Since Easter falls later this month, you may still be in the middle of your Lenten devotions and practices as you receive the April issue of response. How do we prepare for the resurrection? How do we respond to this truly unbelievable news?
In all four Gospels the truth of the resurrection is given first to women. They return to the disciples and declare, “The tomb is empty! I have seen the Lord!” In John’s Gospel the disciples seem to believe the women, but in Mark and Luke they do not. (In Matthew two guards also witnessed the angel and heard the news, so the women’s story was corroborated.) In all Gospels Jesus appears himself to his disciples after the resurrection and confirms, yes, he is risen.
Can you blame the disciples for their doubt, their disbelief? Even after Jesus appeared to them, gave them instructions, breathed in them the Holy Spirit, they still were unsure what it all meant. We still struggle with answering this question today.
Now imagine you are Mary Magdalene that first Easter morning. You have not only lost a friend and teacher but you’ve lost hope. How in despair you must be that this new world Jesus talked about seems lost. Your mind is full of doubts, your heart is broken. Then your friend—whom you’ve seen die and lain in a tomb—appears to you and asks you why you are crying. Can you comprehend the joy, perhaps mixed with confusion, even anger? What a wondrous burden has been placed on you to share this news that Jesus lives!
So what does it mean to be an Easter people? As women, like our foremothers at the empty tomb, we must be prepared to receive a Holy Truth—and to not be believed when we share this truth with others.
Jesus appeared to a woman (or women depending on the Gospel) who was ready to see him, to hear him. Mary Magdalene’s name is mentioned throughout the Gospels, so from this we can assume that she was a follower, a disciple of Jesus and was devoted to learning and practicing what he taught—not unlike the woman next to you at your United Methodist Women meeting, or the woman you greet daily in the mirror. We must not forget that is our calling not just to share the good news but to be ready to receive it. Read. Study. Be in communion. Be alone in prayer. Discern. Listen. Hear.
We are a prophetic organization. It is in our DNA to declare, “We have seen Jesus—and here’s what he had to say.” But we won’t see Jesus if we aren’t ready to see him, mistaking him for the gardener or taking a perpetual walk to Emmaus. In our lives we will miss seeing Jesus. We will ignore truth. We will doubt. But we also know Jesus will show us his hands and we’ll believe. We’ll accept the Holy Spirit and together determine not only how to share this good news but what it means for us in the world today.
Sisters in Christ, it is right to celebrate the empty tomb. But, as were our Easter foremothers, we are tasked with sharing the good news, and may be the first to hear it. As United Methodist Women members the Holy Spirit moves us to reach out, as Jesus did, to the woman and orphan, to those on the margins. We must not only invite them to God’s table of abundance but make sure their path to the table is clear and that they are welcome.