April 4 (Easter): Identity in Jesus first
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Today we proclaim and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Together with Christians the world over, we proclaim, “The Lord is risen!” With Mary Magdalene we call out, “we have seen the Lord.”
For me, Easter often meant an early morning, as my family made its way to one of our village’s churches for the sunrise service. My hometown has three churches: Lutheran, Mennonite and United, and this early service would rotate between the churches from year to year. I’ve come to realize that this is a unique situation. It isn’t typical for churches from different denominations to celebrate Easter together. We would call out “the Lord is risen indeed!” with neighbors we didn’t normally see in our pews. We would sing “Up from the grave” with gusto (even if it meant I had to put up with the organ at the Lutheran church). What a wonderful witness to what it means to be Alive in Christ – a way to declare that our identity comes from Jesus first, before our particular church identities. As we live into another Easter season, what does your identity in Christ mean for you?
For me, I recognize that too often I hold on to my particular denominational identity (which is also cultural) much more strongly than I do to my identity as a follower of Christ. I am often a Mennonite before I am a Christian. I need to work at clinging more closely to Jesus, and letting go of my hidden belief that ‘my church is the true church.’ I need to acknowledge that I am united in Christ with a whole variety of Christians – whether I agree with them (or even like them) or not.
As we celebrate God’s invitation to new life, I pray that we will find new ways to see our Lord in unexpected places and people.
Thank you for joining the students, faculty and staff of Goshen College during Lent for these devotions. We pray they have met a spiritual need for you each day as you have walked through the wilderness and to the cross with Jesus as we have all reflected together on holding on and letting go. We have been blessed to be part of your journey. Join us again when the season of Advent begins (unless you unsubscribe, they will automatically come to you when they start again in late November).
SCRIPTURE: John 20:1-18 (NRSV)
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.