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The First Day of a New Week (In the Beginning... Again)

John 20:1-18

Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance, so she ran off to Simon Peter and the other disciple—the one Jesus loved—and told them, “The Rabbi has been taken from the tomb! We don’t know where they have put Jesus!”


At that, Peter and the other disciple started out toward the tomb. They were running side by side, but then the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He didn’t enter, but bent down to peer in and saw the linen wrappings lying on the ground.


Then Simon Peter arrived and entered the tomb. He observed the linen wrappings on the ground, and saw the piece of cloth that had covered Jesus’ head lying not with the wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.

Then the disciple who had arrived first at the tomb went in. He saw and believed. As yet, they didn’t understand the scripture that Jesus was to rise from the dead.


Then the disciples went back to their homes.


Meanwhile, Mary stood weeping beside the tomb. Even as she wept, she stooped to peer inside, and there she saw two angels in dazzling robes. One was seated at the head and the other at the foot of the place where Jesus’ body had lain. They asked her, “Why are you weeping?”


She answered them, “Because they have taken away my Rabbi, and I don’t know where they have put the body.”


No sooner had she said this than she turned around and caught sight of Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus. He asked her, “Why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?”


She supposed it was the gardener, so she said, “Please, if you’re the one who carried Jesus away, tell me where you’ve laid the body and I will take it away.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary!”


She turned to him and said, “Rabboni!”—which means “Teacher.”


Jesus then said, “Don’t hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to Abba God. Rather, go to the sisters and brothers and tell them, ‘I’m ascending to my Abba and to your Abba, my God and your God!’”


Mary of Magdala went to the disciples. “I have seen the Teacher!” she announced. Then she reported what the savior had said to her.



Genesis 1 and 2 (Creation I)

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

The earth was formless and void, and darkness came over the face of the Deep—yet the Spirit of God was brooding over the surface of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light!” and light was. God saw that light was good, and God separated light from darkness. God called the light “Day” and the darkness “Night.” Evening came, and morning followed—the first day.

[Over the next four days, God spread the stars across the sky, called up dry ground from the depths, brought forth vegetation, birds, fish, and insects.]

Then, [on the sixth day,] God said, “Earth: bring forth all kinds of living soul—cattle, things that crawl, and wild animals of all kinds!” So it was: God made all kinds of wild animals, and cattle, and everything that crawls on the ground, and God saw that this was good.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, to be like us. Let them be stewards of the fish in the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, the wild animals, and everything that crawls on the ground.” [So, God fashioned an earth creature out of the clay of the earth, and blew into its nostrils the breath of life. And the earth creature became a living being.]

Humankind was created as God’s reflection:

in the divine image God created them;

female and male, God made them.

God blessed them and said, “Bear fruit, increase your numbers, and fill the earth—and be responsible for it! Watch over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things on the earth!”

God then told them, “Look! I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the earth, and every tree whose fruit carries its seed inside itself: they will be your food; and to all the animals of the earth and the birds of the air and things that crawl on the ground—everything that has a living soul in it—I give all the green plants for food.” So it was.

God looked at all of this creation, and proclaimed that this was good—very good. Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. On the seventh day God had finished all the work of creation, and so, on that seventh day, God rested. God blessed the seventh day and called it sacred, because on it God rested from all the work of creation.

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.


John 1 (Creation II)

In the beginning,

there was the Word;

the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

The Word was present to God

from the beginning.

Through the Word

all things came into being,

and apart from the Word

nothing came into being

that has come into being.

In the Word was life,

and that life was humanity’s light—

a Light that shines in the darkness,

a Light that the darkness has never overtaken.

The Word was coming into the world—

was in the world—

and though the world

was made through the Word,

the world didn’t recognize it.

Though the Word came to its own realm,

the Word’s own people didn’t accept it.

Yet any who did accept the Word,

who believed in that Name,

were empowered to become children of God—

children born not of natural descent,

nor urge of flesh

nor human will—

but born of God.

And the Word became flesh

and stayed for a little while among us;

we saw the Word’s glory—

the favor and position a parent gives an only child—

filled with grace,

filled with truth.

No one has ever seen God;

it is the Only Begotten,

ever at Abba’s side,

who has revealed God to us.


Sermon

In the midst of everything going on right now, I have a story to tell you,

With all of the confusion and fear around us, I have a story I want to tell.

It’s a story about light,

It’s a story about darkness, and it starts with those famous words:

In the beginning… there was a… mind, a logic, a Spirit… the Ancient Greeks called it a logos, or a “Word.”

In the beginning, there was a formless void. Emptiness. Nothingness.

And then, in the darkness, a Word rang out across the cosmos: In Hebrew, Yehi (יהי), “Let there be!”


The Word was with God, and the Word was God. Everything that came into being was an expression of this Spirit, this “Word.”

Yehi – from nonbeing, being.

From nothing, something.

From darkness, dazzling light and life.


What came into being in the Word was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light pushed back the darkness,


…and the darkness could not overcome it.

That was the first day.

On the second, God called forth the skies.

When the sun rose on the third day, the land was called into being, and the One who had done the calling, that Spirit of Pure Creativity and Possibility, that Divine Gardener, walked among it.


The Word became flesh, and walked among us,

Full of life and grace, the Gardener walked among creation, though there were not yet eyes to see it.


And we have seen his glory, the glory of his grace and truth.

From his fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.

No one has ever seen God… but the Son, the Word made Flesh, has made God known.

His name was Jesus, the Christ.

The Gardener surveyed the bare and ordinary dust of the earth and from limitless imagination, imagined plants and trees, vines and grapes into being.

This was the third day.


The story reads, “On the third day, there was a wedding at Cana […] and the wine ran out,” like it always seems to.

And as Jesus surveyed the bare and ordinary water put before him, he imagined wine into being.

Where there was only shame and embarrassment, he imagined a party into existence.

Over the following days, the Gardener divided sun, moon and stars, grew living creatures, great sea beasts, winged birds, insects, cattle, and the wild animals of the earth into existence.


Over the following years, Jesus brought the child of a royal official back from the brink of death, he healed a paralyzed man, he fed thousands and thousands. He walked atop raging seas, opened the eyes of a blind man. He even brought a man back from the dead.

Everywhere this man went, he called a new creation forth from the shell of the old.

Every day was a new act of creation, ripe with possibility and new life.


But here’s the thing. When one goes around shining light and telling the truth, not everyone is going to like it.

There are some, it turns out, who have grown quite comfortable in the darkness, and have built quite an identity on lies.

They’re not villains, really, just… normal people who get scared.

All of the earth was invited to participate in creation. The Gardener trusted them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the waters in the seas, the earth and the heavens!”


Most of the fear seemed to center in Jerusalem, the hub of religion, politics, and status quo. So, when Jesus and his friends went back to Jerusalem one last time to celebrate Passover, Jesus knew what it would cost him.

Those were the first five days. On the sixth day, something truly incredible happened.


They’d been in Jerusalem teaching and preparing for five days of the Passover week.

Late that evening, it happened just as Jesus thought it would. Under the cover of the darkness they loved so much, they ambushed him, bound him, and led him away to his death.

So, on the morning of the sixth day…

On the sixth day, the Gardener tried their hand at sculpting. Gathering the dust of the earth, the Gardener formed an idol, an image in their own likeness. It was to be the crown of all creation.


…Pontius Pilate, the Governor charged with keeping the status quo, brought Jesus before the people, bruised, beaten, and bleeding. His men had put a purple robe over his torn flesh and driven a crown of sharp thorns over his head.

Taking a deep breath, the Gardener breathed their Spirit into the idol of dust,

and it came to life.

“Behold!” the Gardener exclaimed, “Here is the one!”


“Behold,” Pilate exclaimed, “Here is the one you accuse!”

And all of the earth shouted “Hallelujah!”


And all of the people shouted, “Crucify him!”

The human was given the authority to rule over all of the fish of the sea and birds of the air – over every living thing that moved across the earth.


“My authority is not of this world,” Jesus told Pilate through the pain. “I rule over the realm of Truth. I came into this world to testify to the Truth, and everyone who belongs to the Truth listens to my voice.”

“What is Truth?” was Pilate’s reply.

Deaf to his voice, the people stripped him of his dignity, led him out of town, and lynched him on a cross.

For their food, the human had its pick of any plant yielding seed on the earth,


For his drink, he was given sour wine on a branch of hyssop.


The Gardener saw everything, and it was very good.


His mother saw everything, and she wept bitterly.

Late in the afternoon, Jesus bowed his head low and gave up that Spirit that had promised to change the world.

The darkness had won.

His last words were…

“It is finished!” the Gardener cried as the sun set on the sixth day.

Then the world…


…was plunged into darkness.

In a garden nearby, he was sealed in a tomb where none had ever been laid.

On the seventh day…

…the work was finished. There was nothing left to be done. Finally, there was rest.


There was silence.

This is the story of the creation of the heavens and the earth.


This is the story of the birth and death of Jesus Christ.

It is one of our sacred stories.

Thanks be to God.


That’s the end of the story.

Seven days, and no more.


Are you surprised?

Isn’t it a familiar story?

Isn’t it the story we live day after day?


Isn’t it the first thing you see in the morning when you turn on your phone?

Isn’t it the last thing you hear at night before you turn off the news?


More pain.


More darkness.

More fear.


More death.

And then it’s over. Lights out.

Seven days to create life,


Seven days to snuff it out.


“What do we gain from our toil and pain?” The ancient poet asked. “It is all vanity. Chasing after wind.”

There are flickers of light, but they are consumed by darkness.





Except, as it turns out, there’s another story after this one.





As it turns out, there’s an eighth day.


The story reads, “Early on the first day of the week…” Or, in other words…

In the beginning… again.


On the first day of a new week,

a new story starts to unfold.


A woman comes to the tomb carrying the sorrow of the world in her chest, weeping the tears of every human who had ever been plunged into the despair of that seventh day.

A woman comes to somehow go about the work of grieving the light of the world. To grieve hope, creativity itself.

Fear, selfishness, and death… these were the powers that claimed the last word.


A woman comes to the tomb knowing what she will find, knowing how the story ends… and finds, instead, something else.

The stone is rolled away. The sealed grave is open.

She dares to look inside.

There is darkness.

Emptiness. Nothingness.

One might even say… the darkness of a formless void… again.


Others come to look.

They see the same thing.

They leave.

She remains.

She dares to look again, again knowing what she’s going to see, and again seeing something else.

From nothing, something.

From darkness, dazzling light and life.

The light pushed back the darkness.


There are two angels in white, sitting where the dead body of Jesus once rested.

“Woman,” they ask with something like amusement, “why are you weeping?”

“Because they have taken my Lord away,” she says.

(Because when angels speak to you, what do you do except tell the truth?)

“I don’t know where they’ve put him.”

They have taken my certainty away, and I don’t know where this story is going.


As she says this, she turns and sees a man walking among the tombs.

“Woman,” he asks with something like optimism, “why are you weeping?”

Not recognizing him, she asks, "Are you the gardener?"

The Gardener walked among the bare and lifeless dust of the earth with limitless imagination… again. Full of life and grace.

Truth itself walks before her, but she does not yet have eyes to see it.

She says…


“Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

Kneeling down to look in her unseeing eyes, the man says,

“Mary.”

A voice she never thought she’d hear again.

Her eyes are opened.

She calls back…


“Rabbouni!” Which is Hebrew for teacher.

(Because when Truth itself speaks your name, what language do you use but your native tongue?)

“Here is the one!” …again.


Looking in his face, she knows it is not Jesus, but at once it is more Jesus than Jesus had ever been.

It’s God.

She clings to his feet, determined never to lose him again. But his smile loosens her grip. With something like peace, he says…


“There’s no need to cling to me, for where could I go? Furthermore, where could younow go that I am not?”

And it was in that moment that she realized: She was wrong.

Fear, selfishness, and death… these were not the powers that claimed the last word.

The last word was…


…with God, and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him, not one thing came into being.

What came into being through him was life, and that life was the light of all people, and the light…

…shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

The story of this world is not life overcome by death, but…


...death overcome, again and again, by life.

A last word…

…and then another word.

A week ends…


…and another begins.

Days later, Jesus appears among his friends, in the midst of a world trying its best to kill them, and he has the audacity to say…

“Peace!”

He shows them his hands and his feet, makes no move to hide his scars, for what are they now but signs of life’s victory over death?


He looks around at his sisters and brothers and says, “As Abba God sent me, so I send you.”

And having said this,

Taking a deep breath,

the Gardener breathed their Spirit into the idol of dust,

and it came to life.


“Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said.

“Behold!” God exclaimed, “Here are the ones!”

The humans were given the authority to rule over all of the fish of the sea and birds of the air – over every living thing that moved across the earth.


“By God’s Spirit, you have the authority to loosen humankind from its bondage to fear, to set them free as I have set you free.”

He looked around and beheld this New Humanity, pledges and ambassadors of a New Creation springing forth from the shell of the old.

And all of the earth shouted, “Hallelujah!”


This is the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Thanks be to God… again.

But, really, if the story wasn’t over after the creation,

And the story wasn’t over after the crucifixion,


What in the world makes you think it’s over this time?

That’s the beginning of the story.

Seven days, and then one more.

Are you surprised?

Isn’t this a familiar story?


Isn’t this the story we live day after day?

Isn’t it the first thing you see as the sun rises anew in the morning?


Isn’t it the last thing you feel as you surrender to sleep each night?


More hope.

More tomorrows.


More life.

More light.


When you’re in one part of it, whether it’s a week of creation, or a week of crucifixion,

a week of healing, or a week of illness,


it feels like it’s all there is – like it’s going to last forever.

But it won’t.

It won’t always be like this.

There’s always a new week.


There is Good Friday,

and there is Easter.

There is winter…


and there is Spring.

There is death…

…and there is resurrection.

Again and again.


Again and again.

People of God, Christ is Risen.


Christ is Risen indeed.


Alleluia,

and Amen.

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Northminster
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318-388-3717

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2701 Lamy Ln.

Monroe, LA 71201

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