Mary Magdalene – early, weeping burdened with her grief, uncaring of her safety in the streets and outskirts of the city, she walks through the town out to the place where she last saw him in the garden near his tomb. Jesus the man who healed her of her torment, who gave her back her life, who made life worth living, who made all things possible even for a woman who once been outcast as possessed by 7 demons. Walking – to the garden – to be near him one more time. Head down. Eyes swollen with tears.
What’s this – the stone is rolled away? How can this be? She runs to Peter and the other disciple – breathless - she reports what has happened. Peter and the beloved disciple run to the tomb. The unnamed disciple stops short at the edge of the cave – but Peter being Peter barrels by and into the opening. – Sure enough the body of Jesus is gone. The grave wrappings are there – the head piece neatly folded off by itself – as if the owner had sat on the side of a bed – wondering and holding and folding it before walking off.
The disciples return home – nothing more for them to see. But Mary Magdalene stays and looks again into the tomb – has this really happened? This time she sees 2 messengers (angels) sitting on the place where Jesus had been lying. Were her demons returning – was her mind going again? But no -- they speak reassuringly to her.
Now someone else is asking why she is weeping – it must be the caretaker of the garden – the gardener? Why wouldn’t she be weeping – what a question? Her whole life has come to a crashing halt – what else is there but to weep?
And yet – suddenly a word – her name, Mary. Can it be? Yes – he is here – so close – to touch? But no Jesus says do not hold on to me – do not cling to that which you knew before – I must move on into the fullness of life – beyond what you have known – to show you and the world the life that can be.
Once there was another garden – long ago when all creation was one with one another and with God – perfect union. But humans wanted more –they were restless– so they went out to explore and learn and love and live – but somewhere they became divided from God and from one another and forgot how to live in union with God and each other and the creation. They began to cling to things, possess others, use and abuse the creation and one another. Then they became fearful and anxious. Afraid there would not be enough – enough love, enough possessions, enough life. Anxious that others had more which would mean less for them.
So God came amongst us – eating and drinking and healing and laughing and weeping – Emmanuel – God with us – to show us once more that Eden is found in the breaking bread. Fear is conquered by love. Even dying is not the end. Freedom is found when our fears die. Jesus shows the way to break the bonds of the old ways that are not working for us. True freedom is discovering that death is life giving. So do not cling to your previous experience of what you always knew – prejudice, feare of scarcity, addictions to things that only work temporarily to cover the pain. Let those things die so you might have life. Allow the resurrected Christ into you midst – it is already happening – invite God in more and more – see what can happen in your life.
Embrace the fullness of life when death is no longer feared but a path to new life.
Jesus says, Do not cling to me – do not cling to any message you have heard attributed to me - that says you are less than, any message that takes away life – do not try to put God into a preconceived set of ideas -- open your eyes and see the resurrected Christ in your midst. Allow faith to grow and change. See that you are beloved of God – intended to be here in this time and this place – know that the earth would not be same without you.
Today – come to the altar – receive the body of Christ – the bread of Eden – and the blood of Christ - the wine of the Spirit – return to life filled and fed.
Things people say at the end of life. Five top regrets:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."
Easter poem by John Niehardt, 1908 (author of Black Elk Speaks)
Once more the northbound Wonder
Brings back the goose and crane,
Prophetic Sons of Thunder,
Apostles of the Rain.
In many a battling river
The broken gorges boom;
Behold, the Mighty Giver
Emerges from the tomb!
Now robins chant the story
Of how the wintry sward
Is litten with the glory
Of the Angel of the Lord.
His countenance is lightning
And still His robe is snow,
As when the dawn was brightening
Two thousand years ago.
O who can be a stranger
To what has come to pass?
The Pity of the Manger
Is mighty in the grass.
Undaunted by Decembers,
The sap is faithful yet.
The giving Earth remembers,
And only (we) forget.
This year – remember.