This is the text for my Easter sermon, my final sermon at the ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish.
The text is John 20.
One Thursday morning a month, I have led a communion service at the Clark County Health Care Center. A couple of months ago, as I was preparing to lead the service, one of the patients asked where the regular pastor was.
Since I had been leading that service for the almost 2 ½ years since I added Nazareth to my pastoral responsibilities, I assumed I WAS the regular pastor.
One of the staff members said I WAS the regular pastor. He said, “No. The other guy wears orange shoes.” I had taken to wearing these orange crocs for one reason. They are comfortable. Yes, they stand out a bit. I thought I had other characteristics that were more memorable and distinctive, but for this person, it was all about the shoes.
So I made sure that I wore these shoes every time I went out there, so I could be seen and known.
Mary Magdalene is my favorite Apostle.
Now, if you are thinking, Pastor, she isn’t one of the Twelve Apostles, you are correct. Which is one of the things that makes her my favorite. But we will get to that towards the end of my message.
Now each Gospel tells about the discovery of the empty tomb and the resurrection with slightly different details, and we tend to blend them all together. For the next few minutes, just focus on how John’s Gospel tells this tale.
She gets up early on the pre-dark hours of Sunday morning (a woman after my own heart) and goes to the tomb of her teacher, her rabbi who has been crucified. When she gets to the tomb, she sees the stone has been rolled away, and she runs to get some of Jesus’ disciples.
Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple, believed to be the author of this Gospel, run to the tomb. They see it is empty. Jesus’ body is not there. They see that the linens used to wrap Jesus’ body remain, but he is nowhere to be found.
And they went home.
The body of their master, their teacher, their rabbi who was just crucified is missing from the tomb in which he was laid.
And they went home.
Mary Magdalene stays. She stays in the garden where her rabbi was laid. He was more than her rabbi. Jesus was already her savior. Mary Magdalene was possessed by several demons, and was healed by Jesus. In response, she, along with other women, financially supported Jesus, his disciples and his ministry. They travelled with Jesus and the Twelve, and picked up the bills. While the male disciples fled after Jesus was arrested, it was Mary Magdalene, along with the Beloved Disciple, who took Jesus’ mother, Mary, to the very foot of the cross, to be with him as he suffered and died.
Mary Magdalene followed Christ to the cross. Mary Magdalene discovered the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene stayed in the garden.
After the two disciples went home, Mary Magdalene looks into the empty tomb for herself. Through her tears, she sees two angels, who ask her why she cries. She tells them she does not know where someone has taken the body of her lord, her rabbi.
Then she sees someone else. Through her tears, she assumes it is the gardener, and so she goes to him. She is asked again why is she crying, and who is she looking for?
John writes that Mary Magdalene “says” her next statement, but I believe she shouted, she screamed, she poured her broken heart into demanding, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
As the sheep know the voice of the Good Shepherd, with simply saying her name, Mary Magdalene SEES her Risen Rabbi, her Living Lord.
The Gospels record Risen Jesus appearing seven times. In three of them, here in the garden, on the Road to Emmaus, and on the Galilean lakeshore, Jesus is not immediately recognized. Was it that his appearance had changed, or just that you are not expecting to see one who was dead now among the living?
Maybe that is why it is hard for us to see the Risen and Living Christ at work in the world. Mary Magdalene did not expect to see Jesus in that garden, and mistook him for the gardener. We don’t expect to see Jesus at work in our daily lives.
We need to look for him, and listen for him to call our name.
We need to look for the widow who gets up every morning, who reads from the Bible and prays before breakfast.
We need to look for the parent who works two jobs, and still finds time to help at their kid’s school.
We need to look for the person who gives of their talents and goes into the areas that others are fleeing from.
We need to look for the person who is struggling to make ends meet, but can always be counted on to help out.
We need to look for the people who stand up and speak out because they feel they must change the things they can no longer accept in this world.
We need to look not only at the people who are feeding the hungry, taking care of the sick, fighting for peace and working for justice, but for those who are performing everyday acts of simple human kindness.
We need to look for love, for to love someone is to see the face of God.
By his death and resurrection, Jesus has removed our sin and defeated death. As his apostles, he sends us out – that is the meaning of apostles, ones who are sent out – to share his story and love.
Mary Magdalene is sent out by Christ to those who will be sent out to tell them Jesus is Risen. Mary Magdalene is the Apostle to the Apostles.
Because she has seen the Risen Christ, she brings the Good News to those who will share the Good News with the world.
May we go out into the world, in thanks of the gifts of grace given by God through the Risen Christ, to see and be seen, and to share the love of God with the world. AMEN!
 Victor Hugo, Les Miserables. But I know it from the Finale of Les Miz.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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