Easter 1B – Resurrection

John 20:1-18

Sometimes we go looking for things that should be easy to find. We trust we will find them because we know what they look like:  Our car keys. Our phones. The eggs we decorated for the Easter egg hunt.

Other things we look for are more problematic. It’s hard to trust we will find them because we are not so sure what they look like: peace, forgiveness, love. The best way to find these things, of course, is not to look for them, but to focus on doing the things that are important to us: the right things, the just things, the merciful things. The things that bring us joy and move us to wonder.

There used to be a grade school science project using paper cups, seeds and some dirt. You fill the paper cups with dirt and put seeds in the dirt. Add a little water and set the paper cups on a window sill where they will be in the sunlight. And nothing happens.  For days, nothing happens. Pretty soon everyone forgets about the paper cups.

One day someone notices that something has happened. In one paper cup, a green stem has started to curl its way out of the dirt. The next day, more of the cups have sprouted.  Soon, in that first cup, the curl breaks free of the dirt and a green plant starts growing straight up, drinking in the sun. Clearly alive.

What changed the small, dry, dead seed into a living, growing, green plant? How did that happen, and when?  How could we have not have noticed such an amazing transformation? Did it happen quietly?  Had we been sitting right there in class when it happened? Had we not noticed because we were busy with fractions and times tables? Or had it made a noise that we didn’t hear because we weren’t there. We were home doing chores, playing, eating dinner, sleeping.  It is impossible to know.

Resurrection is one of those things we hope for, even though we know very little about what it looks like or how it happens.  Mary hoped for the resurrection. Trusting there would be resurrection was a part of her religious tradition. She knew that Jesus had raised Lazarus, but now Jesus was dead. It was hard to know what that meant.

Mary hoped for the resurrection, but that morning in the garden she was busy simply doing the right thing, the just thing, the merciful thing.  She was looking for Jesus’ body, to anoint it for burial. 

She did not find Jesus’ body. She found a gardener.

We don’t know exactly when the resurrection happened.  Maybe it happened quietly. Maybe it happened when no one was there. We don’t know when it was, or how it was that Jesus’ dead body disappeared and Risen One emerged.  

We don’t know and we don’t need to know. It’s not up to us to find the resurrection.

The story of Mary and the gardener tells us that resurrection will happen whether we notice it or not. It is for us to hope and trust and then get on with doing the right things, the just things, the merciful things. The things that bring us joy and move us to wonder. The Risen One will find us.  


Photo by Alin Luna on Unsplash


Dear Readers,

I am taking a few weeks off to enjoy some spring yard work and do some reading. See you soon. Happy Easter to all!


Easter 2(C): One’s own “Risen Christ” story

creation-of-man-1159966_1920John 20:19-31

A couple of years ago I was in a small group discussion with some friends, all of us church goers. The leader opened the evening by asking us to share our experience of the Risen Christ. Wow. You want to see a room get quiet fast? Ask THAT question.  No one had a word to say, me included.

No one had ever asked me that question before. Pretty amazing. I am an ordained minister. On my way to ordination I was asked all sorts of questions.  I was asked for my “call story” over and over again. But no one; no examiner, no bishop, no parish search committee ever asked for my Risen Christ story. I’m guessing I am not alone in this.

That’s an odd state of affairs given how important we say the resurrection is.

Two thoughts.

First, let’s be broad-minded when we define resurrection for ourselves. I know there are some who insist that it means a reanimation of the body, but I don’t see that in scripture. The biblical “Risen Christ” stories vary widely — from empty tomb to folded linens to angels to gardeners to people cooking on the beach to strangers walking down the road.  And then there’s Paul’s “Risen Christ” story. The variety of biblical resurrection experiences suggests that “resurrection” is less about what happened to Jesus’s body and more about something that has happened to us.

Second, our experience of the Risen Christ does not need to look like anyone else’s. Not like Mary’s or the disciples, or Thomas’ or Paul’s or some popular preacher or some famous theologian.  In fact, our Risen Christ story should NOT look like any one else’s. It comes out of our own lives. Mine came in an AA meeting.  Not everyone needs to go there!

Our story needs to come out of our experience and our lives. As one homilist Amy B. Hunter  said, “Mary can’t experience the resurrected Jesus for the disciples, and the disciples can’t experience Jesus for Thomas. Faith… holds out for one’s own experience of Jesus.”

Thomas had his own experience of the Risen Christ. It came out of his life, his need, his journey. If someone asked you about your “Risen Christ” story, what would it be?