Excerpted from the Council’s 2019 Lenten Reflection Guide for Lectionary Year C.
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 toward 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 around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” 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”
We usually think of resurrection as a spectacular, sensational event. This encounter between Mary Magdalene and Jesus shows us just how ordinary it really is. Here, before dawn, when the light plays tricks on our eyes, Mary sees Jesus. She cannot comprehend the truth before her. But when he says her name, her ears hear the truth her eyes failed to see. Jesus sends her off to tell the others what she has seen. And that is resurrection.
Mary tells the others, “I have seen the Lord.” Her proclamation is the foundation of our faith. As Mary well knows, seeing is not necessary for believing. Faith is a state of being, a suspension of our expectations in order to welcome the possibility of something new, something unexpected, something never before encountered. Something like resurrection.
How many times do we miss resurrection moments because we expected something else? We expect the spectacular when we should notice the voice of a friend. We expect the sensational when we should notice the familiar. We expect instant results when we should notice gradual improvement.
Resurrection could look like a group of people from Salisbury, NC, who form Actions in Faith and Justice to speak the truth in their community about the lynching of three African American men on August 6, 1906. They hold a service of confession and repentance at the site of the lynching and include a litany naming all those known to have been lynched in Rowan County from 1883-1930, seven total. They initiate a process to place a historical marker at this site memorializing those who were lynched. The marker will be dedicated on August 6, 2019—one hundred and three years after the fact . . . In their efforts, resurrection occurs.
Resurrection could look like a group of people from Johnson County who hear about planes from their local airport that are transporting torture victims. They launch an investigation, seek answers from politicians at the local, state, and federal level. Receiving no answers, they form a citizen’s commission and expose the truth from every angle. The commission tells the truth about the horror of what happened to some of those people, allowing the chance for confession. The group contacts some of those tortured (49 as far as they know), allowing for the possibility of forgiveness. In their efforts, resurrection occurs