2019 APR 21 “Supposing”

20:1-18       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 toward 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 around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” 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.

MESSAGE     “Supposing”     Rev.
Jim Renfrew

      What do you suppose happened that Easter
morning long ago?  There is a lot of
supposing in the Easter story, all of the main characters supposing that they
knew what would happen next after the Cross. But when we reach Easter morning the
story takes all of those suppositions and tosses them out the window!  What people thought could, would or should
happen, had very little to do with what did happen. 

     I looked up the meaning of the word
“suppose”.  To suppose is to “assume
that something is the case on the basis of evidence or probability but without
certain proof or knowledge”.
assume, presume, intend, expect.  To
suppose is always speculative and tentative, but those people long ago are a lot
like us today, we, too, are quick to jump from supposition to fact. 

     It’s only April, but in the Rochester
Democrat and Chronicle, on Saturday, one of the sportswriters confidently
shared his supposition that the Buffalo Bills will finish the season next December
with a record of 9 and 7 and most likely squeak into the playoffs.  He even predicted exactly which games the
Bills would win and lose next season. I don’t care if you love the Bills or
hate them, but it’s a fairly fantastic supposition to share in the pages of the
newspaper at this early date.  College
players haven’t even been drafted yet, and there have been no practices.  In spite of the writer’s suppositions, the
Bills have to actually play sixteen games. What a writer supposes in April
doesn’t guarantee anything.  In fact, I
will go way out on a limb and share my view that the supposed record of nine
and seven is the least likely outcome, if anything they’ll win more or less
than that.  But even that is just more
supposing, I suppose.    

      So here’s what was supposed to
happen.  James and John could hardly wait
for Jesus to give them the best seats next to his heavenly throne.  They were assuming that Jesus would make it
happen when the time was right.  And they
supposed that they would be the ones chosen. But by the end of the day we find
James and John hiding behind locked doors wondering what had gone so terribly

      So here’s what was supposed to
happen.  Peter assumed that he was the
most faithful and most important of the disciples and that he would be first in
line to share in Jesus’ glory.  How did
that turn out?  Before they even get to
the Cross, Peter was completely crushed to discover that his betrayal was even
worse than Judas’ betrayal. 

     So here’s what was supposed to happen. At the service we had on Maundy Thursday, Judas, laments his betrayal, “it wasn’t supposed to happen this way”.  More than a few have speculated that Judas’ betrayal, was not simply out of greed for thirty pieces of silver, but because he was trying to provoke Jesus to take action. Jesus was supposed to be the mighty warrior who would drive the Romans out of Israel.  When Jesus died, everything that Judas supposed turned out to be wrong.  Jesus was not supposed to die. 

   So here’s what was supposed to happen after
Cross.  Pontius Pilate, and the high
priests of the temple supposed that the Cross would put an end to Jesus and
everything that he ever said or taught. 
When he dies his followers will scatter in fear and we’ll never hear
from them again.  That’s what was
supposed to have happened, and if their suppositions were correct we would not
be here this morning, this church wouldn’t be here, we would know nothing about
Jesus.  His name and cause would have
disappeared a long time ago. Yet here we are, their suppositions were
completely wrong!

     So here’s what was supposed to happen
after the Cross.  Even the most faithful
of Jesus’ followers thought that their only recourse was to give Jesus a proper
burial.  Joseph of Arimathea, a secret
follower of Jesus, offered up his tomb for them to use, supposing that this was
the only thing left to do.  And the women
arrived early in the morning with spices to anoint Jesus’ body.  And they were serious about this – one of the
accounts describes how they brought one hundred pounds of spices and herbs.  One hundred pounds!  We could put all of the spices and herbs from
our pantry in a bag and it might weigh a half a pound at most, so just imagine
100 pounds of the stuff.  The women weren’t
hoping Jesus might be alive, they supposed that he was dead and gone, and the
only thing left for them was to give Jesus a dignified burial.  The fact that the tomb was empty meant that
their suppositions were wrong.   

     And now we reach our reading from John’s
Gospel, a scene from the garden.  Mary is
outside of the tomb weeping, because she has discovered that the tomb is empty.  And she immediately supposes that the body of
Jesus has been stolen, a final, crushing indignity.  While she weeps, a stranger approaches
her.  We, of course, know that the
stranger was Jesus.  But Mary is still
supposing things, just like all of the rest of the characters in the story.  At this moment she supposes that the stranger
is the gardener. And why not suppose this? 
Who else would be there so early in the morning?

      Of all the four Gospel stories about
Easter I have always found John’s version to be the most striking.  At the key moment Jesus says “Mary”, and with
that one word, all of the suppositions melt away, and the characters in the
story have entered a new world, that is no longer hindering by supposition, but
by an unforgettable experience of the holy transforming and transcending everything
that they had previously known.

      This is, of course, the moment in the
story when the resurrection escapes its historical context, and connects
directly with each one of us at the present moment. Their suppositions lost all
of their power in that moment of resurrection, in the garden, in the locked
room, on the road to Emmaus, on the mountaintop in Galilee, and on the shores
of the sea.  Everything they thought they
know was upended.

      But the story has a timeless quality that
affects us this very day.  We, too,
suppose many things about Jesus.  We
think that we know all that there is to know about him, but there is so much
more to discover.  This is the best part
of being a Christian, Jesus keeps surprising us.  We think we know everything about him, but he
knows so much more about us, and he keeps finding new ways to reach out and get
our attention.  The empty tomb erases our
suppositions and opens our eyes to a new world, a new world no longer defeated
by violence and war, no longer overwhelmed by sickness or poverty, no longer
crushed by injustice and greed.  These
things that defeat us gain their power and momentum mostly because we suppose
that they are inherent in the human condition, but the empty tomb shatters our

      Our Cross covered with flowers represents
the scattering of our old suppositions and the new Spirit that is growing in
our hearts, in our church and in our community. 

     The Apostles Creed, is a traditional
expression of the truth and power of Easter, but please consider that
everything about it shatters the suppositions of the world.  Don’t fear this on Easter. Welcome it!


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