Lost Things

John 20

I had a favorite communion kit, an heirloom with tiny silver paten and cup that used to be Uncle Byron’s on my husband’s side of the family. Byron was a Lutheran pastor who had died at age 39 from cancer. His widow had held onto his communion kit, and when I entered the family 15 years later, she presented it to me.

I told that story every time I used the kit. I liked the way the communion kit itself was a resurrection story – the meal that proclaims the mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again contained inside a small black box; the ministry of a preacher and father snuffed out, now living in me as I opened the kit, assembled the cup, and poured the wine.

But one Lent I lost my precious communion kit. I looked all over my office, all throughout my car. I checked the homes that I had visited, but the communion kit was nowhere to be found. I resigned myself to using my secondary kit, knowing that though it was perfectly serviceable, Uncle Byron’s kit was irreplaceable.

Today’s Gospel lesson is also a story about lost things – irreplaceable things. Mary Magdalene had lost her dear friend and teacher Jesus. She had spent months in his company, learning from him, supporting his ministry. He was a role model who helped her discover her identity as a disciple. He had fostered in her a hope that things could be different, that a new life was possible. Now it was all gone.

I can only imagine the emptiness within as Mary approached the tomb in the darkness of early morning, how finding the tomb without Jesus’ body seemed like adding insult to injury. Now she had lost not only Jesus, but also his physical remains.

I think most of us can identify with Mary. Given the state of the world, and the state of our lives, we have a lot of tears to shed for all we have lost: our loved ones, our identities of the past, our former hopes. Sometimes we even lose the means to grieve, and we cannot summon the tears we need to shed. It’s dark in this new day, and we can’t find our way forward.

But when Mary came to the tomb, what she found was completely unexpected. For while she was weeping, a man approached her.

Why are you weeping? He asked.

They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him, she said.

Jesus’ presence was hidden by her grief.

Then the man she supposed was the gardener called her name: Mary! And suddenly she recognized that it was Jesus. He was not exactly the same; Mary could not hold onto him. Mary needed to open herself to a new beginning. No longer disciple, Jesus wanted her to be the first to tell the news that Jesus is risen.

Jesus commissioned her with a new identity: to be the apostle to the apostles. What Mary thought she had lost, she received back in a new way: Jesus’ presence, Jesus’ hope, Jesus’ strength and courage. She had not lost Jesus after all.

On a bright Holy Saturday, I met with the confirmation class to prepare for the next day’s Easter Egg Hunt. I pulled out the bags of donated plastic eggs and candy, and lo and behold, inside one of the bags was Uncle Byron’s communion kit. I couldn’t believe it! And then it came back to me, how at the conclusion of a home communion visit weeks before, I had tucked the kit into a bag of candy the elderly communicant handed me. I had completely forgotten about it.

We all have stories of what we have lost, whether a prized possession, or our sense of purpose, or someone we love. It occurs to me now that, like Jesus, my communion kit was never truly lost. It was hidden away with the eggs, awaiting the day when youth would hide them in the church yard and children would find them with cries of joy. Maybe that’s true for all our lost things – they are simply hidden, awaiting a time to reemerge, made new. That every loss is actually part of God’s resurrection story.

I take heart in Mary’s story. It tells me that no matter our circumstances, no matter our belief or doubt, Jesus is never lost to us. And we are never lost to Jesus. He finds us in the shadows and greets us by name. It isn’t likely to be the same as it used to be. Jesus expects us to change and be ready for a new commission. But it is Life Abundant. We are with Jesus, trusting that what is hidden will be brought into the light; that weeping will turn to tears of joy; that our story will be woven into Jesus’ resurrection story.

Today Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia.


Leave a Reply