Sermon – April 20, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. John 20:16-17
One of my great joys in becoming a grandmother is the ability to travel with my grandchildren. When my grandson Logan was 18 months old, I brought him to my home in Maryland for one night. This required great preparation, because his mother was not sure this was such a great idea. I promised that if he had any trouble being away from home, I would get in my car at any time of the night and drive the 100 miles to bring him home. We had so much fun, going to the National Zoo. He was never homesick.
When Logan was 4, I decided to take him on a 3-day trip to Syracuse, New York, about 300 miles away. My mother was from that area and I have fond memories of going to visit my grandparents and my mother’s extended family every summer. While I knew my grandson would not have the same experience as me, I wanted to show him around…see these things through new eyes. And my good, longtime friend of over 30 years lives there and I wanted her to meet Logan. My granddaughter was just a little too young to go, I reasoned, and I also wasn’t sure I could travel with both of them, so the plan was to take Logan.
He was so excited. He had a new outfit for our trip. In addition to his suitcase, he had a backpack filled with his precious toy cars, some books and a stuffed animal or two. I told him I was going to take him to a big lake, where you couldn’t even see to the other shore and he said, “Grandma, I’m just little. Can’t you take me to a little lake?” I could tell this grandson of mine loved a new adventure. Yet, he was well aware that his mother would miss him tremendously. She had told him she’d do the “happy dance” when he returned home. A couple of times before we left, he made sure to assure her. He would be talking excitedly about what we planned to do. Then he’d stop and say, “Mommy, I know you’ll miss me. And when I come home, you’ll do the happy dance.”
My grandson was never homesick on our trip. He loved every minute of it. At one point he even said he didn’t want to go home! But when we drove up to his house, he was so excited and he and his mother did a wonderful happy dance together.
And that’s what we see Mary doing in the garden. Can’t you just imagine her happy run to embrace Jesus? And what did she look like as she ran to tell the others she had seen Jesus? After witnessing Jesus’ terrible death and then arriving at the tomb to find his body gone. She was distressed and scared. Then to see him risen! She rushes to him.
More recently, Pharrell Williams has caught the world’s attention with his song “Happy.” Originally the closing song of last summer’s animated film, Despicable Me II, with the funny and loveable minions, the video came out in November.
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
It’s a catchy tune. The original video has 191 million views. And people around the world have created their own videos. From Hong Kong to Algeria to soldiers in Afghanistan, school children and people of all ages. All dancing and saying, “happiness is the truth.” It has become a kind of protest song for freedom, even. People in Ukraine made a video as part of their protest and overthrow of the corrupt government there. We in this country can relate to that since one of our founding documents, The Declaration of Independence, talks about the inalienable rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
And today is the happiest of days in our Christian faith. Jesus rose from the dead. No power on earth could keep him in the tomb. He rose and is with us always.
Yet, our Christian happiness is different from those fleeting moments when we feel excited or in a good mood. That’s the beauty of this day and of our Christianity. Happiness is deeper. The happiness we have is with us always. It is the knowing deep inside that Christ is risen…that Christ is with us…that nothing can keep us down.
Yes, we have our trials. We have our days when we’re not feeling so strong emotionally or physically. Some of us are often depressed. We may not look happy on the outside. That’s not what it’s about. Our happiness comes from the knowledge and faith that we have a lifeline of hope – the sure and certain knowledge that God raised Jesus…death was destroyed. There is always resurrection. There is always new life and new birth.
And on those days when that happiness is hard for us to embody…when it’s buried somewhere deep inside and we just can’t tap into it…we have each other… the whole Christian community. Every minute of the day someone is praying for us. We have this community of St. John’s Episcopal Church right here and right now. Don’t you often find yourself thinking of your brothers and sisters from church during the week? Or at least over a couple of weeks? Those little prayers…that’s the lifeline of hope…that’s the link to deep happiness.
Mary runs to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” she announces. Her weeping turns into happiness. Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!