|Image by Benjamin Preyre|
You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy.
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. 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; 11-18)
A MEDITATIVE VERSE
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Those of us who are Christians can also remember the example of Someone who lived with a sense of meaning and purpose in the most chaotic and oppressive time. We have only to recall that Jesus lived with God as the point of his being. Again and again, he told his disciples that he had come from God and was going to God. He knew who he was, that his deepest identity lay in the mystery that he was born of God. And he knew that he was for God, that he had come to announce the great dream of God, the dream of the reign of God and the great economy of grace. This was the meaning and purpose of his life. It was his passion. His affirmation of the point of his life was profoundly based on his gratitude for being born of God.... Jesus left us with this vision, a vision worthy enough to summon every aspect of our being and the whole of our lives. Yet, this vision is not a blueprint. It is not a detailed plan of what we are to do and how we are to do it. It has been left to us to fill in the blanks, as it were. The great dream of God for the world is not a concrete plan, but it is compelling. It gives us a sense of how the story of the world and of how our own story will end. It will end as it began - in goodness. It makes all the difference in the world to believe that the dream of God for the world is going to happen.
- from Radical Gratitude by Mary Jo Leddy
VERSE OF THE DAY
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’
|Illumination of John 20, as represented in the St. John's Bible|
“Supposing him to be the gardener….” Mary Magdalene's journey from darkness into light in the first hours of the third day since Jesus died brings her back to the garden tomb where they had laid him to rest. She is confronted immediately by a sign offered by Creation itself: a heavy stone has had the power to move, a dark space has been brightened by holy light. Creation participates in the moment of revelation. Mary sees a figure she does not recognize and calls him the gardener. In her time, a gardener was one who cared for the sacred groves around the tombs of revered leaders. Common criminals would not likely have had tombs. Perhaps the arrangement made by Joseph of Arimathea was not just to be able to take Jesus' body, but to have a preferred place to lay him. Thus, it would not have been surprising for Mary to encounter a gardener, who attended to the fruits and flowers that shaded the garden tombs, and who also cared for those in death. Jesus calls Mary by name. The 'gardener' knows her name and she then knows him also. Mary's seeking of Jesus' body echos and reframes the search a woman makes for her beloved in the Song of Songs. "‘Have you seen him whom my soul loves? (3:3)" and "when I found him whom my soul loves, I held him, and would not let him go. (3:4)" Here, Jesus tells her not to hold him in the sense of human embrace, making clear that the fully human Jesus has left. Instead, he teaches her and us how to hold him in our hearts. Whereas the women and Joseph and Nicodemus had reclaimed his body, Mary is now reclaimed by God and by Jesus who, as the psalmist says, first knew her when she was woven in the womb of the earth. On Easter, we celebrate the risen Jesus, who knows each of us by name and who sees us in the whole of our lives, from our birth to our death and beyond.
But what happens now? As Easter celebrations subside back into the patterns of daily life, how will our earthly Creation home know that we have been transformed by our journey to the Cross? What hope will there be in the dawn of new Creation for those species on the edge of extinction, for the atmosphere clogged by greenhouse gases, for the oceans choking with microplastics? How will we work to prevent more tipping points being breached? We can start by making Easter about more than rituals and gestures. We can take our God-given joy in the resurrected Jesus, and turn it toward the earth, which is also God, the ground of our being. We can make the Hallelujah chorus (sung at Christmas but written for Easter) and make it our own song of radical gratitude to God for the extraordinary world we have been given. The reading tells us that Mary supposed Jesus to be the gardener, that she had not understood who he was. But we can reframe this moment to say, 'Mary has indeed seen the gardener', the true vine of Israel, and so have we. As the branches of that vine, how will we practice resurrection in the days and months to come? What is the fruit of love that we will bear toward the earth itself and, by extension, also to each other?
Today marks the end of the LC† Tending the Vineyard devotional project for Lent and Holy Week. Thank you to all for your faithful presence and participation. May the blessings of the risen Christ rest in you this Easter Sunday and be with you always. See you in the summer, after Pentecost!
|Image by Ian Dick|
Very special thanks to Catherine and Henriette for help with the conceptual framing of Holy Week.
LC† Tending the Vineyard is a project of Lutherans Connect, supported by the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. To receive the devotions by email, write to email@example.com. The devotional pages are written and curated by Deacon Sherry Coman, with support and input from Pastor Steve Hoffard, Catherine Evenden and Henriette Thompson. Join us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and on Twitter. Lutherans Connect invites you to make a donation to the Ministry by going to this link on the website of the ELCIC Eastern Synod and selecting "Lutherans Connect Devotionals" under "Fund". Devotions are always freely offered, however your donations help to support extended offerings throughout the year. Thank you and peace be with you!