On Seeking Christ

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Summary

This talk suggests that the best way to celebrate Easter is to seek Christ in our personal lives. We seek Christ by serving others, by living virtuously, and by reforming our nature through repentance. Given in the Easter Sacrament Meeting of the Sterling Park Ward on Sunday 12 April 2009.

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Title Page

On Seeking Christ

A Talk Given in the Easter Sacrament Meeting of the
Sterling Park Ward, Ashburn, VA Stake

By D. Calvin Andrus, Bishop
mailto:calvin.andrus@gmail.com

12 April 2009, Version 1.0

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Talk

Introduction

Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This holiday is the most sacred of the year. We have been inspired, moved, and uplifted by the beautiful choir program. Thank you Sister Clark, Sister Donnelly, Sister Andrus, Sister Nielsen, and the choir members for your service in helping us praise and worship the Lord this afternoon.

Seeking Jesus

At sunrise, on the morning of the resurrection, a group of women including a woman named Salome (Mark 16:1-2), a woman named Joanna (Luke 24:10), Mary the mother of James, and Mary of Magdala got up early to visit the tomb. Their intention was to anoint Jesus's dead body with spices. On the walk to the tomb, they wondered how they were going to roll the stone back so they could get in (Mark 16:3). Their faith propelled them forward, even though they had no ready solution to that problem. When they arrived, to their amazement and concern, the stone had already been rolled away. They decided to investigate to see what was going on. Upon entering the tomb, they discovered that the body was gone.

Depending on the account, either one or two angels then addressed the women, scaring them so badly they fell to the ground. The angels told the women not to be afraid, though it seems this admonition did little to quell their fear. The angels continued with these famous words, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen" (Luke 24:5-6). The angels then requested the women to go tell the Apostles that Jesus was risen from the dead.

The women complied with the request and with a mixture of joy and apprehension returned to tell their tale to the Apostles. The Apostles received the message of Jesus's resurrection with a large dose of skepticism. Peter and John decided to see for themselves what was going on. They ran to the tomb, with Mary Magdalene walking behind. John arrived first and paused at the entrance of the tomb. When Peter arrived, he pushed past John and went right in. The two men learned for themselves that Jesus was not in the tomb. They decided it was not safe for them to be there and ran back to the other Apostles, I am sure passing Mary Magdalene on the way. You can almost imagine her wondering why they were going the wrong way.

In spite of the fact that Jesus was not in the tomb, and the two Apostles were not trying to find the body at the tomb, Mary continued back to the tomb. As she considered her options, she was overcome with grief and began to cry. She went back into the tomb. Again, two angels were there. She seemed to be getting used to these angels because rather than tell her not to be afraid, they asked why she was crying. She responded that someone had taken her Lord and she didn't know where he was. Wanting to continue her search for Jesus, she turned and walked out of the tomb into the garden.

At that point, she saw a man, whom she thought might be the gardener. She asked him that if he had taken Jesus's body, could he please return it. It turns out that that Man had indeed taken the body and He was indeed returning it. It's just that He was not the gardener, and he was returning the body to His Father, not to Mary. In responding to Mary's request, he spoke her name. She recognized His voice. She ran to hug Him. But He forbade her saying, that while he was resurrected, he had not yet ascended to His Father. He asked her to return again to the Apostles and tell them that her seeking was successful; that she had found Jesus; that He was alive; and that He would visit them soon.

Mary did as she requested and returned to the Apostles.

Seeking Christ

It is no mystery why Christ showed himself first to Mary of Magdala, rather than to his Apostles. She was the only one out there looking for Him. She was persistent. She went to the tomb twice. She had conversed with angels twice. She carried the spices on the first trip and probably on the second trip. In spite of the obstacles placed in her path -- such as a stone she could not move, a body she could could not find, apostles who did not believe her, making multiple trips to the tomb, carrying a load of spices, and angels who either scared her or did not help her look for the body -- she was determined to overcome and serve the Lord.

Mary's experience teaches us that seeking Christ is not a casual endeavor. Seeking Christ is a journey with obstacles to overcome. Seeking Christ is sometimes a lonely pursuit. Seeking Christ can be frustrating. Seeking Christ is not a one-time activity. Seeking Christ may, at times, seem to have no end in sight. Seeking Christ requires persistence. Seeking Christ requires faith. Seeking Christ is done with the objective of helping others. Seeking Christ is not a fruitless exercise. Seeking Christ is a prerequisite to finding Christ. And, in finding Christ, we will meet the measure of our creation.

We have celebrated Christ's resurrection today by praising Him through music and the spoken word. Let us celebrate the resurrection during the coming year, by seeking Him through serving others; by seeking Him through living a virtuous life; by seeking Him through repenting of our sins; by seeking Him through becoming Christlike in all we say and do.

Conclusion

Brothers and sisters, I know that my Redeemer lives. I know the atonement is real. I know the resurrection is real. I know one day He will call our names. To this I bear my personal witness. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


Funeral Version

I modified this talk and re-gave it at a funeral to a mostly non-Mormon audience on 29 August 2009 in Sterling, VA.

Introduction

Today we celebrate the life of a loved one who has passed on. A loved one’s passing is always hard. It is emotionally draining. On top of that, there are so many logistical things that must be done. In the short run, arrangements with the funeral home, for the burial, and for the funeral services must be made. Over the long run, the estate of the person must be settled, including finances and property. The emotions and logistics weigh heavily on those who remain behind. I would like to speak for a few minutes about another passing long ago, and the burdens carried by those who, like us, remained behind.

The Resurrection

After Jesus died, His body was hastily removed from the cross and placed in a stone tomb. The Sabbath was approaching during which no work could be done. Because of a lack of time, Jesus’s body was not properly prepared for burial. A large heavy stone was placed in front of the tomb to keep the body safe until His followers could come back after the Sabbath and properly prepare the body for burial.

Jesus’s followers were emotionally rung out by his death, just like we are when our loved ones pass. In spite of the emotional trauma, the followers were responsible for taking care of the logistical matters. The day after the Sabbath, a group of women got up before sunrise to prepare the cleansing and embalming spices. We imagine they also prepared clean burial clothes and entombment wraps. At sunrise, having already put in a few hours work, a group of women including a woman named Salome (Mark 16:1-2), a woman named Joanna (Luke 24:10), Mary the mother of James, and Mary of Magdala started out to visit the tomb. They were carrying the spices and burial clothes. Their intention was to properly prepare Jesus's dead body for burial.

On the walk to the tomb, they wondered out loud how they were going to roll the stone back so they could get in (Mark 16:3). Even though they had no ready solution to that problem, their faith propelled them forward. When they arrived they were tired from their grief, tired from getting up early, and tired from carrying all that stuff to the tomb. I think several of us in the congregation today can understand how they were feeling. To their amazement and concern, the stone had already been rolled away. They decided to investigate to see what was going on. Upon entering the tomb, they discovered that the body was gone.

Imagine how you would feel, if after all you had done to come and prepare the body for burial, to find the body was not there. I am sure shear exhaustion was about to set in at this point.

Depending on the account, there were either one or two angels at the tomb. The angels addressed the women, scaring them so badly they fell to the ground. The angels told the women not to be afraid, though it seems this admonition did little to quell their fear. The angels continued with these famous words, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen" (Luke 24:5-6). The angels then requested the women to go tell the Apostles that Jesus was risen from the dead.

OK. So now the women get to haul all that stuff back to where the Apostles were. I am sure these women were very tired at this point. Nevertheless, they complied with the Angels’ request returned to tell their tale to the Apostles. The Apostles received the message of Jesus's resurrection with a large dose of skepticism. Peter and John decided to see for themselves what was going on. They ran to the tomb. Of the four women, Mary Magdalene alone, picked up her stuff and followed. She was going to the tomb for the second time that morning, though this time she knew the body was not there.

John arrived first at the tomb and paused at the entrance. When Peter arrived, he pushed past John and went right in. These two men learned for themselves that Jesus was not in the tomb. They decided it was not safe for them to be there and ran back to the other Apostles. On their way, I am sure they passed Mary Magdalene who was still making her way to the tomb with her stuff. You can imagine them saying, “Hey Mary, you were right. He’s not there. See ya!” You can also imagine her responding, “Where are you guys going? I thought you were going to help look for the body. Couldn’t you at least help me carry this stuff?”

Mary, I am sure, was now feeling overwhelmed, just like some of us here. Mary’s three friends had abandoned her. The two Apostles had abandoned her. The body was nowhere to be found. Her faith and goodness helped her continue back to the tomb. As she considered her dwindling options, she was overcome with grief and began to cry. She started to look for the body. She started at the tomb, the last place she had seen the body. When she went in, the two angels were there again. She seemed to be getting used to these angels because they did not tell her not to be afraid. Instead they asked why she was crying. (As an aside, let me give some advice to the men in the congregation. If you find a woman in this situation, do NOT ask her why she is crying.)

Mary responded to the angels in a straight forward manner--that someone had taken her Lord and she didn't know where He was. We do not know how the Angels responded. We can image Mary would have hoped they would help her look for the body. Seeing there was nothing to be gained standing in the tomb, she turned and walked out of the tomb into the garden. At that point, she saw a man, whom she thought might be the gardener. Continuing her search, she asked him that if he had taken Jesus's body, could he please return it.

It turns out that that Man had, indeed, taken the body and He was, indeed, returning it. It's just that He was not the gardener, and He was not returning the body Mary, but to His Father. In responding to Mary's request, He spoke her name. She recognized His voice. You can image her relief and happiness. She ran to hug Him. But He forbade her saying, that while He was resurrected, he had not yet ascended to His Father. He asked her to return again to the Apostles and tell them that her seeking was successful; that she had found Jesus; that He was alive; and that He would visit them soon. Mary did as she requested and returned to the Apostles.

Conclusion

Mary’s witness of the resurrection is the good news of the Gospel. He lives! He lives who once was dead! Jesus broke the bands of death, so that we would not lie in the grave forever. The Apostle Paul teaches us that, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22)

Friends and family, brothers and sisters, I know that my Redeemer lives. I know the resurrection is real. I know one day we will all be reunited with each other in our bodies. Today we say goodbye to grandma, but we will see her again. To this I bear my personal witness. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.