The Sunday of the Resurrection is not only the greatest Feast of the Church year, it is also the only one that is set by the moon.
Easter is one of what we call a moveable feast, as the date of this feast changes every year. Do you all know the formula for how we get to this date? We could just go search it out on a calendar or maybe Google it. Easter is always the first Sunday after the full moon on or after the Spring equinox. As complicated as that sounds it makes ancient sense, since it means Easter coincides with the greening of the Earth.
Christ is risen and the whole world comes to life. Sap rises in dormant trees, grass grows bright and green again, robins are busy searching out worms, hummingbirds buzz our feeders, crocuses burst forth and the daffodils put on a brilliant show. And we are blessed with the Satsop Bulb Farm nearby, exploding with more varieties and color choices than one can imagine. We delight in the rare days of blue sky and sunshine as we renew our faith in the creative power of God.
As miraculous as Spring is, it is completely natural. If you plant a dozen daffodil bulbs in the Winter, you can expect that come Spring they will escape the Earth and show their beautiful blooms.
Resurrection, on the other hand, is entirely unnatural. When a human goes into the ground, that is final. You don’t wait around for the person to reappear so you can pick up where you left off—of course not! You pay your respects and do your best to go on with your life as best as you can.
This is what Mary was doing that morning—paying her respects as was proper, going to the tomb to convince herself it was all true. It was still dark, yet she knew something was wrong. She could smell damp earth and cold stone from inside. Someone had moved the stone! His body was all she had left and now it too was gone.
So she ran and brought two others back with her, but once they had satisfied themselves that what she said was true they left her there weeping. If they tried to lead her away she would refuse. She was like an abandoned pup who had lost her master, staying rooted to the last place he had been without the least idea what to do next.
Even angels could not distract her. They were there when she finally worked up her nerve to look inside the tomb, sitting where he had lain. “Why are you weeping?” they asked her. “They have taken away my Lord,” she answered, “and I do not know where they have laid him.”
When she left the tomb she bumped into the gardener without even seeing him, but maybe he could answer her question. “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him and I will take him away.” What did she think she would do—have the gardener lay the body over her shoulders, or pick it up all by herself? It was not a reasonable request, but the gardener did not seem to mind. “Mary,” he called out to her and she turned to stare at him. “Rabboni,” she cried out. “My teacher!” “Do not hold on to me,” he cautioned her, “because I have not yet ascended to the Father.”
It was an odd thing for Jesus to say, since there is no evidence she was holding on to him in any way. Unless it was what she called him, “my teacher”, the old name she used to call him. Perhaps in her voice he could hear how she wanted him back the way he was so they could go back to the way they were, back to the old life where everything was familiar and not frightening like it was now.
“Rabboni”, she called him, but that was his Friday name and here it was Sunday, an entirely new day in an entirely new life. He was not on his way back to her and the others. He was on his way to God, and he was taking the whole world with him. This may be why all the other Gospel stories of the Resurrection tell us not to be afraid, because new life is frightening. It is unnatural to expect a sealed tomb and instead find one filled with angels, to search the past and discover the future, to seek a corpse and find the risen Lord. None of this is natural.
Death is natural, loss is natural, grief is natural. But those stories have been rolled away this happy morning to reveal the highly unnatural truth. By the light of this day, God has planted a seed of life in us that cannot be killed, and if we remember that then there is nothing we cannot do—move mountains, banish fear, love our enemies, change the world. The only thing we cannot do is hold onto Him. He has asked us not to do that, because he knows that we probably would rather keep him with us where we are than let him tahke us where he is going. Remember the other Gospels remind us not to be afraid. Perhaps we should let Him hold onto us. Perhaps we should let him take us into the loving presence of God, who is beside us always every step of the way. AMEN
Acknowledgement: Barbara Brown Taylor—who offers great stories well told.