From the Rev. Anne Kelsey
When my mother turned eighty years old, the five of her children arranged a surprise for her. The plan was that my father would take her and the one of us who lived in town to a play and as they waited for the doors to open the other four of us were to show up. Everything went as planned. Those of us who lived out of town flew in the night before and stayed in a hotel. The evening arrived and we walked up the steps to the theatre. I scanned the crowd and found my mom, dad, and sister. We walked toward them and my mother turned our direction. I smiled at her but her face remained blank. We came closer and I kept smiling but still got no response from her. She simply looked rather puzzled. We came right up to her and I said, “Mom!” And she looked at me and said, “I thought you were one of the ushers.”

And I remembered that in John’s gospel Mary Magdalene thought Jesus was one of the gardeners. A person she knew and loved stood in front of her and she didn’t recognize him. It was only when he spoke that the eyes of her soul understood that Jesus was right in front of her, that in fact he was raised from the dead. But until that moment she interpreted her experience as having a mundane explanation: somebody had rolled back the stone that sealed the tomb and had removed Jesus’ body. Any of us would have assumed the same thing.

In a painting by Rembrandt van Rijn the artist highlights Mary’s profound confusion by depicting Jesus as a Dutch gardener, wearing a large brimmed hat. He carries a shovel and has a pruning knife stuck in his belt. (see here for the painting.) Mary has that same kind of blank look on her face that my mother had when we showed up unexpectedly. We were out of context, and for Mary, so is Jesus.

What is so wonderful about this resurrection story is that Mary’s identification of Jesus as a gardener in fact points to the underlying truth of God in Christ: God stands before us in every single person we encounter yet we do not see. Perhaps one of the strange gifts of the scary time we’re in when we are trying to keep physically separated from one another is that we’re learning that God is alive right in front of us in the people we may have not seen before, the common ordinary folks whose day to day common ordinary work keeps our world together. Jesus and the gardener are one.

When before have we given such thanks for them? Around the globe people are banging pots and pans in acknowledgment of doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, lab techs, orderlies, and everyone working so hard to save lives from coronavirus. We’re encouraged to make donations to hundreds of businesses and organizations trying to relieve the suffering of people who are out of work and to patronize the businesses that are still open. “Curbside service” offered by the local book store, the restaurant where we often have Sunday dinner, the camera store where I get my photos developed. There are others whose faces I’ll never see but whose work makes it possible for me to take a stroll through the Botanical Garden and see works of art from a closed museum. Who knew?

If we did not know it before this pandemic, we know it now. We know the truth of the prayer we pray at Compline:
O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen .

As we continue the strange journey we’re all on, we will be given many opportunities to understand this more fully. God doesn’t show up as expected and God is present in each of us. My prayer during this time is that like Mary Magdalene, our eyes will be opened to see the glory of God each and every day.

Easter Blessings,

  • Be on the look out for a phone call from Church Receptionist Becky Arthur or other staff members, as we update our Realm directory.