The Right Reverend Chilton R Knudsen, Assistant Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island preached a very moving sermon about Mary Magdalene and the Resurrection, and about its connection to our call to action as women of faith in the UNCSW 2015 and as we go forth into the world.  This sermon was given at the UNCSW 2015 Opening Eucharist at the Episcopal Church Center, New York City, NY, March 9, 2015

Text: John 20: 11-18  Mary Magdalene came to the tomb where the body of Jesus was placed after his death on the Cross.  She came to mourn his absence, to remember. She wanted assurance that she could find hope to live the rest of her life without Jesus. Her precious friend Jesus.  Jesus treated her with dignity, healed her, taught her, lifted her up, and shared with her in Table Fellowship. How would she go on without Jesus?  Two angels sat in the tomb, one where his feet had been and one where his head had been.  “Woman, why are you weeping?” the angels asked.  Mary Magdalene was weeping because her heart had broken. She wept because the One whom she loved had been brutally executed. Her tears were a sign that she loved deeply; that she had devoted herself to the mission of compassion and justice and peace which Jesus demonstrated.  She wept because human beings do terrible things to each other.  Human beings continue to do terrible things to one another. Women are denied education, children are gruesomely enslaved in the sex industry, rape happens side by side with military conquest. Systems of dominance and power and greed and violence — then and now — crush goodness.  Woman, why are you weeping?  Just as she answered “They have taken away my Lord…” she turned and saw someone she did not recognize, maybe it was the gardener.  This mysterious stranger also asked her the same question: “Woman, why are you weeping?”  This is a question to all of humanity, in our time as well as in Jesus’ time.  We come here to this meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women because there is much in our world which causes us to weep. We weep because children are sold as slaves. Women and children starve for want of food. Vulnerable people are deprived of freedom and dignity. We are weeping because women are treated as second-class members of their society. Forced marriage at an early age leaves women economically and medically helpless.  Woman, why are you weeping?  Mary Magdalene answers yet again, assuming that someone has taken away Jesus’ body: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where so I can take his body myself”.  At that moment, Jesus calls her by name, “Mary!”. She hears that familiar voice speaking her name. At once, she knows it is Jesus, who is now alive in the glorious power of resurrection.  Hope is alive! The message of Jesus — about compassion and justice — is victorious over the systems of power and greed and oppression.  Jesus then asks two things of her. First, that she not cling to him: not to hold onto the joy of his beating death to live in resurrection glory. Second, Jesus asks that she go and tell others that he is now wonderfully alive, and his mission will continue.  Jesus entrusts to Mary Magdalene the proclamation of his rising from death. Jesus lives! His message lives!  This story tells us that the holy and mysterious agenda of God is given to all believers. As believers, we are to spread this Good News widely into every part of the world.

The Good News of Jesus’ resurrection inspires us to work for justice and peace for all people.  And because we are people who weep, we are also people of action.  So here we are, praying together for the strength to carry on the mission of Jesus. Our weeping has built in us a fire of determination. God’s power stirs within us, as we move from weeping to action.  From weeping to action.  From despair to hope.  By our tears and our actions, we join with our sister Mary Magdalene to proclaim that Jesus is risen. And because Jesus is risen, our hope is fulfilled. Ou resurrection work is fueled with the very power that raised Jesus from death.  Let us be about that resurrection work. Beginning now in our worship and our solidarity, and throughout the days of this United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. God is with us.  Christ is alive.