54When the decaying puts on the undecaying, and the dying puts on the undying, then the saying that has been written will come true: Death is swallowed up in victory! 55 Death, where’s your victory gone? Death, where’s your sting gone? 56 The “sting” of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thank God! He gives us the victory, through our Lord Jesus the Messiah. 58 So, my dear family, be firmly fixed, unshakable, always full to overflowing with the Lord’s work. In the Lord, as you know, the work you’re doing will not be worthless. – 1 Corinthians 15:54-58
My two sons’ elementary school is reading a book together. They had the author come and speak and everything. The name of the book is Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamilo. It is the story of a girl and a squirrel. Flora, the girl, is a self-professed cynic who spends much of her time reading a comic book about a mild mannered janitor who falls in a vat of cleaning solution on a tour of the factory and becomes the super hero Incandesto. When Flora’s neighbor vacuums up an unsuspecting squirrel and said squirrel seems to develop super powers as a result, the comic reading cynic cautiously takes the budding super-squirrel in and decides to become its side-kick.
No you may be asking yourself how a cynic ends up believing that a squirrel is a super hero and then devoting herself to helping it become the best hero it can be. Well I would argue that it all starts with the stories she was immersed in just as much as the evidence that she saw. Knowing the world through The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto prepares Flora to understand the events that befall her and Ulysses. Now we have just heard something this morning, John’s gospel account of the resurrection. We know from the rest of John’s gospel that Mary believed in the resurrection of the dead as this day in the future where God would raise everyone from the dead for a great day of judgment where the righteous would be drawn to God’s side to live forever in God’s kingdom. But that is not what she is expecting on this early morning. She is there to care for her dead messiah. Death and the forces of evil have won again. If anyone had a right to be a cynic in that moment it was Mary and her fellow disciples.
But in that moment when “the gardner” speaks her name, “Mary,” and she recognizes who he is, she realizes that everything has changed. Surely questions remained and it must have been hard to make sense of what to do next. Coming to the garden full of despair and sorrow she must have thought it dangerous to hope again. Perhaps she might have whispered in her heart the words Flora uses to guard her cynic’s heart. Don’t hope, just observe. But she does not have time to dwell on things too much because she is given a directive. Go and tell. Speak the good news. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. And here we are today. A group of disciples gathered in the morning to hear Jesus words to Mary lived out among us. To testify together: I have seen the Lord, Jesus is alive. Perhaps we are like Flora though and we know it is safest for us to not get our hopes up amidst all the terror, violence, struggle and death of this world. This place where the good guys and gals don’t always win. Maybe we are whispering in our hearts even as we hear the good news: Don’t hope, just observe.
Well, here is the amazing thing about what we celebrate this morning. Over and over again when people go and tell of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection those who hear and see are changed. The apostle Paul experienced this in his own life as he himself first encountered the risen Jesus and then as he told of the resurrection time after time you could observe Mary like experiences – people coming to see and know the risen Lord. The more we are immersed in the gospel and come to see the world in light of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, hope becomes irresistible and contagious. For the empty tomb, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the abiding power of the resurrection tells us that death, sin and separation from God’s reign do not get the final say. Paul with a heart full of hope and in light of all he observed could even go as far as to taunt death and its minions.
In light of Paul’s words we might want to adjust Flora’s to match our experience as those who have heard Jesus call our name. Don’t just hope, observe and get to work. For we gather here today in the midst of our own illuminated adventure. Just as the first rays of sun have broken through the dark horizon, Jesus’ resurrection has brought light in the midst of darkness. Even more it is the sure guarantee that no force of darkness can stop those first rays of light leading to the day where we will no longer need the sun for God’s dwelling will be with us and the Glory of the Lord will be our light. Knowing this is our hope we can observe the light breaking through the darkness and know that even in our darkest times the light will win the day. The God whose glory will one day illuminate the new creation has entrusted us with that same glory through the Spirit of the risen Christ that lives in us. And the call for us is to be firmly fixed in our hope, unshakable in our believing and be full to overflowing with the Lord’s work. For Jesus’ resurrection is the promise of our own resurrection. Even more, Paul tells us the work that we do in the Lord endures from this world into the next. When we share the light of God’s glory – serving as Christ served, loving as we have first been loved, forgiving as we have been forgiven – somehow that light we shine becomes part of the full glory that we will one day see. The work of the Lord that we do in this life will not be nullified by death or cancelled out by the forces of evil it will be of worth in God’s kingdom. This resurrection morning I call on us celebrate the hope we have in Christ, but don’t just hope. Make it a practice to observe the light of God’s love breaking into your life and into our world. Even more, be full to overflowing with the Lord’s work.