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Pastor Will's Easter Vigil reflection, "These are the generations..."



"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.


But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her." John 20:1-18


These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created…”  (Genesis 2:4)


And God said…  “bang”

Creation… Evolution… an ongoing process… deep entanglement…

Re-creation… Formation… Re-formation… reformation… Re-demption…

We use this kind of language in both our faith and in science.

We use this kind of language and thought-through words in our search to understand our universe, to understand our place and navigation in and through the universe…

and in our attaching meaning to our collective human experience.

This has been happening since humans could draw pictures and images on cave walls and communicate with symbols, sounds, words and sentences…

And so, “this IS the night” when we lift up a series of words and language and stories and witnesses from a multitude of generations…

“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth…”

We heard tonight just SOME of the assigned readings for the Easter Vigil… we did shorten it a little bit, from 12 readings to 7… (which is also a Biblical number)

These share some of the story of God’s ongoing continuity of God’s relationship and action and liberation and reconciliation and redemption between creation and God.

We heard a rich tapestry of ancient, and yet timeless, stories of experiences with the Divine.

The story begins with cosmic chaotic waters and out of that sea and void…

God creates order, purpose, life… and then creation is invited to surf with the Divine in a diversity of epic rides and unforeseen wipeouts….

We then hear of the Exodus and God’s love and desire for liberation, and interestingly, God working with water once again... parts the waters…

We then hear from Ezekiel the rattling of bones… lifeless bones… and yet because that breath and wind of God does not sit still, the bones rattle with hope and a new purpose…. Perhaps foreshadowing resurrection.

We then hear a prophet’s vision from Isaiah (interestingly this is the text of Jesus’ first sermon in Luke) voicing liberty to the captive and the release of prisoners.

Oh, and then there’s that fiery furnace in the book of Daniel… sharing with us that there is no place we can go to escape God’s reassuring and redeeming presence.

And then we hear Paul, workshopping some baptismal theology… because you can’t have life without water…. You can’t have Easter without Good Friday.

 

You see, God didn’t have a personality change with Jesus…

God’s creativity and relentless love and grace have been there from the beginning.


“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created…”

Not just with one generation but with many generations across space and time.  

The generations….  

We name generations…

The Silent Generation, The Greatest Generation, Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z…

I even have a copy of the Gen Z Bible… should I read the Easter Story from it?

Don’t worry, I won’t…

well…

Ok, just a verse or two…

“Three to five business days later Jesus hit ctrl-z for by his life he earned an uno-reverse-card and used it on death itself…”

“The women who saw him unalive in 4K went to the tomb to give his body a proper glow-down, and behold biblically accurate angels… rolled the stone back.”

Regardless of what we label a generation or self-identify as…

Those in our age group and context in history have shared experiences and language to help articulate our context and meaning for and in life. And while we are in solidarity with our own generation, we also acknowledge that each generation is connected and entangled with one another. All having impact on one another.

Every generation faces challenges and opportunities and innovations, and each generation challenges the next generation to see things differently or in a new way.

The Bible is a collection of stories, a library, of generations wrestling with, voicing, and articulating their experiences and questions with and for the Divine.  Expanding upon one another like an expanding vast universe.... and sometimes even disagreeing with each other.

But there is this continuity that binds it together.


We are a part of a vast collective family tree and ecosystem rooted and grounded in a universe where God’s wind, breath and Spirit isn’t sitting still, it’s still flowing and at work… Creating… re-creating… forming… re-forming… re-deeming


The crescendo of this Divine drama and our vigil this evening is the Easter story.

This evening, we hear the gospel/good-news from John’s Easter story.


I notice two parts to this story.


Part one has a lot of running. I get tired just reading it.

With the surprise of the stone being rolled away, rightfully so it’s hectic and frantic.

Mary runs to get Peter and the other disciple who is faster than Peter but is polite and waits for Peter to get there before that disciple goes in the tomb… and then they leave, rightfully so, out of breath and confused.

But then the story slows down… it pauses on a particular scene...

On a particular relationship.

Perhaps faith isn’t a competition or a race with winners and losers....

Perhaps it's more about relationships.

In part 2, we get Mary’s one on one time with… Alive in 4K Jesus.

And this year what stands out to me is this verse where Mary mistakes him for a “gardener.”

Creation starts in a garden… with God recklessly and generously sowing the seeds of cosmic materials and stardust around the universe akin to Jesus’ parable of the Sower…

Genesis 3 shares that humanity has a listening problem and missed the assignment of being good stewards of the garden.

On the night before his passion…

Jesus prays in a garden

He is betrayed in a garden

And then, when he breathed his last, he is sealed up in a tomb... in a garden

I love it that we began our worship service tonight in a garden, in our memorial garden, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses and generations who have gone before us.

You see, the cross is less about wrath and punishment and more about God standing in solidarity with humanity and inverting the systems and powers of this world that think violence and oppression will win.

The empty tomb is the apocalyptic revealing that death does not, and will not, have the final word in our lives.

Mary mistaking the Risen Christ as a gardener is John articulating that the Risen Christ reclaims and redeems the Cosmic Garden we are entangled with!

And like with Mary… the Cosmic and Risen Gardener… in continuity with the beginning of all things with God playing with water... in the life-giving waters of baptism the Gardener calls us by name and reclaims and redeems us and reminds us that this isn’t the end of the story.

Just at the crucifixion wasn't the end of the story, the empty tomb and the risen Christ are not the end of the story.

Our generation and the generations that follow, are entrusted with this good news that love wins… God wins.

Jesus telling Mary, “Do not touch me” is less of a scold and more of a redirect. 

Jesus saying “don’t hold on” is a commissioning and sending to…

go, and share with the others

go, and preach

go, and live this story in your own life

Take this fire that began our time this evening and let it spread

Kindle the flames love and mercy and peace

Bring warmth to the world

We too are gardeners…

And so since the story isn't over, tend to the gardens you are entrusted with...

our families, our neighborhoods, our community of faith, and our world taking care and being good stewards of creation.

Tend the gardens you are entrusted with the way Jesus tended the relationships and systems that he was entangled with.

Sow seeds of peace and grace…

Resist and prune the vines of injustice…

Love the way Jesus loves...

We are the generation called to continue the story and to be cross bearers

NOT cross builders.


We are the generations of the heavens and the earth, and the story isn't over.

In the risen Christ we are a new creation.

We are an Easter people and the Easter story lives in and through us.


AMEN

Christ is Risen Indeed!



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