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Where Do We Look For the Lord?

April 3, 2021

The Easter story is a very familiar story to us. In fact, it is so familiar that we can often miss the subtle nuances of the story and the ways in which the writers of Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell it. In the reading from Mark 16:1-8 Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb to do the final preparation of Jesus’s body. When they got to the grave, the large stone that had sealed the tomb had been rolled away. The grave was empty except for a young man, dressed in a white robe. He told them not to be afraid, that Jesus, who’s body they had expected to find, was not there. The man told them to take this news to Peter and the disciples, telling them that Jesus was going ahead of them to meet them. The women fled the tomb with a combination of fear and amazement.

I can’t say that I blame them for being afraid and amazed at the same time. What had begun as a question—who is going to remove the stone so that we can complete the final preparation of his body turned into an overwhelming surprise. The stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty, and some guy in white was sitting next to where the body of Jesus should have been. That was the last thing that they expected to find. In each of the stories of the resurrection, the women and the disciples went expecting to find Jesus’s brutally broken body. Instead, they found an empty tomb. It is hard for us to imagine two thousand years later what it felt like for the women and the disciples to find that empty tomb. However, there are questions that we could and should be asking ourselves on Easter Sunday. The questions for us today might be these: What do we expect to discover on Resurrection morning? Where are we looking for Jesus?

This past year has taught me an awful lot about what is incredibly important and what isn’t. I think that may have something to do with where I look for Jesus as well. When we couldn’t worship in the sanctuary or meet together in-person, I thought that was what was important. What was actually important was the fact that the fellowship was missing. Even though it was a bit weird at first, fellowship over Zoom or phone calls and Facetime helped tremendously with the sense of isolation. I know that for some people, the lost art of letter writing proved to be a way of reaching out to others. Many of my parishioners in Colorado talked about how they met weekly over Zoom with their kids and grandkids from all over the country every week! They delighted in the fact that they actually were seeing more of their family via Zoom than they had before the pandemic. 

What does this have to do with finding Jesus? Well, he isn’t confined to a building or a certain hour of a certain day each week. Worship and prayer can happen outside of a building. When the weather is decent, driveway or front porch visits provide opportunities for fellowship that are actually outside of the church hall. God is also found in Creation itself!

Thomas Merton wrote in his book New Seeds of Contemplation about finding God in creation. A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him…. The more a tree is like itself, the more it is like Him…. This particular tree will give glory to God by spreading out its roots in the earth and raising its branches into the air and the light in a way that no other tree before or after it ever did or will do…. The special clumsy beauty of this particular colt on this April day in this field under these clouds is a holiness consecrated to God by His own creative wisdom and it declares the glory of God. The pale flowers of the dogwood outside this window are saints. The little yellow flowers that nobody notices on the edge of that road are saints looking up into the face of God. This leaf has it own texture and its own pattern of veins and its own holy shape, and the bass and trout hiding in the deep pools of the river are canonized by their beauty and their strength. The lakes hidden among the hills are saints, and the sea too is a saint who praises God without interruption in her majestic dance.

The great, gashed, half-naked mountain is another of God’s saints. There is no other like him. He is alone in his own character; nothing else in the world ever did or ever will imitate God in quite the same way. That is his sanctity…. (from Chapter Five: “Things in Their Identity,” p. 29, 30, 31)

What is Merton saying? I believe that he is inviting us to see God all around us. For our purposes, I believe he is inviting us to see Jesus in the ordinariness of every day and each moment. Jesus isn’t locked in the church, the pages of the Bible or the rituals of the church. Just as Jesus wasn’t found in the tomb on Easter morning; we are called to be surprised by grace and the presence of God in the most surprising places and in the most wonderful ways. He has risen, he has risen indeed! 

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