Lectionary Year A
April 4, 1999
John 20:1-18

Step VI: Contemporary Address

(JFC) The sermon might consider first Mary's, then the disciples', and finally Jesus' predicaments there that day. Experiences modern day parishioners have might seem all too similar. We can be alert to such revelations with parishioners' conversations as Easter approaches. The sermon wants to address people, people where they are in their spiritual maturation, people as they grow in faithfulness. Did Mary and/or the disciples grow through the first Easter's events? The congregation I serve is a very small parish in a small bedroom community for the State Capital, also a small city, as State Capitals go. Few older and longer time members, more children and youth than most mainline denominations' congregations and many more than normal younger families. Previously, an agricultural village, more recently much more upscale and more educated congregants attend this Church. New residential developments get started right frequently. Church has lots of potential and they are committed to Redevelopment of Mission and Ministry.

(FS) This sermon will be preached at a sunrise service at a 99% Hispanic church located 9 miles or so from the U.S.-Mexico border. Submitted in March, 1997.


It had been a long week for Maria, one freighted with wildly oscillating emotions: joy and thrill during the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem just one week before; shock at hearing of his betrayal and arrest; numb horror as she stood by his mother, John the disciple, and a handful of others watching Jesus die on a bloody cross. And then the burial, done hastily to beat the setting sun and the start of the Sabbath...so fast that there was no time even to do a last loving service and anoint the battered corpse of Jesus for burial.


A. She runs off with the terrible news; and after Peter and John look into the tomb, she slumps there, staring into the dimness through a haze of tears. She'd been robbed of the chance to do one last thing for Jesus, who had freed her from the most complete spiritual captivity.

B. Not even the gardener can help her...but now a familiar voice cuts through the veil of tears with a single word: "Maria!"

C. IT IS JESUS! He is back, risen from the dead! All the misery and ruin of the past three days, blown away like storm clouds by a strong wind -- and now she moves to embrace him. Everything will be just as it was before, the Teacher with his band of close followers.


A. It was natural for Maria to want to make that moment of glad reunion last. But there was work to do; good news to spread. "Christ is risen, he is risen indeed!" "Where, o grave, is thy victory? Where, oh death, thy sting?"

B. It was not to one of the "twelve", or to Peter, but to Maria that Jesus appeared first, to her -- a woman, one freed from "7 demons" that he gave the first commission as evangelist. And she went!

C. This morning, many Christians gather to hear again the good news of the Resurrection. How many of them are Marias?

1. not the most likely candidates to bear important good news.

2. too poor; too small; the wrong sex; they don't speak the right language, or at least don't speak it correctly.

D. But Jesus sent Maria: no word of her past, it was buried as much as Jesus had been for three days. There is only the joy of the present encounter with the Risen and Living Christ, with the future imperative of sharing the good news ahead.

And what of our Presbyterian churches in the Rio Grande Valley?

Some of us are not the most likely candidates for an Easter Mission, either. Where's the money? Where are the pastors? In some of them, where are the people now? Let me tell a short story about an Easter Mission. Back in 1887, a Presbyterian elder named Jose Botello moved to San Marcos, Texas. A neighbor died-- since there was no Spanish-speaking Catholic priest around, Elder Botello was asked to say a few words. He spoke eloquently and movingly of his own hope of eternal life, by the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ...right by that graveside. Not too long after that, some of those neighbors formed the first Hispanic Presbyterian church in South Texas. On the spur of the moment, Elder Botello carried out an Easter Mission; like Maria, he went and told. And the living Christ used him! Will he do any less now through the Marias of the world?

(Note-- the Botello story is documented in "Iglesia Presbiteriana: A History of Presbyterians and Mexican-Americans in the Southwest", by Douglas Brackenridge and Francisco O. Garcia-Treto)

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