In an early episode of the reality show, Pit Bulls and Parolees, what happened was that Tia Torres, the director of the dog rescue, took a phone call from a person who was concerned about a family of pit bulls living underneath an abandoned house in her neighborhood.
The dogs were in trouble. Not only was the house was falling apart —in the passage where the dogs were living it was over one hundred degrees— but there were some teenagers who had been coming around trying to get the puppies. There was credible fear that the kids wanted them, not for pets, but to make them into bait dogs. Tia knew her crew had to rescue these dogs right away!
Now I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to rescue a family of feral dogs, I can tell you, I would have gone about it all wrong. I was thinking, the house is already in shambles. Demolish it if you have to, but go in there and grab those dogs! Sure, maybe you’d need to shoot a tranquilizer dart. Maybe you’d need somebody with a net. But hurry up! Get those dogs! And it’s clear, my approach would not have worked.
As soon as Tia arrived, she called a fencing company and had them install a chainlink fence all around the house. Then she left bowls of food on the ground inside the fence, hoping the dogs might begin warming up to the idea of venturing out. Then she went home and came back the next day.
Now Tia Torres is an expert in all things pit bull, but even for her, this project became an ordeal. After identifying the mother dog, an older daughter, and three tiny puppies, Tia brought nearly the whole crew to the house, and They. Tried. Everything. They wore hazmat suits and climbed under the house. They used fencing to strategically open and close pathways, but once the mama dog got spooked, and they couldn’t catch her, that was it. It didn’t work.
The next day, Tia came back, and they tried again. This time, she was able to lure the puppies out of the house using what she calls the ET approach, that’s a trail of treats leading into out of the house and into the crate. When the mama noticed her puppies were missing, she poked her head out, and Tia got her to eat some food with a tranquilizer in it. It still took another round of chase, but Tia’s team managed to get all five dogs to the rescue.
As you’re watching this unfold, of course, you’re cheering for Tia and her crew. We know these doggies can’t live under that house. We know Tia will give them veterinary care, and rehabilitation, and help them find their fur-ever families. We know there’s a whole new life trying to rescue them!
But the dogs don’t know that. Their whole lives have emerged in trauma. This dangerous house is their home. Who knew the work of stepping into new life could be so scary?
Maybe we all know this.
(Maybe we all know this a little too well… )
Today we remember what happened when the LORD our God looked at this world and loved this world. When he saw how we had gone and broken everything —we killed Jesus— God’s own heart broke and he wept tears into the earth. For a whole day, that was it. For a whole day, there was nothing.
The next day, God got up from the dead and so did all the universe. Heaven poured down and spilled into creation. All the ancient Hallelujahs began rumbling underground, finding their way back to each other, finding their rhythm. The arc of the universe began bending toward justice. God began turning the power of this world toward love. Death began turning into life, then all of life started coming back to life! Even our sorrow began to turn into joy. This is the day!
In the scripture Ron read, it all begins early in the morning while it is still dark. Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb where they had laid the Lord, only to find, the stone has been rolled away. Jesus is not there. They must have stolen his body! And what cruelty is this! It’s like, for those who have nothing, even the little they have will be taken away!
Mary goes and gets Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved. They drop everything and come right away to see what happened, but these two are not much help. They take turns going into the tomb, they see what’s there, and they believe. But then they go home, leaving Mary outside weeping.
While she was crying, Mary looked into the tomb and saw two angels. And here’s what gets me. In the Bible, angels are terrifying! They’re often glowing, and fearsome, and they’ve been trained that the first thing you say to a human person is: Do not be afraid. But these angels don’t say that to Mary, and she’s not scared of them, and that makes me worried.
These days we’re hearing reports that some of the babies from Ukraine aren’t crying. They should be crying, but because of the trauma, they’re not. Some Ukrainian children have stopped talking.
You have to wonder if this is what’s happening to Mary. Here she’s so thick in the trauma, the angels don’t even scare her. She should have screamed when she saw them but instead, they ask her: Why are you crying? As if they don’t know…
Now the gardener comes over and asks her the same thing. You can hear the tremble in her voice when she asks him: Did you happen to move his body? Was he in your way?
That’s when Jesus looks at her, and loves her, and once he says her name, she knows. Jesus says: Mary! Mary says: Rabbouni! In this moment, he sees her truth, and she knows it. She absolutely knows it— a whole new life coming to rescue her.
Here, the promise of God triumphs over the forces of death. Heaven spills into the earth, all creation comes into being, all life begins coming back to life, all because Jesus gets up from the dead! That’s the first miracle.
The next miracle is that when Mary is thick in trauma, when she’s not even afraid of the angels, and she can’t even see through the tears— Jesus comes back to find her. He looks at her, and loves her, and calls her by name, and nothing is the same ever again.
These days you and I are living through a season when the promise of God is increasingly vivid.
As the world begins to climb out of the pandemic, you can feel it. Heaven is pouring down into the earth. Those ancient Hallelujahs are rumbling underground, finding their way back to each other, finding their rhythm. Our own compassion is deepening. The arc is bending toward justice; this weary world is turning toward love. Life is coming back…
It could be, life is hurtling right at us! New life is coming for you, ready to place a demand on your soul! Maybe you’ve been waiting for this for two years. Maybe you are ready for the loud side of joy and now it’s here! It’s just…
What if you’re not?
In these past two years, all of us have been living through trauma. It hasn’t been exactly the same for each of us, but in some way, all of us have been changed.
You might be carrying sorrow in your bones. You might be exhausted, or grieving, or afraid. You might find yourself standing next to Mary while she’s weeping because that might as well be you. And if this is the case, what I can promise is the miracle is still coming for you.
Life is hurtling itself at us! New life is coming to get us, even if we’re not sure we’re ready, even if we’d rather stay trapped under this broken house.
The first miracle is that Jesus got up from the dead and opened the floodgates bringing life back to life. The next miracle is that Jesus went back and found Mary. He looked at her, and loved her, and called her by name, and can you imagine if we learned how to do this for each other? What if you have a whole church of people who will come back for you…
We could do this for each other. When the world is pressuring us to hurry up and bounce back and act like the last two years never happened, we won’t. We could give you time. We could put up a fence around your pain and give you the space you need. We’ll wait outside with food, but we will not give up. We can wait as long as we need to then we’ll come back the next day.
We could call each other by name, and ask each other for help, and when we see somebody crying, we’ll sit down beside them and listen.
When Mary was crying, she looked into the tomb and saw the angels, and she wasn’t even afraid of them! Maybe that’s because the trauma had been so intense, even the angels don’t scare her anymore.
Or maybe it’s this… Maybe whenever a community is living through trauma, we all find ourselves deputized by the Holy Spirit as messengers of God. We all become angels for each other so now bumping into an angel is just an ordinary Tuesday.
Here heaven is spilling into the earth. The music that had been rumbling underground is beginning to rise in soaring splendor. Life will never be the same as it was before! Do not be afraid.
All of life is coming back to life, and you know what, so are we. And if we’re going to come back to life, you better believe we are coming back for you. We can’t do this without you.
This is what it is to live. This is the day! Hallelujah! Amen.