The second first-day of creation

John 20:1-18

Christ has risen, so today is the second first-day of creation. All was in darkness when Mary went to the garden, just as all was darkness on the first first-day of creation. Darkness, I think, suited the mood of Mary Magdalene. Darkness can be a thing of great beauty, it even can be associated with cosiness and rest, but for Mary, at this point it represents something rather different. Mary’s darkness is a darkness of sadness, a darkness of despair, and when she arrives at the tomb it becomes the darkness associated with confusion. She sees that the stone has been rolled away from the entrance, she discovers that the tomb is empty, she presumes that ‘they’, whoever ‘they’ are, have taken the body of her Lord and made off with it to who knows where. Like that day’s early hour, her mood is dark.

This, however, is Easter Day, and so things are about to change: to change for Mary and her fellow disciples, to change for all peoples, and to change for the world. As it was with the first first-day of creation, so it is now with the second first-day of creation, this day of resurrection, because after darkness comes light. But light is dawning gradually, because, still semi-blinded by her tears, Mary supposes he is the gardener.

In the setting of that first Easter Day, on the first day of the week, when all is dark, Mary thinks she sees the gardener, and Mary is right. On the first first-day God speaks creation into being, saying ‘let there be light’, and humanity flourishes within a garden that God has sculpted. Now, on the second first-day of creation, in the darkness, in a garden, in Jesus, the Gardener of Creation speaks; he speaks Mary’s name, and once again there is light. And the first of God’s chosen witnesses to the resurrection is Mary Magdalene. When God speaks, when Jesus speaks, action follows. God speaks creation into being, and now, in the person of Jesus, God speaks new creation into being; along with Mary we’re now living in the second first-day of creation.

But what do things look like in this era of new creation? What happens in creation when God raises Jesus and allows him to appear to chosen witnesses? What does it mean for people, for peoples, and for the planet itself‘? For people like Mary and her fellow first disciples in this new era of creation human relationships are turned upside down. It’s almost a cliché to observe that no-one inventing a religion in the ancient world would dream of making a woman the first witness to central events in the story being told and the claims being made. You just wouldn’t make this stuff up. It must also have come as a bit of a shock to Peter and other prominent male disciples as well, to find themselves second in line to meet with Jesus whom God had now raised. I hope the male noses were not too thoroughly put out of joint by the experience.

And we today, still living in this second first-day of creation, must remain alert to the significance that God chose someone unexpected as witness. Sadly, frustratingly, despite God’s choice of first resurrection witness, the female voice is still often muted, sometimes silenced in the work of the Church and in the life of the world. In this new resurrection era we still have work to do to make our churches and our societies reflect God’s will for the new day of including all people fully in the life of the church and the world. The God who raised Jesus shows no partiality between peoples.

And can the implications of resurrection be pushed still further? Resurrection which brings new creation transforms mutual human relationships, individually, communally, and more widely. Does it now also transform humanity’s relationship with the rest of creation? Will it change the way we see and treat other creatures, the landscape, the seascape, and the ecological systems that sustain planetary life and flourishing? Some might say that that’s a stretch too far, but give this thought at least a moment’s consideration. God the creator, the giver of life, is at work, and has been since the first first-day of creation. All of our human life and relationships take place within that creation. Our very existence depends upon the relationship we have with the rest of creation, everything from fellow air-breathing creatures to microbes, from plant life to fresh water. This may differ from those relationships we have with each other as humans, but such relationships are just as real and important to sustaining human life. If we assume that God is a lot more interested in us than in the rest of the vastness of creation, we may be missing a trick. Perhaps God really is more interested in us, though maybe not as much as we would like to think.

Today’s a day for us to witness to the resurrection on the second first-day of creation, as experienced by Mary Magdalene, when a voice spoke in the darkness bringing light and life. This is a day of resurrection, the day when God raised Jesus from the dead and allowed him to appear to selected witnesses. This is a day where God’s first choice of witness shows that in a new creation the world’s flawed social relationships are renewed. Today is a day for us to witness to the resurrection on the second first-day of creation. This is a day which demonstrates that God’s acts with love for all peoples of the world without partiality. Today is a day for us to witness to the resurrection on the second first-day of creation, as something done for the sake of all of creation, ourselves included. This is a day when we remember that God who speaks through Jesus is also the God who on the first first-day spoke creation into being. Christ has risen, so welcome to new life in the new world of the second first-day of creation.

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