God loves everyone just the way they are

Published 8:24 pm Saturday, April 15, 2017

By Jack Alvey
Alvey is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Selma.

On Easter, we are reminded that God, through the risen Lord Jesus Christ, desires to receive you with arms open wide in love — you who are glad and you who are weary, you who are excited and you who are indifferent, you who are filled with joy and you who are filled with despair, and you who are everywhere else and in between. Our risen Lord wants to meet you exactly where you are and nowhere else.

Scripture says, “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.” Immediately, Mary notices that Jesus is gone. She then runs to tell Peter. In turn, Peter runs to the empty tomb. The beloved disciple passes Peter in a sprint and wins the race. And ever since the church has held 5ks for fundraisers.

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When the race is over, all three witnesses stand at the threshold of the tomb, but it is Peter who enters first followed by the beloved disciple. They don’t really know what to think and go home. And then Mary enters the tomb and begins to weep.

Mary believes that someone took Jesus. Blinded by her tears, she demands that the gardener tell her where Jesus is so she can take him somewhere safe. And this is moment when the risen Lord is made known to Mary. In her tears and in her grief, Jesus calls out, “Mary!”

It is true! God calls us by name — we are God’s! Brushing her tears aside, Mary sees the risen Lord standing right in front of her and calls out, “Rabbouni!” Jesus tells her not to hang on to him and instead to go and tell the disciples what she has seen. She does as Jesus says and preaches the first sermon in church history saying, “I have seen the Lord.” Every sermon should be this simple — I have seen the Lord. (I have seen that love is the only way to life).

As the story of scripture continues, we will see how Jesus meets others. Jesus meets the disciples in their fear as they huddle behind locked doors. Jesus will meet Thomas in his doubt. Jesus will meet Peter in his guilt. And each time, in different ways, Jesus tells those whom he encounters “Go and tell others what you have seen.” Tell others how the story of love transforms any story that seems to be at a dead end.

Like Mary and the others, the risen Lord wants to meet you exactly where you are even if you think you are hiding in the last place Jesus would look. Remember that Jesus can even appear through locked doors!

The risen Lord knows that we live in a world where everyone is touched by the depth of loss and despair. And because he knows that loss is all around, our risen Lord wants to tell us that God’s love is all around. And the way that the world will know this love is through those of us who have witnessed to the truth that love is the most powerful force of change in this world for the One who loves perfectly endures death and the grave.

Just as God desires to meet us in our particular contexts, God calls each of us to use our particular gifts to share the good news of the enduring love of God in Christ. If you tell jokes, tell a joke to someone who is sad. If you like to have people over to dinner, invite someone who is lonely over for dinner.

If you like to garden, befriend that neighbor with a black thumb. If you know what it is like to lose a parent, tell someone who has lost a parent that you know how badly it hurts.

If you know someone who is having a hard time and you really don’t know what to do or say, just tell them that you love them and are there for them. Give them reason to believe that the risen Lord is standing right next to them in their grief, sorrow, confusion, despair. Give them a reason to believe that the risen Lord is showing them how love transforms pain and loss into light and life.

The world is hungry to hear the risen Lord call out, “you who are lonely, you who doubt, you who are ashamed, you who are lost — I am with you now. I will never leave you. How can I leave you? I have been raised from the dead.” Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord has risen indeed, Alleluia!