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April 14, 2020

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).” John 20:16

Over the past week, three saints of Grace have died. One in the midst of Holy Week, two on Easter Sunday. Others in the Grace community have had loved ones die, too.

Arrangements, of course, are pending. When this is all said and done, I’m sure we’re going to have some magnificent memorial services at Grace.

But for now? How do we grieve together as we in shelter in place? Where do we find hope in the midst of this pandemic?

In John’s telling of Jesus’ story, we are invited to walk with Mary Magdalene to the tomb, blinking in the early light of the morning sun. Blinking, too, through tears of grief. What we find here is so unexpected, we cannot believe our eyes. That man, who is he? The gardener?

Then he speaks: “Mary.” In his resurrected voice he brings Mary to newness of life. She sees, as if for the first time. Christ is risen. Death is dead. The One who declared himself to be the Resurrection and the Life, the One who raised Lazarus from the dead, has come through death. In his resurrection, death – once sure as taxes – has become powerless. A remnant of an old world whose time has come and gone.

In our grief, we look to Jesus. In sorrow, we mourn our dead. Tears fill our eyes and our hearts break for absence. Yet in faith we know that their lives are now hidden in Christ and that, at the last, they will be raised up. As Jesus promised, today they are with him in Paradise.

When the end of all things comes, they will be in the new heaven and the new earth, singing praise to the Lamb who was slain. N.T. Wright refers to this as life after life after death, the new creation in which the boundaries between heaven and earth, between God and creation, will be forever erased. One day, we’ll be there, too. The end of all things will be just the beginning. Come, Lord Jesus!

Even today, Jesus is not in the tomb. He is walking free, alive, life springing forth in his wake. They come before him, blinking in the dawn of a life that will never end. He speaks their names:




The Word speaks their names. They live.

One day, we will gather at Grace to celebrate their lives and, even more, to celebrate their new lives, freely given and freely received for the sake of Jesus Christ. But for now, the promise of eternal life is more than enough.

Arrangements are pending, but new life in Christ is not. It’s already here.

Rest eternal grant them, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon them.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God of life, in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ you have triumphed over the grave. Grant us faith to entrust the blessed dead to your care. Sustain us in this weary world. Give us hope to remember that nothing can separate us from your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The image is Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection (1835) by Alexander Ivanov (public domain).

From → COVID-19

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