Mary’s Third Turning
John 20.18
Preston Clegg

Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.

Can you imagine how deeply personal Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ was to her?  She was there all alone when the sun first rose on God’s new creation. She was the first to see him and just the two of them were there.  She was the first to believe, with some inkling of what she was believing. She was the first herald of resurrection. Her name was the first name he spoke after he was raised.

Were I God, this is not how I would have done it.  This encounter seems too humble and reserved for the resurrected Lord.  I would have made it a cosmic announcement. The ground would have trembled underfoot.  Those who killed him would have run for cover. Everyone, EVERYONE, would have known that Jesus was risen from the grave.  I would have announced it from the heavens and spread it over the earth.  

But that’s not how Mary received the resurrection story because that’s not how any of us receive it.  It’s not trumpeted from the heavens. It’s not written across the sky. It’s not believed because people see it.  It’s seen only by those who believe it. It’s launched not by public decree, but by the whisper of a name. The cosmic Lord makes his entrance in the most private of ways.  I guess that’s how it begins for all of us.

But, though Easter begins with a whisper, it doesn’t end there.  After her encounter, Mary runs back to the others, announcing (PREACHING, dare I say?) that she had seen the Lord.  She ran to the other disciples. That private experience needed to be interpreted. That news needed to be shared. Even whispers need to be whispered again.

This is the most difficult part of this story for me in these days.  Quarantine does not prohibit our private experiences of Easter. In fact, it might enable them.  The quiet helps us hear the whisper. The distance between us gives us the space necessary to speak to the Gardener.  The down time assists us in turning towards Jesus (vs. 14) and then turning AGAIN (vs. 16).

But in vs. 18, Mary turns one more time and runs towards Jesus’ disciples.  She ran toward the community of believing doubters or doubting believers. There she sang to them the whisper she had just heard.  While the Easter story must begin as a private experience, but it must not end there. If it ends there, it ends.

I felt this reality viscerally last Sunday.  Trumpets don’t sound the same in empty rooms.  Lilies aren’t as beautiful when there aren’t people there to behold them.  The proclamation, “I have seen the Lord,” doesn’t sound the same when the only one there to hear it is the one who spoke it.  Resurrection demands community. We must ponder together. We must celebrate together. We must put our eyes together in order to see him and our ears together in order to hear his whisper.  Resurrection puts a song on our lips that we must sing and a story in our hearts that we must share.

I hope that you’ll find a creative way to do so in the next few weeks.  Send a card. Dial a number. Send an email. Mail a gift. Write a letter.  Serenade your neighbors. Zoom call your family and be sure they know what they mean to you.

And when this seclusion is over, let us not take our community for granted.  Let us sprint towards each other, singing and shouting, “I have seen the Lord.”  Let us recognize that the full weight of resurrection cannot rest on our shoulders alone.  The gloriousness of resurrection cannot be announced by our lone voices. The one who whispers our names whispers everyone’s name and the community helps us hear it.  It is personal, no doubt; but it is also undeniably communal.

Resurrection demands a church, and there is no church apart from resurrection.  The church is the place where our private and personal experiences with the risen Christ combine to compose a cosmic message.  The church is the place where we tune our ears towards Jesus so that our eyes might see him. The church is the place where whispers and trumpets can both be heard.  The church is the place where we practice resurrection, not just discuss it.

Like Mary Magdalene, turn towards Jesus in these days.  Then turn towards him AGAIN. Then, turn towards Jesus’ people.  Run to them and tell them, “I have seen the Lord.” You might just see him there, amongst them, still whispering, still standing, and still living.


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