1st Scripture Reading: Isaiah 65:17-25
“For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind…..They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.”
God, our God, from whom we spring and in whom we live and move and have our being, is doing a new thing! Can you see it? Can you hear it? The living God is creating all around us and nowhere is it more obvious than in our gardens right now.
I am not a very good gardener – but even my garden is quite spectacular right now! There is new green growth everywhere I look: daffodils, bluebells and dandelions – so beautiful! Forsythia and Rosemary in bloom. New growth on all the roses, now that the deer can’t get at them! And last years kale is nearly three feet high but still delicious!
Cycles of nature: winter turns into spring, spring to summer, followed by autumn and then it is winter again. But there is spiritual growth too. Human beings are evolving spiritually, and that, I believe is the goal of our major religions all over the world. For instance, there is a version of the Golden Rule in every major spiritual tradition: we are called to become good people, better people. I’m pretty sure that most of us aspire to leave the world a little better than we found it, and to raise our children a little more consciously than our parents did. As we grow civilizations and communities, we are conscious of wanting fairness and justice for all. And when we die, those who come after us hopefully also aspire to more caring and compassionate and just societies.
And this is how social evolution happens. Some people can’t wait for this very slow process to get us there, and they divorce themselves from the mass of humanity to pursue their own spiritual goals. This is not a bad thing, but it was not the way of Jesus. He came to move us all along that path – to give humanity a push in a better direction. He poured himself out in every way so that we might learn a better way to live.
Some say that the vision of the prophet Isaiah is Utopian – and perhaps it is. Some say it is impossible to attain – but we have never truly tried. We aren’t ready for that pretty clearly – but I think Isaiah’s vision was meant to show us the way we need to go. Jesus knew these scriptures well and was probably informed by them.
I’m reminded of an old saying (don’t know where it came from) that says: “A man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” we are called to strive for the good, to try to co-create with God a new world, a more just and compassionate world – a world obedient to the Law of Love.
Hymn: “Sing,sing out, sing a new song”
2nd Scripture Reading: John 20:1-18
So here we are – it’s Easter morning. For us, 2000 plus years later, this is a joyful occasion. Christ is risen! Hallelujah!
It’s easy for us to move so quickly past the horror and the grief of the last few days to the joy of Jesus’ resurrection. Let’s for a moment pause and try to imagine how Jesus’ followers must have been feeling. They have endured the building tension and fear as the authorities were closing in on them. They have watched as their beloved teacher was imprisoned, tortured and humiliated. They have seen him hung from a wooden cross – still barely alive. They have scattered, terrified, convinced that they might be next.
The women stayed by the cross until Jesus died. They went to the tomb after the Sabbath to anoint his body for burial. When Mary discovered the tomb was empty, she ran in desperation to tell the other disciples. Two of them ran to see for themselves – not really believing the account of the women. And Mary came back and sat weeping outside the empty tomb. Her pain, her deep grief are palpable in this reading.
At this point, no one was rejoicing.
But then: “Mary” a voice, a being spoke to her in loving tones. It takes a bit, but she recognizes her beloved and rejoices – “Rabboni” which means teacher.
Now there is joy – the joy that bursts thru the pain and the loss to create a certainty in Mary that all is not lost, that Jesus is still with them. She must not cling to him now tho – this is not the usual kind of encounter – and Jesus tells her to go and tell the others that she has seen the Lord.
The Living God did a new thing with the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. And we learned that death is not the end – it has no victory. If we can only believe it, there is more to our story. We do not know our future – that is in God’s hands, but there is more to our story than we used to think.
Hymn #703 VU “In the bulb there is a flower”