Good Shepherd Easter Morning 11/4/2004
John 20.1-18 (Read from Walter Wangerin: The Book of God)
If you needed someone to act as a witness for you, who would you choose? If you had to pick someone to provide you with a character reference, who would that person be?
If I had to do that I'm sure I'd select the most respectable person I could think of, someone with a title perhaps, someone respected like a doctor or someone in authority like a headteacher, or even, you never know, a priest...
Now we can assume that God could choose anyone at all to witness to Jesus Christ rising from the dead. Makes you wonder why he chose Mary, of all people. She seemed the unlikeliest witness of all.
For one thing, Mary was a a woman, and in that society women were thought of as unreliable witnesses - they couldn't testify in a court of law.
And for another thing, Mary was a woman with a history of mental illness, ok, a madwoman, known for her odd behaviour and shouting strange, provocative messages sometimes bordering on the rude or obscene.
All her life people Mary knew had treated her like dirt, avoided her, laughed at her. All her life people in authority had written her off; told her she was no use, a menace to society. Care in the Community. Down there with the druggies and the Big Issue sellers.
We may know people like that ourselves, people who everyone else condemns. We perhaps feel like that ourselves at times. When people avoid or mistreat or neglect or condemn us.
But here's the good news - God chooses the unlikeliest people to share his good news with. His good news is the unlikeliest sort of news we'll ever hear. The news is, God loves us. Jesus saves us. His coming-back from death means an end to death for those who believe; an abundance of life.
There are modern-day Marys who get caught up in God's crazy vision and can't stop themselves running around shouting about it.
Famous people like Martin Luther King. In 1963 he said, "I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood." That seemed ridiculous at the time, a black man in a violent and racist land sharing that good news; but history saw the words of that witness come true.
And everyday people like ourselves get caught up in God's crazy vision. We love the story of Crazy Mary, Mary crazy with God's good news. We understand that because he chose her, means he chooses us too. We might feel like unreliable witnesses to his wonderful love at times. But he chooses to share it with us anyway. And that's why at Easter we can't help saying, Alleluia!