The video above includes the full service, except for the time for sharing.
Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained through One License with license A-727859.
Order of Worship | Easter Sunday | April 4
STJ 115 | Yonder come day | Paul Knapke, vocalist
We acknowledge we are gathering on land where Miami, Osage, Shawnee, and other Indigenous peoples have lived and labored, fought, and loved. We continue to work and pray for justice and conciliation.
Call to Worship
VT348 | Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain | JoAnn and Paul Knapke, vocalists
Offering/Dedication Prayer https://www.columbusmennonite.org/donateget-involved/donate
Offertory | VT43 | God, Be the Love | Phil Hart, guitar; Children of Columbus Mennonite Church, singing
Scripture | John 20:1-18
Sermon | Resurrection: Getting personal - Manuscript Below
VT354 | Christ Is Risen! Shout Hosanna! | Paul Knapke, vocals; Tom Blosser, piano
Sharing of Joys and Concerns
VT126 | Holy God, We Praise Thy Name | Paul Knapke, vocalist
Extinguishing the Peace Candle
Thanks to everyone who helped lead today’s service
Sermon: Joel Miller
Worship Leader: Mark Rupp
Music coordination: Paul Knapke
Peace Candle: Laura and Addy Steiner
Scripture Reading: Moreland Family
Communion Liturgy Readers: Jori and Kayla Fuller
Zoom Host: Sarah Werner
John’s is the most personal of the Easter morning resurrection accounts. He focuses on the singular character of Mary Magdalene and her encounter with the risen Christ. Mary is present in the other gospel accounts. She just has company, other women by her side at the tomb. In John, she is alone.
John writes: “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.”
There is a sizeable interlude in this story. It features Simon Peter, and “the other disciple,” very likely John’s way of referring to himself, elsewhere called “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
Mary had gone to the tomb to grieve and had not expected the stone removed. It’s startling, and troubling. She runs, and tells Simon Peter and “the other disciple” that Jesus’ body has been taken, stolen, from the tomb.
Now it’s Peter and John’s turn to run. It’s a footrace between the two leading disciples, narrated decades later, when the communities they each had established likely had a bit of rivalry over whose founder best represented the spiritual lineage of Jesus. In this gospel, it’s John’s story to tell, and it is “the other disciple,” not Simon Peter, who wins the race, the first to the empty tomb. He bends over, looks inside, sees linen wrappings, but no body. Then comes Peter - second place is the first loser. He runs past the finish line into the tomb where John has not yet gone, confirming with his own eyes what John has already witnessed.
For both of them, it is a witness of absence. Jesus is not there.
This is a confirmation for them of what Mary already knew.
Peter and John return to their homes. We aren’t told who arrived first.
We are told that Mary did not return home. She remained at the tomb. She had arrived alone, Peter and John had come and gone, a whirlwind of urgent investigation mixed with a whiff of male bravado. And now we’re back to Mary. Just Mary.
John 20:11 - “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.”
These last four weeks I have tuned in to an hour-long colloquium hosted by AMBS, the Mennonite seminary in Northern Indiana. It was called: “Anabaptist Christians stand up: building power for a change, conversations with Jonathan Smucker.” Jonathan Smucker is a seasoned organizer, researcher, and author. Plus, that’s a pretty catchy double-entendre name for a colloquium. The group was mostly composed of pastors and community organizers, and the conversation focused on Mennonite engagement with building power for positive change in an era when White Christian Nationalism is on the rise. Mennonites have been known as “The quiet in the land.” Mennonites building power, for a change.
At the end of the first presentation, after making his case for why anyone, really, should move beyond the righteous outsider mentality, toward more direct engagement with social change, Jonathan said something else, almost as an aside. He said we all need to get more in touch with how confronting all these destructive forces – White Nationalism, patriarchy, environmental destruction – the list goes on – we need to get more in touch with how confronting these powers serves our self-interest. He said, in all his studies, he is yet to come across any kind of movement that was sustained for any length of time simply because people were acting benevolently, altruistically. In other words, it’s not enough to do something because it seems like the right thing to do and helps other people. It changes everything when we recognize that this has to do with our own well-being, our own soul-survival.
Now I’m adding some interpretative comments of my own there, but that’s what I heard Jonathan saying. And that bit might have landed so soundly for me because it intersects so clearly with what we’ve been talking about throughout Lent, and well before Lent, with antiracism, sanctuary, creation care….Again, it’s a pretty long list. To put it concretely, for Edith, sanctuary was a risk she decided she had to take for her well-being and her family. For the congregation, is sanctuary just a way of helping someone else in need, or is there a sense in which we need to be a part of sanctuary for the life and survival of our own spirits? Our own ongoing conversion.
And is that a bad thing, or is that the thing?
Now, the last time I checked, self-interest did not make the cut of the fruits of the spirit or other lists of spiritual virtues. We’re not used to that kind of language as a good thing. Perhaps the closest thing we have is Paul writing to the Philippians urging them to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (2:12), or stories like the one from last week of Bartimaeus imploring Jesus to help him see again.
And this story of Mary, remaining at Jesus’ tomb, after others have come and gone. “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.”
Almost like she had to be there. Not just for Jesus’ sake or some righteous cause. But for her own sake. She could not simply return home. There was something absolutely vital on the line for her, and she had to be right there, in that place.
Like when you have to show up at a public event showing support for Black lives, or Asian-Americans, or a living wage for workers. Or you have to write that letter to your representative. Like when you have to have that difficult conversation with your partner, or your friend, or child, or maybe with yourself. You can’t not do it. Like when you have to dive into your own family history to better understand the factors that have shaped your life. That’s something I’ve been feeling recently. Like when you have to linger at the gravesite of your beloved. Have to sit with the grief of the loss. Have to be right there and nowhere else for a while, however long that might be.
Let’s imagine that’s what’s going on with Mary.
And as seems to happen from time to time when one is doing the only thing one must do, Mary meets up with some angels. In this case the angels serve as the receptacle for Mary’s grief. “Woman, why are you weeping?” they ask. Mary responds: “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.”
As quickly as they appear, the angels recede into the background, and as Mary turns around, there is Jesus. Although she doesn’t know it’s Jesus until he calls her name: “Mary.”
Now, it doesn’t get a whole lot more personal than that. Not only is Mary the only disciple present as the first to see the empty tomb, then the first to encounter the risen Christ, but the risen Christ addresses her in the most intimate and personal way – calling her by name. And this is the moment. Because of this, Mary will become the apostle to the apostles. The bringer of good news, to those who are remembered as bringing good news to so many others.
This is the moment that transcends those sharp lines that we convince ourselves define how the world really works. The line between death and life. The line between God and humanity. The line between where Mary ends and Jesus begins.
This is the gift, the great and wondrous mystery of resurrection.
And If Jonathan Smucker’s observation can be extended to other aspects of life beyond just social movements, there is another line being transcended. The line between what gives oneself abundant life, and what the world needs for its own good.
For Mary, and for us, resurrection opens up this brand new world of possibilities. Jesus meets Mary at the convergence of the personal inward journey, and the collective outward journey. Jesus meets us at the place where our lives get caught up in the big life known in the Bible as abundant life. Abundant life is never something that is ours to achieve, but always a gift to receive. Like hearing someone call your name from across a great divide, then realizing there is no divide.
Every Easter we dare to imagine the almost unimaginable: The risen Christ calls your name, your name, and beckons you to be a participant in a life much larger than you had thought possible. Even just a faint echo of this, just a glimpse, might be enough to get us running toward the goodness it holds, for our own good, and for the life of this world which God loves.