Thank you to everyone who braved the cold down by the beach this Easter morning. Being so very cold, I cut out a few stories from my sermon, because if you were as cold as I was, you were also grateful to make it back inside just that much sooner. Here is the unedited version, which I think thickens up my understanding of seeing the world through resurrection-colored glasses. May God's love shine through the Easter story for you this year.
John’s gospel is the only empty tomb story that begins while it was still dark. Just a few months ago, we all stood in a dark candle-lit sanctuary hearing John’s gospel beginning: the light shines in the darkness but the darkness shall not overcome it. So, maybe we should have seen it coming, this story of resurrection life, unfurling in the dark hours of the morning, the tension between darkness and light so tangible in the Gospel of John.
It’s hard to see in the dark: 70 percent of our sensory receptors are located in our eyes, so understandably without sight, the rest of your senses can be thrown off—unless you’re used to it. A friend of mine described getting glasses in fourth grade: plastic purple rimmed monstrosities that might be considered hip oversized and elegant today but were embarrassingly thick for a 10-year-old in 1991. But, as she walked out of the doctor’s office with her new specs, she laughed out loud. At the park across the street was a tree—topped not with a blurry green blob, as she had learned to see, but with leaves, swaying in the wind. She never knew how cloudy her vision had been. She didn’t know what seeing would be like.
Our Easter story—set in the dark—is filled with sight, with seeing. Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb and sees everything awry. She goes to the disciples to describe what she saw. They run to the tomb to see what Mary had seen. They bend down to see inside the tomb. One of them sees and having seen, believes.
Mary remains, weeping, unable to see through her tears. Mary is seen by two angels, who see she is weeping. When they ask why she is crying, and she describes what she has seen. Then, she sees Jesus, but she doesn’t know she’s looking at Jesus. She only sees a gardener. He sees she is weeping and asks. She describes what she has seen. Ultimately, it’s what they don’t see that turns the story on its head.
The disciple sees the scene, and when he doesn’t see Jesus’ body, he believes. And, even when Mary does see Jesus, she doesn’t see him. It isn’t until Jesus speaks her name that she recognizes him—like a sheep hearing its shepherd’s voice. Mary came to the tomb with crucifixion-oriented glasses. She came expecting to see the the same blurry, hazy, clouded sorrow you always see when you visit a friend and mentor’s burial ground.
When the graveyard was not as she expected, she still had crucifixion-oriented glasses. The only explanation, she thought, was that another powerful someone had taken Jesus’ body, messing with her sorrow, giving no end to her grief. She couldn’t even see the disciple’s light-bulb moment when he suddenly believed. She was wordless and weeping, remaining tomb-side to solve the mystery of the missing body. We have learned, like Mary, to live in a crucifixion-centered world: a world where the only explanation is that injustice will have the last laugh, that violence can lead the way at any moment, that the powerful have the power, that the tired and timid are thrown to the curb.
We have come to accept the world as it is, wearing crucifixion-oriented glasses. To see the light, to watch dawn emerge, to see goodness when the world thinks otherwise, we need to try on new glasses—we need a pair of thick, unhip, nerdy-but-not-in-the-cool-way, purple plastic glasses that help us to see the resurrection in a crucifixion-centered world. We need resurrection-glasses.
A woman I know from way back, Nancy, said this week that at times life can be dark, but then there’s light. And that light softens the darkness. She wasn’t talking about some radical, life changing softening of the darkness. She was simply saying that having her son move into a new house that is just a four-minute walk away is a softening of the world’s darkness. But maybe that was a radical, life-changing softening of the darkness. She was wearing resurrection-tinted glasses. Not rose-colored glasses, that poetic pair of glasses that sees good naively, ignoring the darkness and only seeing the light. No, resurrection-tinted glasses understand the fog, the cloud, the darkness that can settle in, but resurrection-tinted glasses help to refocus, letting the darkness soften so that the dawn might offer a new way forward.
Not far from here, a husband was killed by a distracted driver. His wife was in the car and was injured, and their two-year-old daughter was at home at the time. Resurrection-colored glasses don’t ignore the life-shattering loss, the hard work of grief, the unchangeable life-long mourning they will do together. But today, she’s remarried, her second husband adopted her daughter and now they have a son together. She has a different life now, but with resurrection-shaped glasses, she can see through grief of loss into the wonder and joy of this day.
A woman I know adopted three brothers, and she feels, every day, like their life together offers resurrection—a new life for the boys and a new life for her and her husband. It’s rarely easy, she says, especially because the boys had to live in a place of death and darkness for so long—she doesn’t go into detail, but it’s the kind of things you can imagine—it’s not easy teaching the ways of new life, she says, but the power of the resurrection, the promise of God’s love on this morning at this empty tomb, helps her stick to it. She has to wear resurrection-tinted glasses and teach her sons to do the same. It’s not easy to wear resurrection-shaped glasses in a crucifixion-centered world.
When a whole city like Chicago becomes numb to gun violence in every newspaper, and a nation cries out again “O Lord, how long?” when another school shooting emerges in the headlines, we begin to accept the crucifixion-oriented world, letting violence and injustice get the last laugh, and then women like 11-year-old Naomi Wadler organize a walk out at an elementary school wearing resurrection-colored glasses, remembering all 17 young lives killed in Parkland Florida, and an 18th victim, Courtlin Arrington, an African American teenager killed in a Birmingham school shooting days later. “Never again,” she said in DC last week, “never again” said an 11-year-old girl wearing resurrection-shaped glasses in a crucifixion-shaped world.
Wearing resurrection-tinted glasses does not make the loss and suffering disappear: Mary Magdalene is still weeping on Easter morning. Her grief is palpable. And Jesus still came to the resurrection through the cross, not around it. There is no detour to avoid Good Friday. But Jesus’ resurrection makes it impossible for life to end in chaos, as an old Italian monk once said, instead Jesus’ resurrection allows life to move toward light, toward life, toward love. Or as Clement of Alexandria said: Christ has turned all our sunsets into dawns.
On this early morning, with a chilly dawn emerging all around us, may we begin again to see the world with resurrection-colored glasses. Amen.