Don't touch me...said Jesus to Mary
Don't TOUCH ME...when every cell in her body must have been intent on flinging herself into his arms, weeping and laughing “I thought you were dead...” and weeping some more as she seeks the reassurance of his embrace.
Hugging and holding are part of love – from a human perspective at least.
But Jesus tells Mary “Noli me tangere” - don't touch me – don't hold me – let me go...and that act of loving release is surely one of the hardest that the world has known.
Letting go is so rarely easy – even when you understand exactly what lies ahead.
Mary has been used to spending time with Jesus whenever she wanted to...to listening to his stories, watching his miracles
She has come to rely on regular encounters...encounters that changed and challenged her, for sure...but encounters that fed her and encouraged her to carry on.
Now Jesus says “Don't hold on to me”
And the future looks terrifying and uncertain.
Couldn't we just put back the clock and pretend that this most gruelling of weeks had never happened?
Couldn't Jesus hug Mary, hold her close and reassure her
“It's alright. I was never really dead. It was just a horrible mistake. Let's go and find the others and comfort them too”?
Couldn't life just go back to normal?
Wouldn't that be good news enough for today?
As I try to imagine a future in ministry that involves none of you – and few of the familiar tasks that have filled my days for 10 years – I'd rather welcome a Jesus that said “It's OK. Let's just put things back as they were, forget all these uncomfortable changes and carry on where we left off....”
But it's never his way.
He always calls us to be and to do more...
It was that way for Mary – and it will be that way for each of us too.
In that moment when she was deprived of all the reassurance she craved, Mary found something new – something beyond her hopes and her expectations.
Before her stood not Jesus resuscitated...the old life put back so that he and his friends could resume their old way of being with nothing changed.
Instead EVERYTHING had changed for this was Jesus resurrected – full of a new life beyond Mary's wildest imaginings...
No, life couldn't go on as it had before. How could it?
In that meeting in the garden, Jesus demonstrated for all time that God's love is stronger than anything in creation – even stronger than death – and invited Mary to proclaim and to demonstrate that truth to everyone she met.
Mary cannot hang on to the place any more than she could hang on to the risen Christ.
Instead she is given a new task and a fresh purpose
She is the first apostle, sent to bring good news to the twelve,- an apostle to the apostles…In a world where women had little power, where their voices were generally unheard, hers is the most important message of all
I have seen the Lord.
And it's true, isn't it?
WE have seen the Lord...in so many holy moments in this church, at this quiet service...in this community where people are welcomed in his name, coming as they are, with doubts, questions, joys and wounds....
We've seen him in one another and in these most beautiful valleys where we live.
This Holy Week I've seen Him in the joy of our children and the reverent silence with which they shared “Hot Cross Bun Communion” on Good Friday, in the many small feet I washed that day and in the sheer hard work of those who turned out yesterday to make our church shine for Easter as much as in the excitement as we carried the Paschal candle into our darkened church as we began our celebration of the Resurrection.
We HAVE seen the Lord....
But we will see him in other places too, again and again, if we simply remember to open our eyes and expect him.
He caught Mary by surprise in the garden of the resurrection.
She went there without hope...but we have a sure and certain hope, the hope that we celebrate today, the hope that should fill our every moment as Easter people.
We know that love wins – and that Love's victory is the best news that we could ever hear.
Yes -that victory brings change – and it's not for us to hold on, to try to safeguard how we encounter Jesus
Resurrection means the power of Love let loose in the world...Love that 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.
Don't hold on...let go....share the wonder of resurrection joy, the good news that we have seen the Lord, today and always.