Easter John 20: 1 -18
You know how,
when the sun softly falls across your page as you read
Or, on your face, as you wake in a day that is unclaimed by all your plans,
or when it settles on the wall in the late afternoon, making art of the shadows
When that light enters,
coming up softly beside you. as you are paying attention to another thing
and then is just there,
like a quiet gift,
lighting what was not even dark perhaps, but which you suddenly feel is qualitatively and more truly light.
When that light falls,
doesn’t the moment take a tight, tiny grip on your heart and then release it in something like gratitude, or grace, or resurrection?
As I read this text it comes to me like light falling on my page.
Almost every time I read it the quietness of its opening comes up softly beside me, in the midst of this vivid day.
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark”
Though it comes up beside me like light
in this text it is still dark as this piece of the story is told.
The sky is cobalt and the air is cool as Mary moves through it,
held together by the one thing she knows will both tighten her sadness and hold her together for another day.
Mary goes single mindedly through the almost darkness,
myrrh for the second anointing clutched in her arms.
This is the one thing she can do – the one thing now.
But all that has held her together must be threatened with unraveling
as she sees the opening in the rock cut tomb.
She must be uneasy in that place,
unsettled not only by emptiness
but by the otherness of the garden –a garden of tombs for the wealthy.
A place she doesn’t belong.
A place in which she feels, perhaps, heavy with grief and weightless with insignificance all in the same moment.
The text comes softly into us as Mary enters the garden.
Certainly there is a movement in the midst of the text that is not quiet.
There is a place where Mary runs and the two men come.
A place where they duck in and out of the tomb and see the grave cloths,
some lying flat, some neatly rolled as though by a hand had prepared with determination for what came next.
There is no voice given to what the men thought or hoped or feared.
They just come and look and go home, as though that was the end of it.
But Mary stayed.
By now perhaps it was light as she wept,
morning light, a terrible time for weeping, the time when the day begins.
Mary stays and in the midst of this shift in the cosmos,
in the midst of death cracked open by life,
in the hinge on which our lives swing open to the eternal possibility
in the midst of open aching grief,
and as yet unknown or unacknowledged joy
in a moment for which there was no ritual
she meets a man who says her name, softly, intimately
and yet for the world.
We would perhaps love to have more glory, more trumpets,
more white shining angels,
more press releases or reporters tents spread out round the garden,
an immediate eradication of all suffering and injustice,
Roman soldiers to suddenly leave the area like dissipating mist.
We would perhaps like some loud, definite marking.
But in this twist of the cosmos what we are given is a name spoken to a weeping woman.
A naming that comes softly like the light:
her name, our name, opening us to who we are now.
Something has changed for Mary.
She can no longer touch the skin of the One she loved.
But she is still held by him.
In the letting go of the way in which she once knew him
she is given the gift of his ever-living presence.
And she is given the gift of telling.
A gift that she accepts, bittersweet, as she goes to tell the others.
As we must run to tell others – softly.
Everyone in creation has a name, and anywhere the din drowns it out
we are called to pay attention
and to do, or be, the name by which we are called.
This is the root from which transformation rises.
This is what holds sustainable change.
This sermon, like the story comes softly
but it holds wrapped up in mystery all the colour and music and dance that we could ever make or see.
It holds in its soft coming simply – everything.
Softly creation changes.
Softly hope rises.
Softly our name is called.
Softly grace turns the page of our life.
And we become hallelujah.