This Is the Lord's Doing
 — Rev. Phil Hobson

March 27, 2016
Easter Sunday

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
John 20:1-18

Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.

We do not know the precise details that led to the writing of Psalm 118. Like many of our psalms, it speaks of distress, of trouble, of being surrounded, of pain. It is written from the perspective of the king, but we do not know exactly what is going on. Instead the verses before our reading today use poetic language:

All nations surrounded me…
They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side…
They surrounded me like bees;
they blazed like a fire of thorns…
I was pushed hard, so that I was falling…

And maybe we know of these things? Maybe we can speak our own stories of being surrounded on every side. Of things that enclose us like a swarm of bees, any one of which would not worry us, but they never seem to take the time to wait their turn, do they?

Like the Israelites in Egypt, a place whose name to them meant pressed in on both sides. Like the disciples who saw the crowd turn against Jesus, and ran away for fear. Or when we run out of money before we run out of month.

But the psalm speaks of such difficulties and then offers witness to what the Lord has done!

I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.

God heard the prayers and answered. God is the salvation of the psalmist.

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.

And the way that God did this was beyond human reckoning. It was beyond human judgment. What the trained eye and skilled hand had thrown out as useless, is now the basis of the strength of the whole building.

This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

The witness of the psalm is like unto a promise. I was in trouble, and the Lord rescued me. I was in pain, and the Lord healed me. I was bound beyond my own strength to break free, and the Lord liberated me. I was without boundaries, and the Lord set me right again. Pick your favorite Gospel story…

For if the psalm is a witness, and a promise, then our Gospel reading is also a witness and a promise. Not that we knew what to pray for.

Jesus is dead. The one who preached the kingdom that was at hand is no more. What prayers are there in that moment but that Kiddush, the traditional prayers for the dead? Their hope in God’s new way has been killed by Rome. The powers that be have used their weight and authority to crush the opposition, as they have so many times in the past.

What can we pray in the face of this?

I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.

In the resurrection, God has answered the prayers they did not even know how to pray.

This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.

Maybe marvelous here does not mean awesome in our modern sense, but in an earlier sense. It is beyond comprehension. It is clear that the disciples did not understand when Jesus spoke of his being handed over, his execution, and his being raised. It is only after the resurrection that they understand.

And even in the resurrection appearances, to Mary weeping in the garden, to the rest of the disciples later in the locked room, they do not recognize Jesus at first.

Jesus shows up in the garden and asks Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” And through her tears and her grief, she cannot see who it is. Maybe he’s the gardener. Maybe he can help find her beloved.

But then she is called by name. He knows her. And in his voice, her name is “beloved child of God,” and she knows that this can only be Jesus.

But she cannot hold on to him, anymore than Peter and James and John can build tents on the mountain for Jesus and Moses and Elijah, anymore than a jail could hold Paul and Silas. God’s work through them is not yet done. So instead it says,

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.

What we have is a promise, and we have witnesses. God has once again made a way out of no way. God has once again turned mourning into dancing. But this is not simply just another time. For this is the witness of the Christ, God’s anointed one. And by his resurrection, the powers and principalities of sin and death are proved bankrupt. And by his resurrection, the love that moves beyond our lines and categories and delineations and prejudices and problems is proved true. And by his resurrection, hope is shown not to be false or empty, but the very power of faith. And by his resurrection, God has called us to new life.

I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Thanks be to God. Amen.