"The Road to Glory"

Christ is risen! We can face the future with the assurance that Jesus is in fact alive to guide us, to help us, and give us hope for tomorrow. What a great promise!

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we come together this Easter Day to celebrate the risen Christ. And in response to this joy we proclaim: "The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!"

We know that this is a special day, a day to put on our best clothes, a day to plan a wonderful meal, a day to come to church with the whole family, a day to sing glad hymns.

Easter and Spring, a season we associate with new beginnings, renewal, and hope. Easter celebrates God's unconditional love for each and every person, even in the midst of our sins and failures. And during this Easter season we are reminded of God's promise of mercy, salvation, second chances, and ultimately the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

But the people we encounter at the tomb in today's Gospel didn't know that. They weren't having spring time thoughts about flowers sprouting from the dormant earth, caterpillars turning into butterflies, or, the thought of eggshells cracking open with baby chicks. Little bunnies hopping around as signs of new life weren't on their minds either. That's because they were still in the middle of the story.

Mary Magdalene was the first one at the tomb that Sunday morning, according to the Gospel. It was dark when she arrived. But she didn't come to check to see if Jesus' body was still there. She came, we can surmise, to grieve.

She probably wasn't sleeping well and was probably filled with emotions of sadness, anger, and uncertainty. Isn't this how we feel when we've lost someone very close to us. The whole world had come crashing down around her. After all she had centered all her hope, trust and love in Jesus Christ, and now he had been cruelly executed. She could have gone anywhere that morning, but she decided she needed to walk down the road to the tomb where Jesus was buried.

When she arrived at the place where Jesus was laid she found that the stone that sealed the tomb had been rolled away. Running to two of her friends, she said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have laid him."

Now Peter and "the other disciple" enter into the story. Most people think that the other disciple referred to is John and I tend to agree with that. So Peter and John ran to the tomb. They saw the linens, and apparently had some notion about what had gone on, but all they did, at least according to John's Gospel, was go back home. We still don't know a great deal about what their thoughts were, except that John, at least, "saw and believed."

Peter and John seem to have "cameo roles" in the story. It tells us so much more about Mary Magdalene than about these two disciples. After Peter and John had gone home, Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. She still thought that someone had taken away the body, and she didn't know where to find it. No wonder when the angels appeared they asked, "Woman, why are you crying?" She was asked the same question by Jesus just minutes later, when at first she didn't recognize him and took him to be the gardener.

Mary didn't recognize Jesus; the very one she was looking for, because her mind was fixed on finding a dead body. Not until Jesus spoke to her, called her by name, did she know him. At last she had found her Lord. She had walked down the road to the tomb with grief in her heart, but her weeping had been turned into joy when she recognized the glory of the Lord.

And now here we are, nearly 2,000 years later. We come to church today to celebrate the Resurrection. And, yes, we are dressed up and we are singing those joyful hymns, and most likely we'll have a good dinner in a little while. But really, aren't we like Mary Magdalene in many ways? Don't we, too, carry around a lifetime of grief in our souls?

Perhaps it's the loss of a loved one that causes us grief. Perhaps it's the frustrations and disappointments we have suffered in our lives. Perhaps it's the weight of our own sins, the bad choices we have made. Perhaps we bear the wounds of pain inflicted by others. Or, perhaps physical ailments weigh us down.

Yes, we believe that Christ is risen. We know we have cause for great joy this Easter Day. But the grief is there too, lurking in the shadow of our hearts. In a newspaper article I was reading earlier this week it was talking about how the media and the retail industry were hoping in the future to turn Easter into another Christmas.

In other words make Easter all about buying gifts and candy. Again infecting with a cancer the true meaning of a holy day. Offering all of us a way to relieve ourselves from the heavy souls we may carry.

The path being offered by these folks is the road to the local stuff-mart. They proclaim that the way to rid ourselves of all the things that weigh us down, those things that burden us, is to buy more stuff and to get more toys.

But over time after buying and playing we become very disappointed and disillusioned as we hit a dead end, or worse yet we go so far that we fall off a cliff into a deep, dark abyss. We once again acquire that feeling of emptiness and abandonment. And we realize that having things doesn't heal the hurting soul. You can't buy happiness, joy, peace, and love despite what others want us to believe.

But, like Mary, we have a Friend who understands our circumstances, a Friend who lived among us and knows what it's like to live in this world, a Friend who was willing to die for us, a Friend who now calls us by name.

Today, we celebrate the Resurrection of our Friend Jesus. And as we do, we can put down our grief at his feet, and when he calls our name, we can answer, "Rabbouni! (ra-boo-ni) which means Teacher!"

And we can follow him down the road to glory. A road that's not free of challenges, but a road that does lead us to fulfillment, joy, peace, and eternal life. All the things you can't buy, but all the things our souls so desperately need.

And as our story continues look at what Mary did next. Following the Lord's command, she went to the disciples and said: "I have seen the Lord." And she told them everything that Jesus had said to her.

We who gather in this place also see the Lord today. Do we recognize him? Can we hear him calling us by name? Do we follow his voice, or do we ignore him preferring instead the alluring call of the television commercial or sexy magazine ads.

We all have a choice of which path we'll take. The path that leads right to the local stuff-mart. Or a path, which leads down the road to glory, the road to Jesus Christ our friend and savior. This road doesn't require us to buy anything or to physically do anything. This road requires us to place our whole trust and faith in Jesus, dismissing the distractions of all the stuff of this world.

Once again this is not an easy task and to accomplish it we need to get to know our friend Jesus better. He is made known to us as we read and study the Holy Scriptures, as we share in the Lord's Supper, and by enjoying the presence of our brothers and sisters in Christ as we worship and fellowship together. And, like Mary, we are called to share the Good News of God in Jesus Christ with everyone we meet.

If you aren't currently active in a faith community I invite you to walk down the road to glory and experience the presence of Christ with us. Join us, as we strive to grow in faith to grow God's kingdom. And I pray that you experience Christ today in a way that you never have before, and that you will go in peace and tell the world that Jesus lives, Christ Jesus lives today!

Let us pray. Lord Jesus, on this day you danced forth from death into life. On this day you came back to your despondent disciples and surprised them with your presence. On this day you defeated the power of evil and death, and showed the incredible power of God. Give us sufficient imagination to comprehend the miracle of this day and all that it means to your kingdom.

Show us the true road to glory, and help us to understand that you are the way, the truth, and the life, and the only way to our Father God. In your name we pray.


Read other messages by Pastor Wade