After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’
~ James Broughton ~
(Sermons of the Big Joy)
Shake out your qualms.
Shake up your dreams.
Deepen your roots.
Extend your branches.
Trust deep water
and head for the open,
even if your vision
Quit your addiction
to sneer and complain.
Open a lookout.
Dance on a brink.
Run with your wildfire.
You are closer to glory
leaping an abyss
than upholstering a rut.
Intrepid all the way
Walk toward clarity.
At every crossroad
to bump into wonder.
Only love prevails.
En route to disaster
insist on canticles.
Lift your ineffable
out of the mundane.
Honeymoon with Big Joy!
And they thought that they had seen it all. These women had seen death before, had welcomed death when it provided release from illness and railed against it when it robbed them of joy. Even death by crucifixion wasn’t new to them. But this? The women had watched with horror as the soldiers handled Jesus roughly, lashing and nailing him to that vile cross.
They adored Jesus, each for her own sweet reason. Mary Magdalene because he had quieted the screeching inner voices, the demons that made her life a torment, the plagues of worry and obsession that fretted the life out of her soul. Mary of Bethany adored him because he treated her like a human being with a brain, like an equal, speaking to her heart and her soul with his words about God. Mary, his mother, adored him because he was her firstborn, her baby, the apple of her eye. They trusted him- had followed him out into the deep water and his “vision had shipwrecked them.”
They lit the Shabbat candles the night of his death hoping this tender act would bring some relief. But the candles had burned themselves out in a puddle of wax and the habits of holiness gave them cold comfort. There was no rest that Sabbath, as their tormented souls and shattered hearts keened throughout the night and into the day beyond it.
The women, tender and present, had followed Jesus from Galilee. They had provided for him all along the way: care, support, listening hearts, unconditional love, hot meals, money when they had it, always a belief in his mission. The women understood. They provided for him in ways the other disciples had not. But what could the women provide now but oils and ointments and spices and tears for the gentle acts of washing and anointing his body in death?
The women approached the tomb, their shoulders hunched, their limbs tired, their faces so pale they were beginning to look a little green around the gills. The lightening startled them, this time of year? And they swayed when the ground shook. But the lightening didn’t go away, resolved itself into a figure. And the tomb was empty. They were not prepared to “bump into wonder” as they stumbled over the harrowing stone which no longer blocked the door to the tomb.
And the angel said (yes, they later agreed it was an angel) the angel said: “Don’t be afraid. He’s not here, he is risen.” What? “Come. Look. Go. Tell.” And they ran. And then there he was.
“Greetings,” he said. Which roughly translated into our language was “Hey! How y’all doing?”
They came to see the tomb and saw Jesus instead. Alive. They came looking for death and “bumped into the wonder” of life.
“Go,” he said. Go tell the others to meet me in Galilee.” They just stared with their wide eyes full of wonderment. “Go!”
Go. To go is to wend your way. Going implies movement, travel, to begin motion, to become unstuck. We say go in so many ways, so many tones of voice. “On your mark set, Go!” is said with enthusiasm. Or “Go, now,” with urgency. “Go away,” is said with disdain;” “Go ahead, now, you can do it,” is said with kindness. ”Go” can be said as an order or an invitation.
We don’t hear the tone of Jesus’ voice when he tells the women to go. But the women who love him so much did as he asked. What began as a love story turns into a story of faith. And in their “going” they were propelled away from grief, fear, despair, pain, anxiety, angst, rejection, and abandonment. They were also leaving the past behind, moving away from what they had known, what had defined them, a life that had shaped them no longer existed. Souls numb with grief were being asked to move, to “shake out their qualms,” to “leap the abyss.”
Going is fraught. When Jesus commands, invites the women to go, it meant leaving something behind, to go away from one thing and toward another… it was also an invitation to go toward a promise. Compelled toward hope, presence, love, compassion, healing, forgiveness, and the vision of a new world, the women who loved Jesus do as he asks. “Go,” he said. I will be waiting for you in Galilee.”
And the astonished women move; they go toward that promise, that wherever they go, he will already be there, waiting to meet them. The women who loved Jesus turned a story of love into a story of faith. Can we do the same? Dare we go to Galilee? Dare we go out into the world looking for signs and traces that Christ is already there, that he has gone before us; that he is waiting to meet us?
As resurrection people we are called to always be about the business of looking for signs of the resurrection. Seeing hope, healing, new life, and forgiveness in places where we would expect only to find bitterness, despair, anger, and the desire for revenge.
Jesus tells his disciples that he has gone to Galilee; that he is waiting for them there. Where is Galilee? It is wherever we go and discover that Jesus has gotten there before us. We go to Galilee and look for signs- not proof- of the resurrection. We look for signs- not proof- that wherever we go in the world- Christ has already gone before us- that he is waiting for us in Galilee. We know the resurrected Christ has been there because there are signs of life, healing, forgiveness, restoration, and justice that are beyond human capacity to imagine.
Where do we find Jesus in Galilee? On Monday, at the service of remembrance of the Boston Marathon bombing, Patrick Downes, who lost a leg when a bomb ripped through the crowd, stated: "We would never wish the devastation and pain we have experienced on any of you. However, we do wish that all of you, at some point in your lives, feel as loved as we have every day of this past year." To go forward from the tragedy of that day and discover that an outpouring of love awaited was to experience the “big joy” of resurrection, to see signs of the Christ who has already been there. We’ve heard so many stories since the Boston Marathon bombing of unexpected hope and healing, of a presence that goes before us all.
Where do we find Jesus in Galilee? We find Christ in the work that Azim Kamisha does to stop kids from killing kids. In 1995 Azim’s 20-year-old son Tariq was delivering pizzas when he was shot to death by 14-year-old Tony Hicks. Tony confessed to the crime and was sentenced to prison for 25 years. Devastated by his grief over his son’s death, Azim realized that if he did not forgive, then he would remain a victim. Azim reached out to the grandfather of his son’s killer’s, Ples Felix, and together they started the Tariq Kamisha Foundation.
Azim says: “Who is the enemy here, a 14 year old boy or the society that forces a young African American boy to join a gang at the age of 11, then to prove himself to the gang, he shot and killed Tariq.” Azim and Ples go to schools and tell the story that started this work. They have spoken to over 8 million high-risk kids to teach about compassion, non-violence, and forgiveness. The unexpected work of forgiveness lived out by these two men has become a powerful sign of the resurrected Christ, which always goes before us.
Where do we find Jesus in Galilee? You tell me. We have countless stories of being surprised by joy, love, forgiveness, compassion, restoration, and much more…countless stories of being lost and then found, of being hauled up from drowning in grief, of second chances and compassion in the face of rejection…all signs of the resurrected life that changes us forever. We go to find the tomb and find life instead. We “bump into wonder.” We are astonished.
“Go,” Jesus said to the women. “Go,” Jesus says to us. “Go out into the world, where I wait for you.” The resurrected Jesus, the Risen Christ, has gone before us. We open our eyes and with gratitude and astonishment see the signs of Christ’s presence in the world: at work, on the streets, at home, in relationships, in our own heart. Go. “Be prepared to bump into wonder.” Go. AMEN.