About ten years ago I heard a story about a woman and her parakeet named Miss Chippie. It seemed Miss Chippie’s owner was getting tired of cleaning the bird’s cage so she decided that she would use her Electrolux vacuum cleaner, the one with the long hose, but without the usual attachments. She was vacuuming the bottom of the cage when the phone rang. She reached over to get the phone and as she did, she heard the unmistakable sound of Chippie being sucked up into the vacuum. Immediately she put down the phone and rushed over to the canister of the vacuum, pulled out the dirt bag and ripped it open. She found Chippie sitting there stunned but still alive. Since the bird was now covered with soot and dirt, she grabbed Chippie and ran into the bathroom, held her under the faucet and washed her to get all the soot and dirt off. As she finished, she saw the hair dryer sitting on the sink. She turned it on, held Chippie up in front of the blast of hot air to dry her off. A newspaper reporter heard the story and and went out to talk to the woman. At the end of the interview, he asked, “How is Chippie doing now?”. The woman responded, “Well, Miss Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore. She just sort-of sits and stares.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some times in the last month when I’ve felt kind of like Miss Chippie. Life has been rough and we don’t feel like singing so much.
And so it is at the start of today’s gospel passage, it is still dark, and Mary is in the dark. She has gone to the tomb to care for Jesus’ body and he is not there. Thinking his body has been stolen she runs to Simon Peter and another disciple and they reach the tomb and see the cloth wrappings; and, not seeing the body they returned to their homes. But Mary stays in the dark, weeping. Then the gospel tells us that she speaks to two angels, and then she sees Jesus standing there, but she does not recognize him. When Jesus says her name, she recognizes him and says, “Rabbouni,” which means teacher. And she runs to tell the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”
This is the story of stories, full of symbolism. We are in our lives and it is still dark for us. The darkness of the story symbolizes the world without Christ. When he comes to us, we don’t recognize him, we are fearful, and like Peter, we may run, not really sure where we are going. We don’t understand, we cry.
But then Jesus comes to us but we don’t even recognize him. But he calls our name, and we see clearly that this is the Lord, and Jesus explains that our relationship is beyond this world. Christ, the “Rabbouni”, the teacher, explains that his Father is our Father, that his God is our God. Mary finally sees it and she goes to the disciples and says, “I have seen the Lord,” and as the dawn is breaking,
she becomes the first teller of the Resurrection story.
Human beings are innately seekers, looking for the meaning and fullness of life, and the gospel writer John makes it clear that what humanity seeks is what Mary found in that cemetery, the risen Christ, the light of the world that shines in the darkness, the embodied glory of God. So too, Christ calls our names, inviting us into the glory of God.
And so this morning, though you may have started in darkness, you are invited to see the risen Christ, hear him say your name, and walk into the future in the light of God’s glory.
Jesus’ presence is the foundation of our hope. He really is alive. He isn’t in the tomb. He really appears to his disciples, then and today And, he calls you by your name. How will you respond? Will you mourn or will you tell and sing? My brothers and sisters, please pray with me, that we may truly experience the living Christ and share God’s love for the world and for us, this day, and always.