The Unexpected Apostle
By The Rev. Robert Corin Morris, Director of
April 18, 2004 -- Second Sunday of Easter
St. John’s Gospel 20:1-18
(Outline of a Sermon preached at Christ Church, Summit, NJ)
is full of unexpected events
Mary Magdalene, as she comes
to the tomb on Easter morning,
doesn’t expect to see Jesus, but then everything about the
Easter story is unexpected....
The disciples don’t expect failure and crucifixion
No one anticipates the resurrection
The women don’t expect to find an empty tomb
Mary expects a beloved body, and encounters a gardener
who is really Jesus.
Mary doesn’t expect to be the first apostle of the
The apostles don’t expect to receive the testimony of
God’s work from a woman,
and dismiss what she says contemptuously.
But then, we shouldn’t be surprised, because…
whole manifestation of God through Jesus was unexpected
The Messiah is to be a great warrior, a noble lord, not a
nobody from Nazareth
Messiah is supposed
to come and rescue society from all its ills
Disease is supposed
comes as a trainer in healing, a teacher in alleviation of suffering
The earth is supposed to burst into bounty so there are
Rather than coming to make people dependent on him,
he comes to
empower us, to make us drink of the same Spirit he knows,
to open for us
our own direct connection with God
to teach us
the ways we can cooperate to change our lives and the world.
found treasure in unexpected places—seemingly ordinary people:
Where everyone else sees separation
Where others want to find value only in the elite
Instead of worshipping money,
he called us to recognize
there are resources in many places,
more important kinds of
He sees undetected gold in ordinary people —
Peter the impetuous and vacillating as a rock
The rich young ruler as a beggar
The leper and unclean woman as acceptable part of
Mary of Bethany as an initiate of his mostly male band of
and Mary of Magdala as a beloved Companion and close
a sign of his
recognition of the full human stature of and dignity
of women in a
day which denigrated female spiritual capacity.
And with these people he lived a life of risk in the service of
so Mary becomes the first Apostle, or Messenger of the Resurrection Way of Life
…and, according to some
sources, an important figure of authority
in the early Church, a close companion of Jesus.
In the Gospel of Mary, an
early Christian meditation on the Resurrection,
the Magdalene confronts the other Apostles with their own
They fear they will meet his fate, but she upbraids them
for their lack
of faith in God,
them the psychological/mystical step
delivered from “the seven angers”
(an apt way of
talking about what ails humankind!)
In essence, she tells them to “grow up” inwardly,
and let the Spirit lead them as it led Jesus.
so she challenges us today:
To hear the unexpected Gospel
a call to maturity, not dependence,
to courage, not comfort only
to responsibility, not reassurance only
to attentiveness all the unexpected places, and people,
God may be
using to get a message through to us.
You never know
who may be an apostle!
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