I Have Seen the LordPosted: April 20, 2014
“I Have Seen the Lord”
SLIDE 3: EXPERIENCED THE LIVING CHRIST
In all of his letters Paul never mentioned an empty tomb. Paul was absolutely convinced the resurrected Christ had confronted him on the Road to Damascus, but he never mentioned an empty tomb. And even when we read the traditional Easter stories the empty tomb is relatively unimportant. No one believed that Jesus was alive just because the body had disappeared. No in every case people became convinced of the resurrection, because they experienced the living presence of the Christ.
This morning I want to examine more closely the story of Mary Magdalene, because I believe her experience of the resurrection can help us to understand the good news of Easter for ourselves. Mary was devoted to Jesus. Many of the gospels that didn’t make it into the New Testament indicate many of the male disciples were jealous of the special relationship she shared with Jesus.
SLIDE 4: CAME TO THE GARDEN ALONE
According to our scripture this morning, at first light Mary came to the garden alone. Perhaps she was the only one with enough courage to venture out. The men were all huddled in fear hoping they would not be next in line for crucifixion. But maybe Mary was driven by love and devotion. She could not stay away. She needed to perform one last service to clean his body and make it right for burial. A final gesture of love.
SLIDE 5: EMPTY TOMB WHAT DID THAT PROVE?
It was only a short walk outside the City Wall. Then to her shock and amazement she saw the stone sealing the tomb had been removed. Trembling she ran back to the Upper Room, where she roused Peter and John from sleep. “The stone has been rolled away,” she announced. The men ran to the garden followed by Mary. Sure enough the body was gone. So what did that prove? Someone had stolen the body to desecrate it. The men left, but Mary stayed.
SLIDE 6: NO ZOMBIE JESUS
And then Jesus appeared to her, but she did not recognize him. The resurrection body is not a resuscitated corpse. This was not zombie Jesus. She even spoke with the apparition mistaking him for the gardener. Only when Jesus called her by name, did Mary recognize the risen Christ. Only then did she know that she had seen the Lord. The trigger for recognition is love.
SLIDE 7: THE TRIGGER FOR RECOGNITION IS LOVE
Later the risen Christ would appear to many more people – to Peter and the twelve. In Corinthians Paul even reported an appearance to more than 500 followers at one time. In every instance, however, Jesus appeared to people who had known him and loved him. The risen Christ did not appear to the Chief Priest, or to Pilate, or to Caesar – except for Paul, only people who had known him and loved him.
Some people have suggested that in order to see Jesus one has to believe. On the other hand Thomas certainly doubted the reports of his friends that they had seen Jesus. My guess is he doubted his own eyes when Jesus showed up at first. And in the gospel of Matthew, when the resurrected Christ appeared to a group of disciples on Mt. Tabor in Galilee, “they worshipped him, but some doubted.” The ability to perceive the resurrected Christ doesn’t seem to be linked to faith or doubt. It’s about love – the power of love.
SLIDE 8: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DIE?
What is resurrection? What is it like when we die? We do not know. I’m reminded of an Easter story. A very proper member of the congregation was presenting the children’s sermon on Easter Sunday. During her message, she asked the children if they knew what the resurrection was.
In response a little boy raised his hand, and the lady called on him. The little boy said, “I’m not sure what it is but I know that if you have a resurrection that lasts more than four hours you are supposed to call the doctor.”
SLIDE 9: PRESENCE OF LOVED ONES WHO HAVE DIED
In almost 40 years of ministry a number of people have shared with me they have experienced the presence of loved ones who had died. Often it seems to happen at night appearing at the foot of the bed, but sometimes in broad day light. On a few occasions people have reported experiencing the mysterious presence of a loved one and only minutes or hours later did they learn of their death. In one case a woman’s brother appeared to her at the foot of her bed saying, “I’m O.K. don’t worry about me,” and fifteen minutes later she received the phone call announcing her brother’s death.
SLIDE 10: LOVE IS POWERFUL
Now I know there are all kinds of explanations offered for these phenomenon. And if I had been in the room, when these appearances took place, I doubt I would have seen or heard anything. I didn’t have the connection with the person. But over the years I have learned to trust these accounts people have shared with me. Love is powerful. I think the message of these appearances even the appearances of Jesus to his followers is that love is powerful. Love is stronger than death. Our physical bodies may decay and disappear after our death, but our love still lives.
SLIDE 11: POINTS OF LIGHT
Mark Antony says in his funeral oration in Shakespeare’s, Julius Caesar, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” But don’t you believe it. Long after our ashes have been scattered or our bones are moldering in the ground, our love lives on. We are like points of light in a luminescent web of consciousness. And just because our bodies finally fail us does not mean that the light goes out. For as John says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
SLIDE 12: PEOPLE YOU LOVE
Now I understand there are many folks who doubt that anything can survive death. When we die that’s it – over, finished, kaput. And I cannot offer any physical proof otherwise. So if you want to think I am an impractical dreamer, you won’t be the first. But allow me to invite you to think about the people whom you love. And I am not inviting you to love the whole world. I want to make this easy. Like Linus I suppose we can love humanity and still have people we can’t stand. So I just want you to think about people whom you really love with whom you share a deep attachment. People to whom you are truly committed. You love them.
SLIDE 13: LOVE DOES NOT END WITH DEATH
Now allow me to ask a question. Do you believe the love you share with those people is so powerless, you can be completely and utterly cut off from them by death? Death certainly changes our relationships, but to be totally and completely cut off from love by death? I don’t think so. As Paul says of resurrection, “we are changed in a moment in a twinkling of an eye like the sound of a trumpet we are transformed,” but not cut off. For as Paul writes “I am sure, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
SLIDE 14: TRANSFORMED BY LOVE
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. So when Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength and your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus is pointing the way to new life. We can be transformed by love, because love survives even death. God is love and as we participate in that love we become bright points of light in the luminescent web of consciousness. We become part of God’s plan for the transformation of creation.
SLIDE 15: AN OMEGA POINT
As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, we are approaching an omega point, when an emerging Christ consciousness will wrap the globe in love. Sometimes that transformation of the world seems very far away. We only seem to glimpse it from afar on some days maybe even not at all. We see it as if in a mirror dimly, but we are promised that one day we will see face to face, and we will know that we have seen the Lord.
SLIDE 16: THE LIGHT SHINES FOREVER
Love is the secret of the Universe, and as with springtime new life comes from love. We do not need to fear, for fear has to do with punishment, and perfect love castes out fear. God is love. And as we contemplate our lives today, consider the power of love. Love changes things. Love transforms us. Love does not end with death. Even when our bodies die the light does not go out. For when the true light of love has been kindled in our spirits, and we are joined with God, we have seen the Lord, the light shines forever.