Thursday, March 28, 2013

Reading the Bible again for the first time everytime

Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene, Anonymous,
German, 15th century, from the Met,
I actually love sermon preparation almost more than preaching, I think.

I am sure I am not unusual in this.

Sitting with a Scripture lesson until it speaks a new word to you is a powerful and exhilarating experience. It doesn't happen every week, but it happens often enough to keep me intrigued.

Sometimes it is something in the lesson I totally missed before no matter how many times I have read it. Sometimes it can be an old truth that burns inside in a new way because of something that has happened in my life. Sometimes it can be something in the original Greek that I previously missed  because the translations I read tend to be careful and conservative. Occasionally it is something I discover reading the commentaries, although this seems to happen less and less. 

This week, preparing for Easter Sunday, I have been reading and studying John's version of the resurrection experience -- John 20:1-18. Of course, I've preached on this text many times before.

The sermon on this lesson I remember best was the year I realized that John mentions and re-mentions again for a total of four times in a few short verses that Mary Magdalene was weeping. Obviously, John wants us to notice that Mary was weeping. In the sermon I preached at least 15 years ago at Arch Street UMC in Philadelphia, I explored the relationship between tears and resurrection. 

I don't know if the sermon spoke to anybody else but preparing to preach it spoke to me at the time.

This week I realized something that is very obvious --it is mentioned in all of the commentaries-- but that I never really thought about before: the reason Mary is weeping.

She is not just weeping because Jesus has died. She is specifically weeping because she cannot find Jesus' body. She is weeping because --as she says in John 20:13-- "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him."

Wow. She was weeping not just because Jesus has died but because she could not find Jesus' body. She was weeping because she did not know where they had put him.  She could not find him.

What is this part of the story trying to tell us? Something about our experience of grief? Something about our experience of death? I am not sure yet but something about this aspect of the story strangely moves me. 

I've got the next couple of days to figure it out and put it into words.   

Rereading the rest of the story, I suspect this detail about why Mary was weeping adds significance to Jesus telling Mary not to cling to him and his sending her back to the disciples. 

This is what is peculating inside me this week as I read John 20 again for the first time. . 

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