SERMON ~ 04/09/2023 ~ SUNRISE SERVICE ~ Easter Day ~ “Dreams or Reality?”


04/09/2023 ~ Resurrection of the Christ ~ Easter Day ~ *Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10 ~ SUNRISE SERVICE.

Dreams or Reality?

“The angels asked, ‘Why are you weeping?’” — John 20:13a

It was a dream. She was sure of that. But is was one of those dreams where she knew it was a dream but she could not wake up. In the dream she was running and she ran and she ran and never seemed to be out of breath.

There were other strange things too. In this dream she found her way to the tomb in the dim shadows of the early morning and found the stone no long longer covered the opening. She was frightened since she realized the body was not there. That is when she started to run. She knew needed to find Simon Peter and the other disciple. And so she ran… and she ran… and she ran. (Pause.)

It was the eve of the Sabbath when she had seen her friend die. She followed the procession to the tomb where the body had been placed and watched the men— the friends of the Rabbi, the disciples— gently, lovingly, place the body inside the rough hewn walls of the newly carved burial place. That was not a dream. That was all… too real. (Slight pause.)

The reality of these several days was overwhelming, not a dream but a nightmare. In those hours before the burial she watched as the Rabbi, her Teacher, died the death of a criminal, watched as the Roman soldiers executed her friend, watched while others had fled, watched… and was with him till the end. (Pause.)

Her name was Mary. But many people called her Mags. That was because she was from the town of Magdala.

The name of the one she watched being executed was Yeshuah, Jesus in the Greek. The name means ‘God saves.’ And that’s what she thought every time she saw him–– ‘God saves.’ That is what she thought she saw in him–– ‘God saves.’

Because of Jesus, she had confidence— hope— that the dominion of God could be and was present, real— that the peace, justice, freedom and equity of God might have a place in society, that these blessings from God are real. (Pause.) And then she watched… as Jesus died. (Slight pause.)

The reality of the death, this murder, this execution of Jesus by an occupying army, these invaders from Rome, a death brought to reality by the orders of Pilate, the Procurator, the Governor, a Roman, was still real, fresh, in her mind. It was not at all a distant memory. And it felt… devastating. It made her feel that dreams, especially dreams of hope, were not worth dreaming.

Indeed, all the events of the last several days were freshly seared in her memory. And these memories came to the fore in this seemingly endless dream where she ran and she ran and she ran. (Pause.)

Suddenly, Mags was awake. Quickly, she sat upright. (Slight pause.) It was still dark. She could hear the soft, gentle cooing noise of a dove.

Unsure of what propelled her, she got up, quickly threw on clothes and bolted out the door. Somehow, if Mary knew anything, she knew she had to get to the tomb. (Slight pause.)

Can dreams… somehow… turn into reality? (Pause.) When she arrived at the tomb, the sky still had an eerie shade of murkiness to it, not quite yet a new day; not quite the old night. But there was just enough light to see.

She could see the giant stone was a good ways off from the opening of the tomb. Was this reality? Was this a dream? Had she not already seen this, experienced this?

Mags never hesitated. Knowing it was real, not a dream, she sprinted back toward the house and ran and ran and ran. And even though she ran without stopping, she never seemed to be out of breath.

She found Simon Peter and the disciple who Jesus loved standing together in the square outside the house and told them to quickly get to the tomb. The younger of the two set off as fast as she had seen anyone run. Simon Peter moved at a brisk pace too, not quite as fast. Mags followed. (Slight pause.)

When she got back to the tomb the two disciples stood by the entrance staring at one another, shaking their heads, looking sad. Then they simply left. Alone, she stood there and started to weep. She closed her eyes and cried and cried and cried. (Slight pause.) She then had a sense someone was standing nearby. Mags did not open her eyes.

A voice asked, “Why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?”

“They have taken away my Rabbi and I do not know where they have put the body” she said, still weeping. “Please, if you are the one who carried Jesus away, tell me where you have laid the body and I will take it away.” (Slight pause.)

Then she heard her name. “Mary.” Was it the tone of voice? Was it the inflection with which it was said? In the midst of her tears, all she could say was, “Rabbouni!”

Was this a dream? Was this real? In an instant, her mind tried to sort through all that had happened in these last days, in this last hour.

Mags knew this was real. This was not a dream. She reached out to touch the Rabbi who said, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to Abba, God. Rather, go to the sisters and brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to Abba, to my God and your God.’” (Slight pause.)

She did not know why this was the right thing to do, but she knew it was. She looked up at the face of Jesus. Loving eyes gazed back at her. They were warm, tender, passionate. Jesus nodded. Mags nodded.

She wiped her tears on a sleeve, turned and walked toward the town. She did not run. There was no need to run. She did not weep. There was no need to weep. She did not quite know why, but she was filled with joy and she knew hope could be real. Mags also knew what she needed to do, what she had to do.

This was not a dream. This was reality. This was God at work in the world, in their midst. This was the fulfillment of the covenant.

This reality meant the peace, the joy, the hope, the freedom and the love God promised in the covenant was and is alive, present and real. And this story, this word, this covenant was not meant just for her.

This story, this word, this covenant was meant not just for the disciples. This story, this word, this covenant was meant for the whole world.

So Magdala went back to the disciples and boldly said, “I have seen the Teacher!” Even as she said them, these words filled her with joy and filled her with hope. (Slight pause.) Amen.

Elijah Kellogg Church, Harpswell, Maine – Sunrise Service

ONE: May the love of God, the power of the resurrection in Christ, Jesus and the presence of the Spirit be with us always.
MANY: And the blessing of God surround us this day and forevermore.
ONE: So, indeed, rejoice! Rejoice people of God! Christ is risen!
ALL: Christ is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

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