This is the night.
The night when we tell the story from the very beginning.
The night when we allow our memories to wander back
to the place before time even began,
when there was only God
and the possibility of something more...
...and then the earth and the heavens
...and then the stream and the rain
...and then, a garden.
In my imagination,
that first garden at the beginning of creation,
is hidden away behind crumbling walls.
It is tangled with vines,
and the birds call to one another
from tree branches
that are heavy with fragrance.
This is where the story begins.
In the garden,
with one creature,
made of dust,
made by God,
and then two.
And then things get tricky.
This is the night
when we tell the story from the beginning.
Of everything that happens next.
Of the waters of the flood and the wooden arc that floated above it.
Of the sea that parted for God’s people so they could walk through on dry land.
Of dry bones that were remade with sinews and flesh,
Of a man who was swallowed by a fish and spit out on the shore.
This is the night when we tell all these stories,
stories of going down into the deep waters,
and coming up again to tell the tale.
And then another story
one that we tell each Sunday night.
Of a man who is light,
who is bread,
who is living water.
The true vine.
Stories of a man who was with us,
who changed us,
and then was gone.
Left us alone
with only our pain
and a clamor of memories we wish we could forget.
Mary Magdalene could not forget.
I imagine her rising that morning while it was dark
and slipping quietly away
to the garden.
A garden just like the one she remembered from the story,
where a man and a woman,
gathered from dust,
The garden where Mary Magdalene went
is an echo of that first garden.
But there is one difference.
In the center of that garden was a tree.
In the center of this garden is a tomb.
This is how Mary Magdalene found herself present
at the beginning of the world.
In the grey half light of the hours before dawn,
she was there to witness
God beginning all over again.
The world re-made, re-created,
as the stone was rolled away,
and Jesus left the grave empty.
A few weeks ago,
I went hunting for a book in my apartment.
It was a book of essays,
and I half-remembered something that I wanted to find in it.
I was pretty sure the book was in a stack of other books near my bed,
but I went through all of them, and it didn’t turn up.
I tore apart my bookcase, looked under my bed.
Couldn’t find it.
It wasn’t at my office.
I did’t think I had lent it to anyone.
I decided to buy another copy,
and I really wanted it right away,
so I thought I'd buy an electronic copy.
When I hit “purchase” on my computer,
a message came up:
You’ve already purchased this item.
The whole time, the book had been sitting in my ipad.
Nothing but ones and zeros.
The funny thing was,
I remembered the book --
the actual, physical book --
Or at least, I thought I did...
The feel of the pages, its weight in my hands,
the place where I had stacked it close to my bed.
I thought that I knew so clearly what I was looking for.
But it turned out I was looking for the wrong thing entirely.
Mary Magdalene is looking for a corpse.
Upon finding the tomb empty, she needs to find Jesus’ body,
They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him,
she cries to two angels in the tomb,
whose supernatural presence
she is too distracted to even recognize or acknowledge.
She remembers his body, his skin, his smell,
the sound of his voice....
But she’s looking for a corpse.
And then he calls her by name.
And she turns.
And the whole world is created again.
So you are standing in a garden,
in the half-light of the dawn.
In the center of the garden is a tomb
that stands empty.
Why are you here,
and what are you looking for?
Is it something that you can find?
And can you hear him,
calling your name?
Calling you to turn
not the corpse,
not the body
of one who was once living,
but the presence
of one who has risen from the grave.
Do not be ashamed
if you came here looking for corpses.
It is your love, your faith, your devotion
that has drawn you here to search at the edge of the grave.
(Perhaps we are all here searching
for something we have lost.)
But by God’s grace,
the clamor of memories we would rather forget
has brought us here,
to this garden,
to peer through our tears into the tomb
and find that what we thought we were looking for,
it not what we are looking for at all.
This this the night
when God begins again,
and holds out to us the possibility
of a life lived in the garden,
between the tomb
and the one who has broken it open.
And it seems to me that we are caught in between the two.
Between the grave,
and the sound of the risen one calling our name.
Between the turning,
and the not-quite-ready to turn away.
Do not be ashamed if you have come here looking for corpses.
You have followed your pain to this garden,
where God is beginning all over again.
The world re-made, re-created,
and you with it, as Jesus calls out your name,
and you begin, again, to turn.