Rev. Kent J. Siladi is Conference Minister of the CT Conference, United Church of Christ.
Scripture: John 20: 1-18 (NRSV)
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 towards 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 round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ 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.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have put Him, and I will take Him away.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
Holy Week has begun. Yesterday we sang “Hosanna” and the palms were waved, confetti was strewn, parades outside the church were held and we heard the account of Jesus riding into Jerusalem. We have been preparing this Lent for this week and its complex messages of joy, anger, disappointment, discipleship, betrayal, crucifixion and Resurrection. So much is compressed in one week as we gather together as disciples of Jesus.
“Hey, I know you! or we met but you may not remember me.” I hear that quite a bit. There is something very powerful in being known. There is something about the beauty when someone knows us just as we are. There is something wonderful about being vulnerable and open with our friends and loved ones and trusting that they love us just as we are. It is a basic human desire to be known and loved and embraced as a child of God.
On Palm Sunday, Jesus was known by his disciples and followers as he entered into the city. He was making a bold proclamation by this act, and not only was he known to his followers, he became known as a troublemaker and a resister of the power of his time.
On Monday, he made things clear. He entered the temple and turned over the tables of the moneychangers in the temple. He was known now as a rabble-rouser and someone who challenged the religious practices of the day. If he wasn’t known on Palm Sunday, he certainly was known in the city after this act of defiance.
On Tuesday, things were really heating up. The temple authorities question Jesus about his authority, and he reminds his followers and those listening that he was known as a Teacher. He teaches the parable of the vineyard, the parable of the wedding banquet, the teaching on paying taxes (the April 15th reminder), and a reminder about the destruction of the Jerusalem.
In some traditions, Wednesday is known as “Spy Wednesday”. This is the day that Judas agrees to hand Jesus over for 30 pieces of silver. Judas becomes known as the one who betrays Jesus. Jesus knows Judas. Later that night while Mary is anointing Jesus’ feet, Judas objects, and Jesus knows why the objection is raised. Judas is known.
On Maundy Thursday, the disciples gather to break bread and share the cup together. What started out as a Passover meal becomes transformed into Holy Communion. Jesus washes the disciples’ feet as a sign of ministry and service to others. We enter this night together in our congregations to observe Communion, to wash feet and to depart in silence for what we know is to come. If you remember the Emmaus Road account (Luke 24:13-35) you will recall that moment when the two on the road recognize Jesus. He is known through the breaking of the bread, and they realize who was walking with him.
At midnight Judas turns Jesus over to the authorities and is arrested and imprisoned. Jesus is brought to Pilate, who transfers the case to Herod. Under pressure from the power of the state and religious leaders, Herod condemns Jesus to death by crucifixion. On Good Friday Jesus is nailed to the cross and dies. He is removed from the cross and placed in a tomb.
Saturday is a day of quiet. Jesus is dead. His disciples are crushed. What will happen next? It is a day of waiting and grieving and wondering with uncertainty.
On Sunday, according to John’s Gospel, Mary early in the morning goes to the tomb. She sees the stone rolled away and quickly runs to Peter to tell him the news. They go to the tomb and they “saw and believed”. They went back to where they were staying. Mary didn’t leave the tomb. She remained and was stricken by grief. Jesus appeared to her! Mary mistook Jesus for the gardener. Jesus said her name. She was known. Jesus knew her, and now Mary knew for herself what had happened. She cried out “Rabboni!” and in that moment she knew what had happened. It was in the knowing that everything was made clear.
As we journey through Holy Week let us remind ourselves that we are known by God who loves us without condition. May we know that power and may we proclaim it with our lips and our lives. Let us seek to live the love and justice of Jesus.
God as we enter Holy Week we seek your abiding presence. We are known by you, and you love us. Walk with us as we worship and as we remember the events of this week.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For the people of southern U.S. were powerful storms resulted in at least 6 deaths, including 3 children
- For people of Libya where recent conflicts have lead to the death of more than 100 people in the past 10 days
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the joys of celebrating the story of the Risen Christ this Holy Week.
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
Dixwell Avenue Congregational UCC
First Church of Christ in New Haven, UCC
Pilgrim Congregational UCC
Shalom United Church of Christ
United Church On the Green UCC
This Week in History:
April 20, 1999, (20 years ago) Two teenage gunmen killed 13 people in a shooting spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO. The shooting was considered the worst school shooting in the U.S. at the time and sparked gun-control debates and school policies of zero tolerance for disruptive behaviors, but the incident has been surpassed by shootings in Newton, CT in 2012 (28 dead) and Parkland, FL in 2018 (17 dead). A shooting at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007 left 33 dead and remains the worst shooting on a school or campus in the U.S. In the 20 years since Columbine, there have been 11 school/campus shootings resulting in 4 or more deaths.
Rev. Kent Siladi is the Director of Philanthropy for the National Office of the United Church of Christ.