Rev. Katherine Todd
For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain,
or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—
and their descendants as well.
Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,
says the Lord.
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”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
This is a wild story. It’s the kind of story that makes one wonder if the teller of the tale has gotten any sleep, whether or not they’re delirious, whether they’re high, or just how connected they are to reality. That is why the presence of these other believers at the scene is so critical. What Mary Magdalene experiences is astonishing. It is inconceivable.
She goes from the worst kind of grief; …to anger and sadness that Jesus’ body appears to have been removed; …to surprise, disbelief, relief, and joy to find the Teacher speaking with her. And this is the kind of radical joy that changes everything. It’s the kind of surprise that reminds you you do not know everything but that there is infinitely more to life than you can perceive. It’s the kind of wonderment that squarely reminds you that God is God and you are not.
Can you imagine?
How many of you have been in mourning?
How many of you are there now?
How many of you have witnessed atrocity?
How many of you have listened to stories that make your heart feel like it will burst?
Who among you has witnessed the deep darkness in human hearts, both in yours and in others’?
For everyone who has despaired.
For everyone who has felt fear and isolation.
For everyone who has witnessed loss of life.
For everyone who has seen fear lay waste to what was vibrant.
For everyone who has watched as the innocent suffer.
For everyone who have listened as evil and sin claim the day…
This resurrection is for you.
For there is infinitely more to life than we could ever perceive.
And the smallest light will pierce the blackest night.
There is more to life, and there is more to death, than we can conceive.
But if we trust the Maker of the stars
…the Author of the love that glimmers in eyes of our beloved ones
…the Creator of the Sun that energizes us by day and soothes us reflecting off the moon at night.
If we trust the Maker of earthworm who breaks down matter to make earth and till the soil
If we trust the One who made the ground that filters our water making it pure again
…the One who makes the land bring forth good food to nourish and sustain…
THIS One makes good things out of the dust.
THIS One summons life after death.
THIS One is ever remaking the world that we destroy.
THIS One is ever reaching out to hearts who have turned away.
THIS One is ever inviting hearts to repay evil with good.
This One is ever working ALL things for good.
While in Israel, we got to speak with many different people, some famous, some simple and unknown. One of these folks was an unassuming, quiet gentleman named Yuval Roth. A Jewish man living in Israel, he lost his brother one day in ’93 when a group of extremists picked him to give him a ride, while posing as Orthodox Jews. Yuval would never see his brother again.
And after such tragedy and loss, one can imagine a multitude of ways his story could have gone. But at some point, he was compelled to help his Palestinian neighbor reach medical treatment in Israel. And this started a movement. He continued assisting Palestinians in crossing the borders to access life-saving medical treatment. And others began joining him such that now it consists of thousands of Israeli volunteers who, just last year, provided over 10,000 rides to over 20,000 Palestinian patients, most of them children.
He received a text from one of the Palestinian men he helped. It read, “You saved me two times. The first time from cancer. The second time from extreme hate.”
Our God is the author of new beginnings, over and over and over again.
Jesus Christ modeled for us a forgiveness beyond anything we’d ever witnessed.
And our God, in Jesus Christ, has shown us just how far God’s love extends.
It is inconceivable, uncontainable….
Our God is not just out for the good and the righteous. Our God came for the lost and those in deepest darkness.
So when you are tempted to believe there is no hope
-that evil has destroyed all you love
-that injustice has stolen your future and your joy
-that these dry, dry bones can no longer live…
REMEMBER, that the smallest light pierces the deepest darkness.
Jesus rose from the dead and is alive in you and in me.
God is still working miracles – making goodness from evil, calling life out of death.
And you, dear ones, are shining in the light and love of the Lord.
Remain steadfast in hope.
For this is the GOD we serve!!