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 towards 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 round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ 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.
John 20:1-18, NRSV
it started with grief.
it started with the grief that comes from a recent loss
steeling yourself for the reminders that sneak up on you.
preparing for how different your life is going to be now,
the new normal of grief.
it started with the most familiar ritual:
the graveside visit,
the pilgrimage to the place His body lay
because it is a strange comfort to rest
in the last evidence we can find
of a loved one’s presence.
and that was when the disruption began—
the fear that this stone, nearly impossible to move
had been rolled away.
a clear sign of tampering
after this execution that had been wrapped in political motivations.
who had done this?
and what were their intentions?
and was it safe here?
they did not understand
that He had been raised from the dead—
how could they?
it was much more likely
that some political enemy had some other intentions
but they couldn’t stay away—they ran
perhaps trying to protect
what they had left of their friend.
this vandalism was the last thing they needed in their grief
and though two of the men inspected the tomb
and could not find any evidence
and did not know what to do
and so returned to their homes to regroup
mary magdalene, first to discover the empty tomb
even though there was nothing she could do
she stayed, pouring out her grief
like the jar of perfume another woman had poured out
just a few days ago
to anoint Jesus’ feet.
the disciples said that was a waste.
perhaps mary’s tears here were a waste,
but they were all she had to offer
to anoint the tomb
where God once laid.
her final comfort—Jesus’ body,
snatched away from her.
and she saw
that which was beyond the possibility of imagining
the last thing she expected
the Risen Christ.
He came to her in the waves of overwhelming grief.
He came to her when she could not see clearly for her tears.
He came to her at the moment when everything was lost.
and she saw that life is possible
that resurrection is real
that death does not have the final word
that the glory of God outlives the worst the world has to offer.
we have seen the worst the world has to offer.
and we still carry the scars
the wounds, the words
hurled against us
still flaring up in unexpected moments.
we still see children rejected and
siblings murdered and
we still hear the news clips
that vilify us and
tell us that we are not wanted in our world
and in the church.
we have seen too much,
borne of the never-ending violence
and here we are: standing at an empty grave weeping
because we just keep being confronted by loss.
but here with mary today we see:
Jesus Christ is risen today: ALLELUIA
we proclaim the gospel truth: Christ is ALIVE.
we stubbornly insist on the power of hope
and more than hope: the truth that comes from Christ’s resurrection
the assurance that God is here and working for the salvation of all creation.
the truth of God’s amazing love is this:
not that Jesus was sent into the world as a blood sacrifice to appease an angry God
but that God loved us so much
that God came into the world and submitted to our violence
and said, “I will meet your worst with My best
and I will forgive you
and redeem you and
this is how the cycle of our violence is broken—
our violence is met with God’s selfless love
which we cannot kill.
it starts with grief
but it turns into joy
like the words of the psalms:
“You have turned my wailing into dancing,
You have removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy
that my heart may sing Your praises and not be silent.”
it turns to joy from a Savior who calls us by name,
telling us, “I know you, I love you, I am here.”
it turns to joy when we realize:
however looming the forces of evil might be,
our God shatters the hold they have on us
and brings us into a new life in Jesus Christ.
this is the God for whom we have waited.
let us be glad and rejoice in our salvation.
Christ is risen! Christ is risen! alleluia! amen.
Slats (they/them/theirs) is a queer/trans/nonbinary Presbyterian (PCUSA). They hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama and a Master of Divinity and they deeply love liturgy and hymnody. They write, preach, teach and often work as a director and sound designer for live theater. They are currently in the ordination process, and spend much of their time working toward claiming queer/trans space in Christianity.