Mary came to the garden alone while the dew as still on the roses…or at least something like that. She didn’t come alone but did find herself alone with a person she mistakes for the gardener (thus the idea that there may have been roses). This risen Jesus asks Mary what may have been the worst question ever, “woman, whom do you seek?” Perhaps having put the worst behind him, Jesus is now in a playful mood and is just messing with her. Clearly, he knows that Mary is looking for him! Maybe his question was designed to help her understand the value of being a misfit. Seeking to enter a tomb early in the morning on the first day of the week is enough to make one a misfit. But to be doing that to prepare a body for burial the day after the death is a type of misfitism created by being faithful to your religion in an oppressed culture. Not to mention that the one who died was killed as an enemy of the state after being declared a heretic by the leaders of the very religion whose faithful observance had kept Mary from preparing the body in the normal manner because of the day of rest. Misfit indeed! So Jesus` question may have been a needed pause for Mary to assess the oddity of the moment of great misfit behavior. Mary didn’t fit in with the majority of the people around her. Her response to the empire that was oppressing her people was to become a follower of a preacher of another kingdom, one that he claimed had arrived and which he claimed leadership of by riding into the capitol city on a donkey, while the empire’s appointed leader arrived in a different type of triumph (which is possibly one of the earliest examples of street theater used as protest). Mary also chose to reject the establishment figures of her religion and side with the rebellious itinerant preacher and miracle worker. She didn’t even fit in among the disciples as her gender would have kept her from being taken as seriously as the men. It was to this particular misfit that the risen Jesus first appeared. It is Mary the misfit who became the first apostle when Jesus told her to go and tell the others the good news of the resurrection-the very definition of evangelism.
So it is through the misfits that the gospel is launched. Sort of makes you want to be a part of the church of the misfits doesn’t it? If you aren’t sold on the idea yet, consider this, the cornerstone on which this church is built is the truth that you are loved by God beyond your wildest imagination. The eye-opening event that showed Mary that she was chief among the misfits was Jesus saying her name. Whatever the resurrected Jesus looked like that kept her from recognizing him (this was no zombie Jesus, he was transformed) it was hearing her name and thus reconnecting to power of heavenly love shown in the relationship with the savior that helped her to know that the one before her was the one who loved her madly. If not fitting in elsewhere is the price of fitting in to the heart of God, it is a price worth paying.
Rev. Ian Lynch is pastor of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Brimfield, MA. He blogs about the intersection of spirituality and society at CultureDove.blogspot.com and the intersection of spirituality and ornithology at https://birdparables.blogspot.com