Today’s text is from John 20:1-18.
For the first time since 1956, Easter falls on April Fool’s Day. Of the two major church holidays – Easter and Christmas – Easter is the only one without a fixed date. Each year its date is determined with an oddly complicated algorithm – but to put it simply, Easter falls on the first Sunday following the full moon that follows the northern spring equinox.
So, this year, spring began on March 20th, the next full moon occurred yesterday, and today is the first Sunday that follows that full moon – and that’s how Easter is dated year after year – falling somewhere between March 22 and April 25.
And so, each year, we wonder if Easter will be early or late, or just somewhere in the middle. We wonder if there will still be snow on the ground or if the trees will be budding. We wonder if travel plans, family gatherings, and cooked meals will have to endure the last grip of winter or enjoy the early fruits of spring.
Easter is the day we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead. It’s a moveable date that becomes fixed each year: April 1st, 2018. Easter Sunday. Just like December 25th was Christmas. January 1st was New Year’s. February 14th was Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day. March 29th was Maundy Thursday. March 30th was Good Friday.
They’re all just singular dates on the calendar. But today’s different. And not because Easter’s date isn’t actually fixed on our calendars. But instead because Easter isn’t a one-time event. So, perhaps it’s fitting that Easter doesn’t have a dedicated, fixed day in our collective memories. Perhaps it’s fitting that every year we have to ask and wonder when this day will happen: Because in all reality, it’s always happening.
In our text for this morning we begin with an odd narrative about a footrace to the tomb – something we only see here in John’s Gospel. But after this track meet to the tomb finishes, after Peter and the disciple Jesus loved have seen what they need to see and head back home – we’re left with Mary Magdalene alone at the empty tomb.
Alone with apparent strangers. Strangers she has no memory of, strangers she doesn’t recognize, strangers who hold conversations with her until one, single word changes Mary’s perspective: Her name.
Now, it’s certainly an odd way to answer someone’s question – Mary’s asking this individual at the tomb where they’ve taken Jesus’ body because she’s desperate to make sure it’s put back in its proper resting place.
But instead identifying himself, instead of Jesus responding with, “It’s me, Jesus,” instead of actually answering her question, Jesus simply calls her by name. Mary.
And that changes everything. Jesus is made known, Jesus can finally be seen, when that relationship is made, when that friendship is realized. Jesus calls you by name this day as well. Jesus calls you by name, enters into relationship with you, becomes both Lord and friend, and then points toward the world around you.
Because the story doesn’t end here for Mary. The day of Easter isn’t finished once this moment at the tomb is done. This day, this event, this moment, this resurrected life is a daily life and reality that we live into and that we help make.
That through and in Jesus Christ you have the challenge and the calling to move out into the world proclaiming that death is not the end. That oppression and suffering do not have to be daily realities. That senseless violence and pain aren’t the way things have to be.
That the walls of separation from God and one another are built when we claim this Easter hope of resurrection to be a far off hope and dream. That we, like Mary, are called to do more than stand in awe at the resurrected Jesus at the tomb. We, like Mary, are called to continue this resurrected life in the world. We are called to continue bringing about new life where there was once death, peace where there was once violence, healing where there was once pain, love where there was once hate.
Easter is more than the story that we heard this morning and it’s more than a far off hope of resurrection and eternal peace. It is a daily reality that we are called to bring about and live into as disciples of Jesus Christ.
For this day Jesus calls you by name, calls you friend, loves you with a love that went to the cross and grave so that you have abundant and new life. And now it is an abundance of new life you are called to share with the world every day.
For the Easter story does not end here. Through the Holy Spirit, you are empowered to follow in Mary’s footsteps in proclaiming and bringing about the good news of new life in Jesus.
Because the Easter story does not end here. It is only the beginning.