The story we remember this morning starts with an exhausted woman getting out of bed. She has had a horrible few days. A man she loved, a man who made her feel lovable, has been killed. Not only killed, but captured by the government, condemned as a traitor, tortured and executed. She cannot voice her love for him. There are only a handful of people who would understand, and they are all in hiding. She has endured another night in the silo of sleeplessness, so she surrenders to the light seeping into her room, and rises. She has a long walk ahead of her. She would like to forget about the days before, to hide and pretend that her life can go back to normal. She does not give into these thoughts. She rises. She has a task that demands her focus. It has been three days and she has important work that no one else will do: anointing his body to drive away the stench of death. She picks up the spices that emptied her savings, and sets out. It feels good to be up and out, to be moving, to let her feet carry her down the dusty road. As she nears the tomb, she is surprised to see that the stone has been rolled away. Perhaps someone else has come to tend to Jesus’ body. She steps around the rock and peeks in to the darkened tomb. There is no body. She reels and before she knows what is happening, she is running. She bangs on the door; the disciples finally muster enough trust to let her in. She stumbles over the words, “They have taken the Lord and we don’t know where they have laid him.” She is running again, the disciples are searching, and then she is alone once more. Now the tears come, an oasis in a place of death. Tears mix with dust to form a paste in her eyes. She blinks repeatedly, trying to clear the haze, and she sees a blaze of white. The light coalesces into two beings who sit where Jesus had been laid. She hears one voice: “Woman, why are you weeping?” The words come quickly, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
That is the story that has brought us here today. We gather on the most important day of the Christian year. I hope you feel uplifted by the beauty of the day and the joy of the worship. It is a morning that we love and look forward to each year. After Jeremy holds the last chord, it will be time to head back out to the rest of your day. When you leave here, you may go to Hannaford for the second Fellowship hour. On the way, a car might cut you off. When you pull into the lot, someone may scoot into a parking place as you approach. A familiar feeling of annoyance might begin to build. Less than charitable thoughts may begin to intrude. Why does he drive such a dirty old car? Obviously, he doesn’t care about anyone or anything. Inside the store, you may hear a child screaming. You look up to see the child demand a bag of jelly beans and the parents throw up their hands and walk away. Quick judgment may rush to mind and start a train of thoughts about their lack of discipline and the way children should be taught to behave. If you choose to give in to these thoughts, it’s not terrible. All of us do. Thinking this way is so easy and automatic that it doesn’t seem to be a choice. It’s the mind on auto-pilot. When we rush through life busy and stressed we have a hard time getting out of our own heads. We give into the default setting that places us at the center of the world. From this vantage point, anything that gets in the way of meeting our immediate needs is annoying at best and threatening at worst.
Of course, we don’t have to be irritated by the people in these situations. There are other ways to think. Perhaps the car that cut you off is driven by a person who is in a hurry to get to the emergency room. The driver of the car at Hannaford may be rushing to pick up formula for a wailing baby. Maybe you have it backwards: you might be the one getting in his way. The parents of the child who grabbed for jelly beans may know that she has eaten fistfuls already. They could be holding the line by refusing to engage with this behavior. When you stop and look around, you realize that everyone is dealing with their own problems. They might have a harder life than you. The default setting is not the only one. You can choose how you will perceive a situation. You can select the scroll of thoughts that runs in your mind. You can make a choice about how you will see. In the words of David Foster Wallace: “. . . if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, [miserable shopping] consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.”
When Mary arrived at the tomb and found it empty, her initial thought was, “where have they taken my Lord?” Right after she asked the messengers this question, she turned around and was startled to find a man standing behind her. Her mind drew shuffled through the familiar and landed on the thought that he must be the gardener. She said “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” The man spoke her name: “Mary!” Then she began to see. She saw that the man was Jesus. The default setting was cleared. Her frame of reference changed. The ordinary became extraordinary. The territory of unimaginable hope opened in front of her eyes.
When you leave here, you will have a choice about how you will see. Most of the time you will see with ordinary eyes. You will look upon a familiar world with a standard setting that is narrowly focused on your immediate needs. At times, you will make a conscious choice to widen the frame, to broaden your outlook and see from different perspectives. That is a wonderful skill to cultivate. It will give you greater freedom for the forces that drag our days into tedium and make us, in David Foster Wallace’s words “uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.” However, on this day of resurrection, God gives you a gift that is far better than you are able to choose. In Jesus Christ, God acts to expand the frame far beyond what you could ask or imagine. With resurrection eyes, you may look at a gardener and see Christ. With resurrection eyes, you may begin to see this ordinary world as “sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars.” With resurrection eyes, you may see the new heavens and new earth that God is creating. Where is my Lord? He is right before your eyes. Amen.