Encountering the resurrection

March 17, 2008

The music is out in brassy force, the altar flowers are in full
bloom, and the sanctuary is full of people not seen since December.
Ironically, even the visitors know the story, or imagine they do, and
the lectionary readings are always the same—Matthew or John. What does
the preacher say in her second, or 22nd Easter sermon that wasn’t said
before?

A sermon could be preached focused on one or all of the
disciples in John’s account. The three types of discipleship will be
represented in your congregation on Easter morning. I suggest that each
of the following types represents one of the classic virtues of faith,
hope, and love.

• the beloved disciple, the disciple of faith

The beloved disciple is the first of the three to believe. He pokes his
head in the empty tomb and, as John says, “He saw and believed.” His
faith is confident and secure. He does not wait to analyze the evidence
like Peter, or see the wounds like Thomas, or hear his name called like
Mary. He has walked the obedient road of faith alongside his Lord and
his faith has made him well. He sees and believes.

These are the steady saints of faith sitting in the pews Easter morning.

• Mary, the disciple of love

Courageous Mary stood at the foot of the suffering cross while the male
disciples were cowering from the Romans. She is the first to reach the
tomb in the half-light of dawn, the first to weep over the body’s
disappearance, and the first to proclaim the Risen Christ. Her grief is
as acute as her love. Jesus gave her a place in community, valued her
gifts and contributions, and showed her purpose. Her weeping comes from
the place of shattered dreams and a bleeding heart. Then Jesus calls
her by name, holds her in his arms and restores her to the newness of
life.

Many of these disciples, whose lives are in chaos, who
are grieving the loss of a loved one, who desperately need to hear the
Lord calling their name, will be in the pews on Sunday.

• Peter, the disciple of hope

Peter is the first of the three to actually go in the tomb and look
around. He is evidence driven: empty tomb, stone rolled aside, linen
cloth, no body. Peter lives in a world of rationality, of cause and
effect, with the laws of motion and mechanics soundly in place. Dead
bodies do not disappear; somebody has to move them. Peter leaves the
tomb unaware of the Lord’s resurrection. He doesn’t believe until much
later when Mary tells him her story and convinces him that the good
news is real.

Peter is the disciple of hope because he gives
hope to the rest of us plain Jane and Joe disciples. Through all his
smugness, his denials, his “just not getting it”; through his missteps
and mistakes, and now through completely missing the central moment of
our faith—he is still the one upon whom Jesus builds his church.

Not everyone has the beloved disciple’s faith, or the depth of Mary’s
love. But all of us sitting in worship on Easter can find hope in Peter.

These three disciples will show up at your church this Sunday. The good news: Easter resurrection comes to them all.