John 20:1-18

(sermon note: 04-08 sermon note)

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.


Recently, our music director came down with Covid so I think tonight’s joke is particularly timely. I realize that we had several readings for tonight but I’ll focus my reflection on this last reading from John. And it just so happens that it reminds me of the one that goes along with the tune for the “12 Days of Christmas,” except this one is called the “12 days of Covid.”

On the first day of COVID my illness gave to me…

An anxious uncertainty

On the second day of COVID my illness gave to me…

Two heavy lungs

And an anxious uncertainty

On the third day of COVID my illness gave to me…

Three tons of mucous

Two heavy lungs

And an anxious uncertainty

On the fourth day of COVID my illness gave to me…

Four awful headaches

Three tons of mucous

Two heavy lungs

And an anxious uncertainty

On the fifth day of COVID my illness gave to me…


Well, I suppose it doesn’t quite get up to all 12 days and I hope no one experienced a full 12 days of Covid illness! Five days is plenty enough suffering for any bout of sickness! And while we’re still plodding through this Covid pandemic, I think it’s helpful to have a slight sense of humor about it all. If we can’t laugh about a pandemic, then we’ve truly lost the battle! But I like that little jingle because it always comes back to that first day’s “gift,” an anxious uncertainty, arguably the greatest “gift” of Covid. People claim their main symptom from Covid is an overall disorientation and discombobulation, affectionately referred to as “Covid brain.” In the three times I was afflicted with it, the overwhelming fatigue was my main symptom. But I can see how fatigue could lead to disorientation or a “semi-conscious haze” as that joke suggests. 

I imagine the “semi-conscious haze” of “Covid brain” is not all that different from the confusion Mary must have felt upon arriving at the scene of the empty tomb. “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” In all fairness, no one knew where Jesus was except maybe those two angels sitting inside the tomb. Mary just happened to be the one to voice such confusion. Peter and the beloved disciple didn’t know where he was either. There was a great confusion among all of them. Where had Jesus been taken?

I think it’s important to lift up that uncertainty as we, too, await the resurrection of our Lord this evening. No one knew where Jesus was in those days immediately following his crucifixion. They thought he was lying peacefully in the tomb but lo and behold, he was not. It was only in the days afterwards when Jesus slowly revealed himself did we come to realize that he was resurrected and came back to life. Even then, we don’t really know how to understand it all. So he died and came back to life? How is that possible? Where did he go when he was dead? We just don’t know how it’s possible or where he went. We like to believe we know why he died and came back to life, to save us from sin and death and show us there is life after death. But how and where still seem to elude us. We are no different than those early eyewitnesses in our confusion and uncertainty. And that’s completely ok! It’s okay to not know the how and the where of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s okay to be in the uncertainty of it all. 

I think it’s in the uncertainty when we build and strengthen our faith. And we need faith to get through a variety of uncertain times. As paradoxical as it sounds, uncertainty is a certainty in life. None of us knows with certainty where life will lead us. Every day is an unfolding mystery. The quicker we accept this the better off we are. Because once we accept the uncertainty of life, then we can get to building and strengthening our faith. Faith provides a sure and steady footing. Faith provides assurance. And not necessarily by providing certainty. Faith is a mysterious gift from God. I don’t know how it works, I simply know it works. Faith is more than certainty yet provides the same assurance. And faith can only be received in and through uncertainty.

As we await our resurrected Lord, let us revel in this uncertainty. Let us use it to build and strengthen our faith. I don’t believe “Covid brain” is a gift from God but I do believe God is generous in giving faith and for that we give thanks. Thanks be to God!

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.