On the Gospel reading: John 20:1-20
The Rev’d Sr. Sandra Sears CSBC
As children we were afraid of the dark. It was our parents job to coax us out of that. So they spent sleepless nights walking the floor with us, trying to persuade us that actually the darkness was a good place, a place of rest and re-creation to prepare us for the next day’s round of learning and play.
As adults we fear a different kind of dark – the darkness of death and grief and loss.
Mary found herself in just such a deep darkness at the tomb.
She came to complete the anointing of Jesus’ body, not possible after sunset on Friday or all day Saturday, being the Sabbath. So it was early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, that the little group made their way to the tomb.
But the body had gone. So not only was her close friend and Master no longer there, but she was robbed her last possible opportunity to express her love.
It would be as if any of you came here to grieve for and honour Jeanne, only to be turned away. You would probably feel devastated.
Mary is prostrate with grief. The angels in dazzling white are no help. She needs more than words that at this moment she cannot comprehend.
She thinks she sees the gardener, and pleads with him to tell her where the body is so she can complete her act of mourning.
And then something amazing happens – she hears her name being called. She recognises the one who called it by the inflection of tender love in the calling, as much as by the familiar sound of his voice.
Her darkness was flooded with light and joy. The familiar Jesus before her, but not as he had been. He had changed into something more luminous, more splendid.
She is told to go and tell the others.
Jesus’ death and resurrection is not only about life after death. It demonstrates to Mary and to us that the darkness is a place of growth into a new and fuller life. The tomb, much like the womb, is a place of nurture and growth, until the time is right to be born into new light and life.
And more than that, like any good parent, Jesus understands our fear, and journeys with us through the dark night. He never leaves us to face it alone.
Now Jeanne knew that with every fibre of her being. She had learned it through a lifetime of being with Jesus in all the darkness of little deaths she had experienced, such as her husband Bruce’s illness and death. So when the time came, she moved confidently towards the Christ who lovingly called her as he had always called her – by name – into the darkness of death and on into new life. She knew that whatever life threw at her, death could never be the final word, and that the love of Christ would prevail.
So now I think she is flexing the muscles of her new healthy body. I’m sure she has caught up with Bruce and so many of her friends, and is exploring the new and wonderful country she finds herself in.
And I bet that right at this moment she is in some corner of the garden indulging in her favourite pastime – talking the wings off an angel.
So thank you, Jeanne, for a life lived splendidly, and a death died courageously and in joyful anticipation of a new life.
And thank you for showing us the One who lovingly calls our name, takes our hand and journeys with us through our own darkness of grief and loss into new light and life.