This is a great miracle, the greatest miracle. A lot of time when people talk about miracles we talk about the drama of it, how inexplicable it is, how it contradicts the laws of nature as we know them, how it proves God’s existence cause how else could they have happened?
Which is true enough as far as it goes. Of course God can do things that break the laws of nature as we know them. We can do things that break the laws of nature as we know them. If you asked a person two hundred years ago whether we could build a machine the size of a house out of metal, then make it fly, they would say that was a miracle. Yet we have airplanes now. If you had asked someone a hundred years ago whether we could get someone’s heart to start beating again once it had stopped, they would have said it was a miracle. Yet we do this every day.
Of course God can contradict the laws of nature as we know them. We can. But that’s not the point. I remember a guy in one of my former parishes, he was very smart, very down to earth. He was a geologist for the state of Kentucky. He traced the path of water through rock formations underground. So water would sink down here, travel through sandstone or something like that for fifty miles, spring up over there. Fascinating man.
He said one time, “I see a miracle every time I look at one of my children. I see a miracle when I look at a sunset.”
A miracle may or may not contradict the laws of nature. It may or may not be explainable. That’s not the point. The point is this: A miracle is a moment when we see the face of God, an event that shows us what God is like.
In the Gospel of John, seven miracles happen that show us what God is like. In the first, Jesus and his disciples are at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. And Jesus turns a huge amount of water into wine, and not just any wine. The richest, sweetest, most potent kind of wine. So here is what this miracle tells us about God: God likes a party.
God delights in new romance and old love; in people dancing and laughing and telling stories to each other, celebrating life. That’s what God is like.
We may say, “How can God like a party in this world, where there is so much destruction, so many petty lies and stupid dictators, where there is so much illness and death.”
Well, the next two miracles Jesus does, he heals people who are sick. God’s celebration of life does not leave us to die. It reaches into our lives and heals us. More than that, it heals people we might not like very much. The first healing miracle Jesus does for a royal official. This person would have been richer than most people, more powerful. People probably would not have liked him very much because he was a servant of King Herod. You may remember King Herod. He cut off John the Baptist’s head because John the Baptist criticized him. This guy works for that Herod. He could just as easily have been working for Bashar al Assad or Valdimir Putin.
But Jesus heals his son. God’s celebration of life reaches out even to people who oppress and destroy others. Even to us, who have oppressed and destroyed others.
But Jesus also heals people who are poor, who are less powerful. The next miracle, Jesus runs into a beggar by the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem. You know how people often feel around a beggar. You’re kind of scared that he’s going to ask you for money, maybe manipulate you, try to make you feel guilty so you’ll give him money. Might have a hint of a smell. Do you really want to shake his hand, he might have some dread disease? Jesus heals him.
Jesus heals him on the Sabbath, because Jesus crosses our boundaries and disregards our sensibilities for the sake of human healing. That’s what God is like.
Not long after that, Jesus finds himself in the open country, away from the village. He has thousands and thousands of people around him, and they are all hungry, but the only food anyone is willing to share is five loaves and two fish that a little boy offers.
Notice what Jesus does not do. He does not say, “Well, these people clearly won’t share with each other. It’s their own fault they are hungry.” Nor does he say, “We might as well forget about all these hungry people because we don’t have the resources to deal with them.” He does not say that. Nor does he say, “I just have to take care of myself and my family because there’s not enough for everyone. Take care of your own first.” No, he does not say that. What does he do?
He thanks God for the resources that have been given him. Even though it’s a drop in the ocean compared to all these thousands of people around, he still thanks God for what he has. Then he shares what he has. Everybody gets more than enough to eat. When we give thanks for what we have and share what we have, miracles happen. That’s what God is like.
After that, Jesus gives sight to a person who was born blind. This is what it means to be baptized, we are given our sight, again and again every day. We learn things we had been blind to since the day of our birth. We walk a journey of constant discovery, we never have all the answers, we are always growing. That’s what God is like.
Next, Jesus hears that his friend Lazarus has died. Jesus loves Lazarus. Jesus weeps outside of Lazarus’s tomb. Then Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. God loves us. God’s love reaches beyond the grave. God’s tears reach beyond death. That’s what God is like.
Now in the Gospel lesson for today, Mary stands weeping outside Jesus’ tomb. She senses that something is amiss. Something is wrong with the understanding of the world we have had up till this point, where death is the final power and those who wield it are like gods of death. She sees a crack in the tomb around us.
You might see a crack in the tomb too. We assume that death is the final power. We see a world dominated by greed and power mad cruelty and petty vindictive lies. Tombs we have built around the world. We see the tombs we build around ourselves, constructed of despair in the face of addiction and depression and anxiety. Constructed of self loathing in the face of debt. Arrogance in the face of fear. We think these are the greatest power.
But we have heard something is amiss about the greatest power. The stone has been rolled away. We may not know what to make of it. So we come here to church on Easter morning even though we may not know what to make of it.
Mary doesn’t know what to make of it. She bends down, looks into the tomb. Are you willing to look into that cracked tomb. Cause a sealed tomb, that’s one thing. Sealed tomb is comfortable, familiar. We know about sealed tombs. We know about despair, self loathing, arrogance. These things we know. Cracked tomb means that we DON’T know.
Look into the cracked tomb, the dark places, the hard places, without knowing everything, with this openness to the possibility that there might be hope. That’s where the angels are. That’s where the angels wait.
Angels say to Mary: Why are you crying? Did you actually think this tomb you have built around yourself is really the universe? It’s not.
Mary turns around. She sees Jesus. She still doesn’t get it. That’s okay. All kinds of people don’t get it in the Gospel of John. Nathanael and Nicodemus back at the beginning, the Samaritan woman at the well and Martha the sister of Lazarus later on. Some people take a long time to understand. That’s okay. It’s a journey. Mary’s brain takes what she sees and constructs a story out of it that will fit her expectations, what she knows, what she is familiar with. She thinks Jesus is the gardener.
It’s not true. This is not the gardener. It’s Jesus. But here’s some good news about the truth. The truth about miracles. The truth about everything. The Truth is not just a thing, an object that just sits there waiting for us to discover it. No. The truth discovers us. The Truth is alive. It has a name, Jesus and it calls us by name. The Truth calls Mary’s name, “Mary”.
Mary turns around. She recognizes Jesus. “Rabbouni,” she says, reflexively, instinctively. This is how she knows Jesus, as her Rabbi, her teacher. Which shakes up our catagories because Mary, here, by calling Jesus Teacher, claims a relationship with him as student. In Jesus’ day, only men were students. Only men engaged in the conversation about God. Yet Mary has engaged with Jesus in the conversation about God as a matter of course, for a long time. This is how Mary knows Jesus.
But now, Jesus is risen. Things are different. Jesus says to Mary, “Don’t hang on to me like I was before, with me being Teacher and you being student. Now, you are the teacher. You go and teach the other disciples, men and women, that I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” In other words, the intimacy between God and Jesus, the closeness, the celebration of life that exists between God and Jesus has been opened up to include you and me, all of us. This is what God is like.
Mary goes to the disciples and says, “I have seen the Lord.” Seeing and knowing are the same word in the Gospel of John. People again and again say to each other, “Come and see,” in the Gospel of John. “Come and see Jesus, come and see Jesus.” Now Mary says, “I have seen! I have understood. The celebration of life between God and Jesus has reached out to us, and not just to us but to people who are sick, to people who we don’t like, who oppress and destroy others. Even to us who have oppressed and destroyed others. Forgiving us who oppress and destroy. Reaches out to beggars, people might smell bad, to us, when we smell bad physically or spiritually. It reaches out all those folks who are hungry and we don’t think we have the resources to feed them. To all of us who are so blind, to show us thinks we had not dreamed of, to those who have died. To those who have been killed. To those whom we have killed. They are all here. Not just together someday in heaven. Yes, then too. But now, here today. They are with us. Because what is God like? Gold loves a party! God loves this party, with all of us and them right here, right now.
So, Jesus sends you and me. Every time we participate in the healing of someone, even people we don’t like, who oppress. Even people who smell bad, God does a miracle through you. You show the world what God is like.
Every time you use what tiny resources available to feed the hungry. Every time you run a business with integrity and innovation, or do a job well for sake of doing that job well, you help the whole economy, you help others to have jobs, to feed themselves. Every time you feed people who fall through the cracks of the economy, even if it feels like your efforts are a drop in the bucket, God does a miracle through you, to show what God is like.
Every time you learn something new, or help someone else to learn something new, to see a new thing they have not seen, not known their whole lives, not since the day they were born, God does a miracle through you, to show what God is like.
Every time you weep outside a tomb, or share someone else’s tears outside a tomb, God works a miracle through you to show the world what God is like.
Here is what God is like. God loves a party. Welcome to the party. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia.