Reverend Nicole Lamarche

John 20:1-18 and An Excerpt from, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by Adrienne Maree Brown*
March 31st, 2024
Easter Sunday
10:30 a.m.
By Rev. Nicole Lamarche

Welcome again on this beautiful, chilly, Easter Sunday! Thank you for being here! I invite you now to take some deeper breaths, to let ourselves arrive a bit more fully, as we hope to hear whatever word the Universe has for us today.
I offer this preacher’s prayer from Psalm 19. God, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight. Our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

It all begins before there is light, before it’s possible to see very far out, before the path is clear, before the dawn of a new day, before anything hopeful seems near. It’s still dark. And that’s where we start this story.
It all begins right there, early on the first day.

The Gospels have very different accounts of what happened after Jesus’ time on the cross. The Gospel of Matthew focuses on the work ahead for the Jesus community now that he is gone. The Gospel of Luke has the longest Easter narrative because it includes the Road to Emmaus.

The Gospel of Mark dedicates only eight verses to the Easter story and it does not report any appearance at all of the risen Christ. And as you heard the Gospel of John begins with Mary Magdalene all alone, at the tomb, in the dark, only to discover something that she hadn’t expected.

He wasn’t there.

He wasn’t there because people of faith claimed the nation state was on their side, that God was on their side, using their religion and their sacred texts as weapons to exclude, to cause harm, to create a profit and ultimately to kill.

So he wasn’t there and when Mary finds this, she leaves not just walking, but running to the others, to tell them that the tomb is empty. Then the others start running too and it seems like it becomes a bit of a race among the men, as the Gospel writer reports that one of them was faster and got their first.

But while the one who got there first might have been faster, that person wasn’t the bravest as we read he doesn’t go into the tomb. But here’s the funny thing, then Peter finally gets there and goes all the way inside the tomb, and the person who got their first then feels comfortable going inside to. That makes sense. Because all he knows for sure is that Jesus went in there and disappeared so it’s reasonable to wonder if Peter could go in there and also disappear. But when he sees Peter go into the shadows and survives, so they go in but then they go home. Which to me is so odd.

But Mary stays there, at the site of his passing, at the last place she saw him. And when they are all gone, she weeps.
I am a crier and I know what’s like to hold it in until the others are gone. Maybe she could let herself go and cry for a while.

What now? What next? She weeps.

Maybe it was for a bit.

Because the text tells us that at some point that two angels show up to ask her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

And then the first thing that Jesus says to her is the same darn question, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

Okay let’s pause for a second, if one of my closest friends/lovers/co-movement leaders or whatever their relationship was, died and then appeared to me and said, if the very first thing he said was, “Woman, why are you weeping?” I would be like hold on, “Boy, is that really the most pressing question right now? Do you remember what happened on Friday? Where is the body?”

She didn’t know it was Jesus, but still.

Anyway, onward in spite of First Century biases…

She weeps.

There is a lot in the world right now that has literally caused me to stop and weep. The tombs of the theater in Moscow, and the tombs from the war in Ukraine, the tombs from the war in the Middle East, the tombs at the US southern border, the tombs in our oceans and rivers and all of the poisons we have allowed to enter our waterways, the tombs of our grocery stores and schools and all of the places where we have allowed gun violence to carry on, I bet you have seen some tombs in the world right now. What are the tombs that you see?

There are broken hearts and broken bodies and broken lives and broken ecosystems and broken communities and broken futures. Around this precious planet, just like in Jesus’ time there are people using religion and sacred texts as weapons to exclude, to cause harm, to create a profit, to kill. There are people claiming that God is on their side, as they put more in the tomb.

Like Mary, we are right to weep.

But at some point, her weeping stops. It’s when Jesus says her name that her crying slows. I bet it’s his voice. Whatever she hears is him or something of him, at least, the essence of him, a presence, an energy that managed to remain on this realm, somehow defying the terror to his body that she had witnessed. It’s his voice.

Her weeping stops.

But not because she thought things would go back to how they were before, no in fact Jesus makes a point of letting her know they won’t. He says, “Do not hold on to me…” As if to say you won’t be able to connect me to the way you were used to. I am something else now. It’s us now.

I think her weeping stops because she is beginning to integrate one of Jesus’ core teachings, she gets it now. She’s sorry so long.

But I think she stops crying because she knows for sure now what Jesus was saying all along, bodies can be devalued, disregarded, excluded, harmed, mocked, silenced, imprisoned, entombed, disappeared, even killed, but ideas cannot be, dreams cannot be, visions cannot be, God’s possibilities for all of us cannot be…

The vision that Jesus held included those who were sick and disabled and poor and we women in a time when we would have been seen as property, it was a vision too big for the world of that time, it was a vision of liberation for all. But even with all that happened, that idea could not be killed, that hope was still there, they might need to whisper it to each other in the dark, but it wasn’t gone. It couldn’t be put to death.

It seems a lot like what we heard from Adrienne Maree Brown. When we are rebuilding the world, “We are creating a world we have never seen. We are whispering it to each other cuddled in the dark…”

That’s the thing, there have to be brave whisperers there, there have to be some who are willing to keep the vision alive, to proclaim that something else is possible, that this tomb will not be the end, that even what we cannot see it, it is still here and we must dare to live a vision that is sometimes too big for this world, to believe it, to do it, to create it and to begin before there is light, while it is still dark, before the dawn of a new day.

Before he was killed Alexa Navalny, Russian Democratic activist said, “You are not allowed to give up. If they kill me, it means we are strong.”

What if the Easter story invites us to hear this message today? You are not allowed to give up! You can weep at all the tombs of this time, but know you are keepers of the vision, keepers of the flame of love and justice, keepers of the dream that is so big, sometimes it feels too big for this life, keepers of the vision of freedom for this country and beyond, keepers of the vision of hope where light shines in any darkness.

Mary is the first vision keeper and I believe this is our job too. To show up at all of the tombs of this time and hold a vision for something that is not yet. Early on the first day, the body was gone, but the dream was still alive, and it is alive for us now too. Because you are the keepers of that vision.

Beautiful people it is our practice here to hear from those in the room who want to share. We believe that each of us has wisdom, so we will take two minutes to hear form this around us. What vision are you keeping? Who is helping you?
And to you who are a part of our worship on the livestream, you are invited to journal or discuss with those in your home or ponder on these same questions.


It all begins right here, while it is still dark…and we can weep at all of the tombs of this time, also let us remember we are keepers of the vision, the vision cannot be killed, so sing out, the dream lives on in us. Hallelujah. Love wins! Maybe it be so. Amen.