In the gospels of Matthew, John, and the longer ending of Mark, Mary Magdalene is the first to see the risen Christ, who commissions her to tell the other disciples the good news. In almost all the lists of women who followed Jesus, she is named first. Through the centuries, in the Western church she has been the object of misconceptions about her life and her relationship to Jesus. Now we recover her role as leader among Jesus’ followers and as witness to the resurrection. Like Moses’ sister, she came running with the good news that the one who had been given up for dead was restored to life.
O God, powerful and compassionate, you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us. Heal each of us, and make us a whole people, that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
John 20: 1-2, 11-19
SERMON: “SHE DID WHAT!?”
18When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
26“My brothers, you descendants of Abraham’s family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. 27Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him. 28Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. 29When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30But God raised him from the dead; 31and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people. 32And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors 33ahe has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus.”
11Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Does this scene remind you of a Finger Lake? Most of us probably have many fond memories of swimming, boating, fishing, being at a cabin, eating a meal, having a beverage on/at/by these spectacular lakes created by that retreat of ice thousands of years ago.
This could be sunrise looking east from Taughannock or maybe sunset looking west from Sodus Point or from Aurora near the Inn or near the campus of Wells College.
This happens to be the Sea of Galilee, which the Gospel lesson notes is also called the Sea of Tiberias. The photo is taken from the town of Tiberias, which lies on the western shore of the Sea. The perspective is looking east at a gorgeous sunrise in February 2017.
This area is where Jesus called his first disciples and yes, fisherpersons still ply their trade there. The area up the western side of the Sea between Tiberias and Capernaum still is fertile fishing grounds. Jesus called those fisherpersons to fish for people. But the new fishing grounds would be both less-well known and more challenging.
The gospel opens “Jesus went to the other side of the sea of Galilee”. We can see that the ‘other’ side is not far. But it is far in another way. It is not ‘our’ territory. The Sea was the boundary between countries, peoples, ways, customs. We can see it, but we do not go there. Usually. But Jesus does.
On the ‘other’ side with 5000 of ‘those’ people following him, it comes to be dinner time. The lesson notes that this occurs near Passover. One of the traditions of the Seder meal is to open the door of the house to welcome strangers and to feed them. Jesus takes this tradition seriously. But, feed them with what?
A boy in the crowd offers to share five loaves of bread and two fish. But Andrew voices everyone’s concern about the meager supplies, “But what are they among so many people?”
Everyone eats and is filled. Twelve baskets of leftovers are gathered. Welcoming and feeding.
Then the disciples set out in the boat, crossing from east to west to return to Capernaum.
What kind of crossings is God nudging us to take to connect both sides of the Sea? What is God inviting us to share – even though it seems so little – so that others may have nourishment and life?
SERMON: "Fed Up"
11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost."
A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, "Give it to the people and let them eat." 43But his servant said, "How can I set this before a hundred people?" So he repeated, "Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the LORD, 'They shall eat and have some left.'" 44He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the LORD.
Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 9There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?
16When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." 21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.
Last week John’s gospel shared the story of Jesus feeding 5000 people on the ‘other’ side of the Sea, thanks to a young boy who courageously shared his family’s dinner with everyone.
This week we see in the verses immediately following that story that the people who had been so fed chased Jesus back across the Sea to Capernaum. Jesus challenges them not to follow because their bellies are full, but because he is the Bread of life – eternal life. Do they see?
The first lesson shares a story from what is called the ‘murmuring tradition’ of the years the people wandered between Egypt and the Promised Land. In other words, the people complained about the journey, like kids in the backseat of the SUV. Are we there yet? Did you pack anything to eat? I don’t like what you packed. Can we stop and get a burger? I have to go to the rest room. We are never going to be at grandma’s. We are going to die on the way.
Like the feeding of the 5000, God provides food to the people for their journey. But they do not exhibit a great deal of gratitude to God for saving their bacon. They don’t know this kind of food; they don't recognize it as food. So . . . they complain – again like the kids in the back seat – “what is it?”
Behind ‘what is it?’ is the Hebrew word mannu which gets nudged slightly to name this unrecognized provision from God: manna.
This story challenges me to recognize God’s provision for my/our life. I fear that all too often, I am like those pilgrims. I do not recognize nor appreciate what God has provided to nourish and enhance my/our life. Instead of offering ‘thanks’, I may be inclined to complain.
I will try to keep the murmuring down as we get closer to Grandma’s.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were [beside the sea,] they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" 26Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.
13In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, "It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat."
9(When it says, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.