In the Name of God: Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Amen.
“I miss you!” Three of the saddest words in the English language.
We live in a highly transient society, and people are always moving out of town and out of our lives. This neighborhood of Murray Hill is particularly mobile, because a majority of the residents are aged between 20 and 40, and they’re prone to relocate when they find new jobs or get married or have children.
And for all of us: friendships wind down; attachments fade. Even though we recognize that such changes are part of life, they leave gaps in our lives. There are times when everyone feels lonely.
While I was growing up in rural Massachusetts, I didn’t have many friends. And the friends I did have mostly lived on the other side of town; I would rarely see them outside of school. I especially remember how alone I felt when my one friend in the neighborhood moved away.
Most stressful of all are the radical separations caused by death. The people we miss most of all are those whom we call “the departed”–because they have departed from our world of flesh and blood.
Now the Bible lesson that we just heard gives a poignant example of this yearning that was found among the disciples of Jesus. After Christ died on the Cross and was buried, his followers were heartbroken.
Two days later, some of them went to Christ’s tomb; maybe they thought that being close to his earthly remains would ease the pain of his absence.
But when the disciples arrived at the tomb, they found only burial cloths. Alarmed and confused, two of the followers then ran off to tell the others what they had discovered while one disciple, Mary Magdalene, remained at the gravesite.
Mary began to weep because she believed that even Christ’s body had been taken—and her friend was gone forever. Suddenly Jesus appeared in front of Mary. When he called her name, she recognized him.
At once the time of mourning was over. From that moment on, the disciples realized that Jesus hadn’t left them, after all. And later, when his resurrection appearances on earth ceased, he remained spiritually present in their community.
Mary and the other disciples discovered that Christ was a continuing force in their lives. While he was no longer present physically, his resurrection meant that he could now share his Risen Life with them.
This gift is available to us, too. Like Christ’s appearing to Mary Magdalene, God can lead us to a new understanding of human companionship.
Like the followers of Jesus, we can learn that within the Spirit of God, we’re united with everyone we have ever loved.
As we sit in church on Easter Day, we have abundant evidence of this mystical community. Many members of our congregation give donations for Easter flowers and music in memory of their loved ones who have died or in thanksgiving for family and friends. So the floral sights and musical sounds that mark this day become vivid reminders of the people we miss.
Of course, we may still long for more time with distant family and friends; and we mourn for our departed loved ones whom we can never see.
Like Mary Magdalene who wanted to embrace Jesus, but couldn’t because he was in a spiritual form, we want to hold onto our loved ones.
Happily, though, our faith can support us in these times of loneliness. We can pray for the departed because we are linked with them in the spirit of Christ. We can feel in our hearts the love of far-away friends and family because we sense the spiritual bond we have with them that can never be broken.
I’m thankful that I’m no longer the lonely boy in rural Massachusetts. I’m thankful that God introduced me to a larger life.
In Christ, we enter into the realm of the Spirit. We discover that we are connected to everyone else—living or dead—at the same time as we are linked to a higher power who sustains us all.
Moments of loneliness pass when we remember that Jesus lives–and he lives in the hearts of all his people, today, and forever.
And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be ascribed as is most justly due all might, majesty, power, dominion, and praise, now and forever. Amen.