Mt. Pleasant Lutheran Church

2011 Easter Vigil Sermon – New Birth

May 2nd, 2011 by Pastor David Echelbarger

Mary Magdalene, the scripture says, stood “near the cross.” And yet it must have felt as though she was a million miles away. She was there but could not reach him. She could do nothing.
It was in those moments that she hatched her plan. If she could not save him, she could at least bury him. And bury him well. At that moment she became a determined person with a single objective. That became her trajectory, her mission. We have our missions and our trajectories. We are all trying to accomplish something and we are determined. But life has a way of throwing us huge curves. Then what? What happens when our trajectory stops?
Mary’s was determined. I know something of determined women. Two of them are together right now. My wife staying with my daughter and her husband as Anna recovers from a C section that brought our grandson into the world. Christine is helping Anna get through finals week where she is a nursing student at Lake Superior State. I think Christine will come home someday – just last night she inquired if she had any flowers up and then she asked about the state of the house. I told her about the flowers.
My daughter is a determined woman as well. You have to be, to ride horses over big cross country jumps. Determination.
Mary Magadalene was a determined woman on a mission to appropriately bury Jesus. It was dark? No problem. The stone? We will deal with that when the time comes. Her determined trajectory carried her on.
My daughter was a downhill ski racer in high school. Anna is a small person, barely cresting 5 feet. One of her team mates once joked to her: “I can hear your voice, but I can’t see where it is coming from.” To which she replied: “The world could not handle a bigger me.” As her father, I tend to agree.
My daughter had a birth plan. No one wanted to deliver her baby naturally more than she. She studied, trained, and was prepared. She talked with us about it over and over, sent us books and videos. I learned a great deal – a lot more than I ever wanted to know. If ministry doesn’t work out, I can now deliver babies.
Anna told us: “I was sleeping soundly. And I heard someone call my name. “Anna,” the voice said. “It woke me up and I discovered the water had broken.” But there was no one to call her name because she was alone on the farm. Her husband was gone. He owns his own trucking business was delivering steel to Minneapolis. The day before they had been advised that the baby would not come for at least a week, so he left for a there and back trip.
Anna called her friend Tiffany who is a mid-wife and lives a couple of miles away. She would drive Anna to the hospital forty-five minutes away. Tiffany’s husband was gone too. Tiff’s car wouldn’t start. She jumped started it. Daniel, Anna’s husband, was racing home from Minneapolis. Christine was in the car heading up. I would follow in three hours after I settled some church things. We all were converging. She had no family with her. Her plans were falling apart. The trajectory she anticipated was stopped. What do we do then? Anna’s determined so she adjusted to a new trajectory.
The baby was breach, no chance of a normal delivery, but she put off the C section in hopes her husband could arrive. He would not. Yet another change. The baby was about to be born and so she went into surgery. She gave strict instructions not to reveal the sex of the baby to anyone including herself until Daniel arrived then they would look together.
Christine arrived just in time and heard the baby’s 1st cry and so did I since I was talking with Christine on the cell. Anna’s husband arrived an hour later and together they shared the moment of discovery! A boy. A day of changing plans, and trajectories for us all.
Mary Magadalene finds the stone rolled away. Two angels are inside. They don’t phase her. She’s a determined woman on a mission to bury Jesus. She demands to know where he is. Nowhere in the bible does anyone encounter angels with such nonchalance. There is no fear. No falling on the ground. She’s on a given trajectory. She runs into the gardener and she starts questioning him about a body. And then Jesus stops her in her path. Stops her predetermined trajectory and once she stops, he calls her name (Mary) and she sees Jesus is no longer a million miles away, but present. Her life is remade for ever. On that first Easter Day Jesus stops our well intended determined lives to give us what we cannot give ourselves, a new kind of life.
My daughter had been on a number of trajectories. What do we do when our trajectories are stopped? We look for the presence of Jesus.
I wondered how it would be for my daughter, now that all her expectations had stopped for her. I was with her throughout the day as she held her son and I watched revelation happen. “This is unbelieveable.” she said in sheer wonder: “I actually have a baby.” (no longer a million mile away but present). Then at the end of that tumultuous day she pulled herself up and announced: “You know, this has been a Great Day! It wasn’t what I planned, but it has been a Great Day!” The day began when she heard her named called in the morning. Truly she had never been alone. Now holding her baby, the encounter with her son helped re-make her experience. Our encounter with Jesus remakes everything.
We are on our predetermined paths. We adjust, we are determined. But there comes a moment when we can’t deliver for ourselves and our trajectories jerk to a stop. And there, stopped looking for direction, we encounter Jesus. He calls our name and our eyes open to the dawn of a Great Day. That is Resurrection! Amen.

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