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The celebration

Sunday, April 16, 2006

John 20:1-9

Early on the first day of the week while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple also went inside. He saw and believed. But they still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.

Nobody in this story is ready to celebrate anything yet. Jesus was killed, and now even his lifeless body is gone. The trappings of burial are still there, but Jesus is not.

After Peter and John (the "other disciple") left Jesus did come and speak to Mary. "Why are you crying?" he asked. Then he spoke her name, "Mary!" And she knew him -- no ghost, no fantasy, but Jesus standing before her, Jesus knowing her, Jesus loving her, Jesus.

Many of us return to the graves of our loved ones. We plant flowers, we tend the grass, we talk to the one we love. Sometimes we cry. We feel lonely and sad. It usually doesn't seem like much of a celebration.

But when the one who died reaches out and reminds me that he or she's in heaven, their happiness pours over my head and runs up and down my spine. More than just a party, this celebration fills my soul with peace and joy.

Jesus is alive! And because Jesus died and rose again, so can I. So can all the ones I love. We are free.

The kingdom of God is a party, Lord. For us all. Now and at the hour of our death. And after.

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