Saturday, April 15, 2017

I Feel the Wind of God Today: Reflections on John 20.1-18 (RCL Easter A, 16 April 2017)

I Feel the Wind of God Today
Reflections on John 20.1-18

RCL Easter A
16 April 2017

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church

                  20.1 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.  2 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.”  3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.  4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.  6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.  8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

                  11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 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.  13 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.”  14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  15 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.”  16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!”  She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).  17 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.’”  18 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.

            I spent the summer of 1980 in Fort Wayne, Indiana as the seminarian intern at Trinity Episcopal Church.  Throughout my time at Trinity parishioners went out of their way to include me in their family social events.  I think that some folks felt sad that I was spending my summer holiday, my last real summer holiday before graduation and ordination, hard at work in their parish.

            One such occasion has remained with me these past thirty-six years.  Fort Wayne has a number of large lakes and many parishioners had summer homes on their shores.  One family invited me to come to a family barbeque.  What I did not know is that this family were keen sailors and had a large sailboat moored on their wharf.  Shortly after I arrived, I was asked if I wanted to sail around the lake.  And off we went.

            There was a good wind on the lake that day.  I spent more than an hour sitting forward at the bow as we sailed around the lake.  We sped back and forth, the wind coming from different angles as we tacked back and forth.  The cool spray was a wonderful antidote to the heat and humidity of a Indiana summer day.  I loved every moment we were one the water.  We never used the engine; all was achieved through the power of the wind and the skill of our skipper.  It was magic.

            Wind is a remarkable phenomenon of nature.  Changes in atmospheric pressure cause the molecules that make up our atmosphere to move vertically and horizontally.  We feel the movement on our skins; we see the movement in the trees and clouds; we hear the movement in the trees.  I love to take Seren for walks on windy days; there is no more beautiful sight, to me at least, than a Sheltie whose fur is being blown by the wind, waves of movement like wheat in a field.

            But we never really see the wind; we only observe its effects on the world around us.  Despite not seeing the wind, we do not doubt its existence, especially when wind manifests itself in its more destructive forms.

            No one saw God raise Jesus from the tomb on that first Easter morning.  The earliest stories of that morning, written some twenty-five to forty years after the event, tell us that the tomb was empty.  Women had visions of heavenly beings who told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead.  At various times that day and in the days that followed both men and women had encounters with the risen Jesus whom they recognized despite something being different about him.  He entered the rooms where they gathered.  He spoke to them.  He ate fish barbequed on a lake side.  He allowed them to touch him. 

            But did it happen?  This is a question that I am often asked by people of faith and people seeking faith.  How do I know that the stories of the resurrection are true?  And from time to time I have answered their questions with one of my own, ‘Do you believe in the wind?’

            I believe in the resurrection because shortly after the news broke out that Jesus had been raised from the dead, the Jewish and Roman authorities began to conjure up ‘alternative facts’ to explain the empty tomb and their failure to produce the body.  A wind that shakes empires had begun to blow and the powerful sought shelter.

            I believe in the resurrection because shortly after the news broke out that Jesus had been raised from the dead, a small community of women and men from the fringes of Jewish society moved out into the world to share the story.  They were belittled and ostracized, they were arrested and tortured, but they continued to tell the story and to live the life Jesus had shown them how to live.  A wind that changes lives had begun to blow and many people unfurled the sails of their souls and sailed into the future.

            I believe in the resurrection because the good news of God in Christ still shakes up those who wish to claim supremacy over the human heart and soul and body.  Religious fundamentalists, whether Christian or non-Christian, cannot accept the freedom that the resurrection brings to our world.  Despite their most oppressive measures, not just in far-away places but even here in North America, these powers cannot stop the wind that promises freedom for all God’s children, gay and straight, male and female, old and young, rich and poor, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, recent immigrant and old-time settler.

            I believe in the resurrection because the good news of God in Christ continues to be embodied in the extraordinary choices that ordinary people like you and I make so that our neighbours know that ‘goodness is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death’ (Desmond Tutu).

            The wind of the resurrection has been blowing steadily since that morning two thousand years ago when Mary Magdalene first saw the empty tomb and went to fetch Peter and John.  In every generation since then women and men have felt that wind stir their souls and empower them to do ‘more than [they] could ask or imagine’.  ‘Things that were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new’ despite the opposition of those whose power is threatened by new life made known to us and in us through the resurrection.

            Let us unfurl our sails.  The wind of God is blowing as strong today as it did all those centuries ago.  If we listen carefully, we can hear that wind whispering to us, ‘Go to your sisters and brothers.  Share with them the good news.  Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.  Alleluia.’


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