I have seen the Lord

Published 10:25 am Friday, March 30, 2018

by Charles Qualls

This Sunday will be Easter Sunday. That’s always such an exciting day. It seems that waking up and getting ready is a touch easier on that morning for some reason. Normally, I can feel the energy in the air on Easter Sunday. There is color, pomp and a grandiosity to the day.

Somehow, it seems that people give more effort on that day than on other Sundays. We make extra effort to gather for worship. We wear our very best out of respect for the sheer magnitude of Easter’s victory.

Our sanctuary will seem to pop visually. Not only because of the enhanced florals, but also because people will wear bright pastels and lighter colors in general. Beauty is a hallmark of the day. Even the sunshine on most Easters appears to show up at just the right time.

Music will lift us up to proclaim our thanks for a risen Christ. Anthems and hymns will lend words to our gratefulness. The Scriptural narrative will tell, once again, the greatest story our faith has to offer.

On the air will hang the palpable notion of God’s mercy. To be honest, I can’t wait.

Although I would wish some might choose to be with us more consistently throughout the year, a conspicuously larger crowd will gather just for that day. Beaming mothers will sit in the midst of their gathered generations, some with large family meals to follow.

I have seen the Lord! In John 20:1-18, the story will culminate when we hear Mary Magdalene bear that testimony to Jesus’ disciples.

During the Middle Ages, tradition spread some rumors about this Mary that are simply not supported if we read our Gospel accounts. She is mentioned in those Gospels collectively more than even some of the disciples. This encounter, and her eyewitness testimony, might well be her legacy that we should focus on.

So, we’ll share that good news lavishly this Easter. For it makes possible the very best of our hope and relief at what God has done for humanity.

Lost in the story, if we’re not careful, might be an important word some of us need to hear this year. As her recognition of Jesus occurs, Mary Magdalene’s impulse is to reach out for Him. Most of our translations have Jesus telling her rather awkwardly, “Do not touch me.” Or, in others we may hear “Do not hang onto me.”

Have you ever had a friend or relative who didn’t want to be touched. Maybe you hadn’t seen them for a long time, but your hug or your outstretched hand was met with distance. Our recent cold and flu season had a lot of people reacting that way, and for understandable reasons. But, only for a short time.

We all have that loved one about whom we whisper to others, “She’s just not a hugger.” That one who is uncomfortable with touch. It’s a little off-putting when that happens.

In the Greek language of John’s account, there is only one letter difference between do not touch or do hold onto versus do not be afraid. Lest you think I’m playing fast and loose with Scripture, notice that in Matthew 28: 5, the very same story is told. Except that there, we read Jesus welcoming Mary by saying, “Do not be afraid.”

Throughout the Old and New Testaments we see heavenly messengers, and even hear the voice of God, greeting humanity with those words. “Do not be afraid.” Jesus telling Mary this at such a moment would be in keeping with that practice. A resurrected Jesus would soon give that same greeting when he appeared among his gathered disciples.

I hope you’ll come out on Sunday to worship. I hope you’ll lift your heart, and lend your voice, as faith communities across Franklin gather to celebrate.

In the back of my mind, though, I wonder who needs to hear and believe those words of Christ. Do not be afraid. I wonder what is holding back your joy? I wonder what is stifling your ability to hope again?

I wonder what dampens your spirits of love and generosity because you’ve carried the weight of fear for so long?

Our city and our churches may have lived in fear for too long. Our businesses may need a season of hope after years of dampened enthusiasm. I pray that in 2018, we are looking around and discovering real reasons to live in optimism again.

We’ve got good news waiting for you this Sunday. It’s Easter! Let’s celebrate together.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.