EDITOR’S NOTE: After a short sickness, beloved Christian writer and theologian Rachel Held Evans handed away on Might 4, 2019, on the age of 37. Within the midst of deep sorrow and mourning, Nadia Bolz-Weber delivered the next sermon at Rachel’s funeral on June 1, 2019.
Whereas it was nonetheless darkish, Mary Magdalene got here to the tomb and noticed that the stone had been eliminated. As she wept, she regarded in and noticed two angels in white, sitting the place the physique of Jesus had been mendacity. They mentioned to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She mentioned to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” – John 20:1, 11-13
Lady, why are you weeping?
I need to confess that I used to heard this as a barely passive aggressive query — as if the angles had been implying that Mary was overreacting. Or this query was the equal of sending her some vapid don’t fear be pleased meme. I’ve gotten a few these from well-meaning Christians just lately. As if Christian religion is usually a mechanism to bypass unfavorable feelings in favor of delusional positivity. Virtually like they had been rebuking me for my tears as if with sufficient religion I’d not must grieve. That is, as they are saying, hogwash.
I have religion.
And proper now, I’ve religion that our grief is definitely holy to God. I’ve religion that Jesus stood on the tomb of his good friend and cried tears as salty as our personal. And sure, I do have religion that, in any non secular and everlasting approach, that dying has no sting to it in anyway.
But it surely stings now. And I really feel that sting in my eyes.
In order I learn this textual content from John once more, I began to see the query, girl, why are you weeping not as an accusation, however as an invite.
So for these gathered who’ve additionally been crying rather a lot, I invite us to the identical query: Why? Why are you your self weeping? It’s a holy query.
So possibly, for simply this second, we select to not bypass the true reality of our disappointment and ask each other, what’s the factor below the factor.
I personally am crying — as a result of I really feel robbed. I’m crying, as a result of dying is a thief we can not placed on trial and punish.
I’m crying, as a result of I assumed we might all have a future wherein Rachel raised her infants and saved writing books and grew outdated with Dan.
I’m crying, as a result of Rachel’s dying makes me understand that not one in all us is promised yet one more day and that simply terrifies me.
I’m crying, as a result of this grief has opened the door and let in a lot different grief, and I don’t know learn how to un-invite it’s mates to this occasion.
And selfishly I’m crying as a result of there was part of me that solely Rachel appeared to see, and I don’t need that a part of me to go unseen on this world. I’m fairly certain Rachel, like everybody else dwelling on this century, had some type of caller ID.
However you’d by no means realize it. I’d name, she’s say howdy, I’d say hey Rach, it’s Nadia and she or he say Naaaaadia. I’m crying, as a result of nobody says my identify like that.
I’ve heard it mentioned that grief is the worth we pay for having cherished and so, yeah I feel this love-soaked grief of ours is holy to God.
As a result of whereas there are those that would scale back the Christian religion to moralism and delusional positivity — we all know that the God we worship will not be a shiny toothed motivational speaker churning out cheerful memes in instances of struggling. As a result of the God we worship is a crucified and risen God. Which is to say, we worship a God that isn’t unfamiliar with darkness. A God who comes near those that mourn. A God who comes near those that stand exterior of tombs. A God who will not be far off, however who’s as shut as that uneven breath that falters in your weeping.
Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus had freed Mary Magdalene from demons and evil spirits. Which is why, whereas it was nonetheless darkish, when Mary Magdalene stood weeping exterior his tomb, regarded in, noticed angels and was requested, Lady, why are you weeping, I’m wondering if possibly she was crying as a result of to Jesus she wasn’t “that crazy lady” like she was to everybody else. To him, she was simply Mary and when Jesus mentioned her identify, Mary — it felt like a whole sentence. And now she puzzled who would ever see her as complete, who would ever name her by her actual identify.
I feel she was crying as a result of having felt divine love within the presence of Jesus she knew couldn’t return to dwelling with out it. So she cried saying…
They’ve taken him away, and I have no idea the place he’s.
They’ve taken love away, and I have no idea the place it’s.
They’ve taken kindness away, and I have no idea the place it’s.
They’ve taken my very own wholeness away, and I have no idea the place it’s.
And so whereas it was nonetheless darkish, she went to his tomb considering possibly the tomb was the top of the story.
As it’s possible you’ll know, Rachel cherished Mary Magdalene, as many people do. Mary Magazine, the apostle to the apostles, the primary witness to the resurrection, the one whom Jesus advised to go and inform.
I began to marvel this week, “Why was Mary Magdalene chosen for this role?” See, I don’t assume it was as a result of she had adopted the directions for learn how to make herself worthy to witness the resurrection. And I don’t assume it was as a result of she match the excessive priest’s description of a great preacher, and I don’t assume it was as a result of she had pure doctrine. However most significantly, I don’t assume it was regardless of who she was, I feel it was BECAUSE of who she was.
I feel Mary was chosen as a result of she was a girl from whom demons had fled. I feel Mary was chosen as a result of she knew what it was like for God to maneuver, not when the lilies are already out on church and the lights are on — however whereas it’s nonetheless darkish. As a result of in contrast to when the lads regarded in and noticed solely laundry, when Mary Magdalene regarded within the tomb, SHE noticed angels.
Mary Magdalene noticed angels as a result of she was not unfamiliar with the darkness. She had the type of evening imaginative and prescient that solely comes from seeing what God does whereas it’s nonetheless darkish.
I have no idea why that is God’s economic system. That it’s whereas we’re nonetheless in despair.
That it’s whereas we’re nonetheless grieving, whereas we’re nonetheless sinners, whereas we’re certain that nothing good will ever come. That it’s once we are confronted with the nothingness of dying — that we’re closest to resurrection.
That’s whereas it’s nonetheless darkish that God does God’s most wondrous work.
I have no idea why it’s that.
Solely when there may be nothing else we are able to probably do — solely when we’ve got exhausted each attainable good deed, each excellent confession of excellent religion, each pious notion, each woke tweet, solely then can we lastly unfold our trophies at his ft and switch on the sound of our identify as if it’s a full sentence and reply saying, “Rabboni! My teacher and my God.”
Lots of you understand that the very last thing Rachel tweeted was about having to overlook Recreation of Thrones. In order I watched the ultimate episode I do know I couldn’t be alone in considering of her when Tyrion mentioned: “There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it.”
This isn’t the top of the story (as Rachel mentioned). A narrative Rachel was keen to danger being improper about. A narrative about God strolling round like he undoubtedly didn’t perceive our guidelines. A narrative about God considering it’s alright to have dinner with intercourse staff and Saducees — and ideally on the identical time. A narrative about God going round forgiving the sins of mainly everybody with out even going via a correct verification course of. After which touching each lepers and Roman troopers as in the event that they had been additionally holy.
A narrative about how we people thought this a lot indiscriminate mercy didn’t sound correct to us. And this a lot mixing of people that shouldn’t combine didn’t sound correct to us, and this a lot grace didn’t sound correct to us and so we needed to try to destroy the story Jesus was telling about who we had been and who God is and so we hung him on a tree simply exterior of city. And the way there he took all of it — all our damaged junk, all our sin and disgrace and must blame others, and all our treasured verification processes and our self-righteous rubbish, and he took all of it into his damaged physique and from the wood throne, the king of kings proclaimed his judgement: “Forgive them father, they know not what they are doing.” Forgive them, they don’t but know their actual story.
And the way three days later, whereas it was nonetheless darkish, dying was already being defeated. And Mary stood weeping.
And this story nonetheless isn’t over — and we all know it isn’t the top as a result of we’re nonetheless being caught up into it. Mary Magdalene’s life — Rachel’s life, your lives — we’re all fodder for God’s actually actually lengthy memoir of how God loves people.
The love that saturates our grief. The love we’ve got for Rachel, that she had for us, doesn’t simply cease. As a result of tombs are actual, however they don’t seem to be essentially the most actual factor. Which implies that dying is perhaps the enemy, nevertheless it can not defeat the story of the gospel. In different phrases, the resistance is successful my mates. Nothing can cease it. And as Rachel says, there are nonetheless prophets in our midst.
And whereas it might nonetheless be darkish, the sunshine is breaking via. And the darkness can not, won’t, shall not overcome it. Amen.