Nothing Between Us

A sermon by Pastor Michael Pahl on Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018, called “Nothing Between Us.” The sermon is a reflection on the story of Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb of Jesus while it was still dark, and wondering how the stone would be rolled away.

Here is a written excerpt:

In that darkness, on that rocky path to the tomb, we stumble over many things.

Broken relationships, for example. You know what I mean—a relationship that isn’t healthy, that isn’t functioning properly, that is frayed or fractured in some way. I want you to think about a broken relationship you know of.

It might be one you’ve experienced, maybe even that you’re experiencing right now. Maybe it’s between a parent and child, or between siblings, or between friends, or between colleagues or neighbours. There had been a relationship, a healthy, positive relationship, but something has happened, and now it’s strained or even ruptured.

Or maybe that broken relationship you’re thinking about is a larger one, a relationship among many people, or a relationship between two groups of people. Between two families, a family feud of sorts. Between first century Jews and Gentiles, like our Acts reading this morning. Between the descendants of European settlers and indigenous peoples, maybe. Or, even between two nations, like the rocky relationship between United States and North Korea.

Or maybe that broken relationship you have in mind today is that relationship between us and God. This, too is a relationship between persons, and this, too, can have barriers in it, things that keep that relationship from being whole and healthy.

At the bottom of each of these broken relationships is the same reality. Behind each of these broken relationships, whether individuals with each other, whole groups of people with each other, or our relationship with God, the same dynamics are at work.

Fear keeps us from reaching out across the divide—fear of the other, fear of the unknown, fear of suffering. Or maybe it’s shame that keeps us from opening ourselves up to the other person, or a burden of guilt we’ve borne for years. There could be some deep, indescribable sorrow that keeps us cocooned within ourselves, some deep pain that haunts us.

And behind those experiences are their root causes, sins that have been committed, some harm brought about through words spoken or deeds done, by you, or by the other, or by both. A misunderstanding, maybe even willful ignorance. Simple pride, or a moment of self-righteous judgment. A betrayal, perhaps, at some point in the past. An abandonment. Cruel words, or maybe even a violent act.

On the cross Jesus bore all those things, so we don’t have to any longer. And by resurrecting Jesus from the dead, God has reversed all those things, so we can experience that reversal ourselves.

In the resurrection, everything that the cross represents has been turned upside down. Fear has been turned into trust. Shame has been turned into honour. Guilt has been turned into innocence. Sorrow and pain have been turned into wholeness and joy. Betrayal and abandonment have been turned into faithful embrace. Cruelty and injustice have been turned into justice and peace and life.

All these barriers to relationship, all these and more that we could name, all are reversed in the resurrection of the crucified Jesus from the dead. This is indeed good news! This is gospel!

Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed!] Alleluia!

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