in an image isn’t what’s most important in this church.  Seeing him in each other  because of how we engage in his mission is. The lens we are called to see ourselves and the world through is the lens of the risen Lord, the lens of love. Amen.