Correct Orientation

John 20:1-2, 11-16

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

…but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).



すると、ふたりの御使いが、イエスのからだが置かれていた場所に、ひとりは頭のところに、ひとりは足のところに、白い衣をまとってすわっているのが見えた。 彼らは彼女に言った。「なぜ泣いているのですか。」彼女は言った。「だれかが私の主を取って行きました。どこに置いたのか、私にはわからないのです。」彼女はこう言ってから、うしろを振り向いた。すると、イエスが立っておられるのを見た。しかし、彼女にはイエスであることがわからなかった。イエスは彼女に言われた。「なぜ泣いているのですか。だれを捜しているのですか。」彼女は、それを園の管理人だと思って言った。「あなたが、あの方を運んだのでしたら、どこに置いたのか言ってください。そうすれば私が引き取ります。」イエスは彼女に言われた。「マリヤ。」彼女は振り向いて、ヘブル語で、「ラボニ(すなわち、先生) とイエスに言った。

Several years ago at a pastors’ meeting in Japan,  someone asked me about the word “orientation”.  At the time, it was becoming commonly used in Japanese as well – in its transliterated form – and had a similar meaning to our English use of it. His question, though, was more about the word’s origin than about its present meaning.

After a bit of digging I found that in Latin, “oriens” referred to the sun, rising in the sky. Since that was in the eastern sky, the word then took on the directional meaning of EAST. From a European perspective, the Asian continent was also located in the East and so Asia began to be referred to as the Orient. Later, the term orient (and orientation) referred to any object, such as a building – that was constructed in such a fashion that it was facing east. In the case of a church – built with its main altar – or front of the church – facing east, and the entrance to the sanctuary facing west. Such a structure was thought to be properly oriented. The opposite of correct orientation, or disorientation, as it came to be commonly used in English, was a state in which direction and centeredness were lost. Confusion and lack of clear direction described this state.

Our text for this Easter morning tells of Mary Magdalene and several of Jesus’ disciples in a state of great disorientation. After Mary finds the tomb empty and the body of Jesus gone, she assumes that someone has broken into the tomb and stolen the body. After hearing the report from Mary, Peter and John run to the tomb to check for themselves.

Three years of following Jesus, hearing his teachings, being personally healed and touched by the Lord, and witnessing the excitement and crowds around Jesus’ ministry – all lead to this darkness; the death of Jesus on a cross, his burial in a tomb, and now …. the disappearance of his body. For Mary and the other disciples, it represented the loss of hope, loss of direction, loss of meaning for their lives.

But on that Easter morning, something changes all of that. Jesus, who Mary thought was simply a gardener, calls her name…. and with that – Mary’s darkness is suddenly changed to light. Yes, it would take many days, weeks, and probably months, before Mary and the other disciples began to understand the truth and impact of Jesus’ resurrection. But hearing her name, recognizing Jesus’ voice, and turning to face him… meant a return to a correct orientation.

Just as a church building is correctly oriented when facing the rising sun, Mary and the other disciples became correctly oriented once again through their encounter with the risen Son.

The past few weeks have represented a period of intense disorientation for many in our city, state, country, and around the world as we’ve attempted to understand this COVID-19 situation. Could it be that one step we can take in seeking a correct orientation – centeredness in this confusion – would be to hear Jesus calling our name…. and to turn and face him?

(The above is a summary of the message that was shared during our ZOOM worship gathering last Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020.)