Alleluia, Christ is risen!
However weary we are after a long and demanding Holy Week, it’s easy for us to wake with enthusiasm on Easter morning. We know, after all, that the Son has risen, even if the day itself dawns damp and grey.
We’re blessed with that wonderful gift, hindsight…
We know the end of the story.
We’re eager to get up, so that we can begin our celebrations.
But for Mary it was very different
She came to the tomb while it was still dark and with her heart too, surely in darkness
weighed down with the grief of Good Friday, the pain of farewell, the fear of what might befall her now He was gone.
It was still dark...and she went to the place of death knowing full well that there was no longer anything to look forward to, but drawn against all reason by the love that still makes graveyards holy ground...
And it is still dark in our world
Still dark for the couple struggling with difficult relationships that threaten to tear them apart.
Still dark for the family mourning a recent loss, their feelings of bereavement as raw as those that Mary took with her to the tomb.
Still dark for those trapped in a spiral of violence and addiction, seeing no way through.
Still dark for those whose family lives are in pieces, who cannot manage a conversation without anger, recrimination, despair.
All of these have been my companions during this most Holy Week...
All have walked the way of the cross, have staggered under its almost overwhelming weight, have doubted their ability to keep moving forward.
It was still dark
But then, while it was still dark, everything changed.
Of course, it took a while to come to terms with this, to grasp the new reality that had broken in to our world.
Mary, when she arrived at the tomb, did not linger.
Open graves make uncomfortable picnic spots and her task of mourning ritual was thwarted by the absence of the crucial body.
Of course, she made sense of the evidence of her own eyes in the only way that she could
“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb”, she told the disciples.
But the grey light of dawn was growing stronger.
When the disciples reached the tomb it was not yet clear day, but they could see a little more – though still not enough to make sense of anything.
They glimpsed hints of the amazing truth – an empty tomb, folded grave clothes - but not enough to be certain.
but the light is coming.
Mary lingers to see the sun rise, her action mirroring the words Peter once spoke to the Master, before all the heartache and suffering began
“To whom shall we go....”
Mary HAS nowhere else to go now...nobody she want to be with...no future to run towards.
So she waits, seeking peace, perhaps, but troubled by unwelcome companions, who disrupt her private mourning, and ask such cruelly stupid questions
“Why are you weeping?”….
well, why do you think? What else would I be doing….they’ve killed him, and they can’t even leave the body alone….
her vision clears, and she can see Truth standing before her in all his risen glory,and overjoyed she longs to throw herself into the arms she’d last seen open on the cross.
It is dark no longer
She knows and is fully known.
For my Holy Week companions, and for many another, it remains still dark.
Hope seems extinguished, purpose lost.
But the good news that was declared to Mary, the good news that she was instructed to share, is good news for them too.
But let's learn from Mary's experience in the dark of Easter day – which may say 3 things to us this morning.
Mary didn’t recognise Jesus at first, partly because she had no expectation of seeing him. And we often miss him, too, because we simply aren’t looking for him...but he is there, our light and our hope, though perhaps he doesn’t look right, doesn’t behave as expected, just isn’t where he ought to be and so passes unnoticed.
But he is here, nonetheless, alive in his world, in children’s laughter, in majestic sunsets but also in the places of dereliction and despair where we least expect to find him.
There, where it is still dark he is risen.
When she sees him, Mary longs to embrace him, and hold onto him forever, but he prevents her, for she has to do one last hard thing, to let him go free, to ascend to the Father so that he may be received in love by the whole world.
The costly love of Jesus always involves us in letting go, in sacrificing ourselves for others even as Jesus, supremely, sacrificed himself for us...and knowing that here too, he is risen.
What’s more, Mary cannot stay in the garden, a place transformed into somewhere beautiful for her because it is here that she has encountered the One she sought.
She can cling to the place no more than she can cling to the Risen One.
Instead, she is given a task.
She is the first apostle, sent to bring good news to the twelve,- an apostle to the apostles, if you like…In a world where women had little power, where their voices were generally unheard, she has the most important message of all
I have seen the Lord.
What better news could there be for us to share with a world that so badly needs resurrection life?
What better news for those who feel, this Easter morning, that it is still dark.
We have seen the Lord, and we are now called, like Mary, to tell others, and to so live that the resurrection is real for them also.