Hunting for Easter (Eggs)

John 20:1-18New International Version (NIV)
20 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. 2 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!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 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.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, 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.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Our family has never missed an opportunity to hunt eggs on Easter.  You might think that a family whose youngest member is fifty-five might have given up on the annual hunt.  The hunts started back in the fifties and as each of us aged out of childhood, there was still someone young enough to hunt eggs.  Evenually, the youngest of the cousins married and no toddlers came to replace them for several years.  But the hunts went on. For many years, my father was the one to hide the eggs, not because he had gathered the eggs from his own hens, but because he had super egg-hiding powers.  So we continued to hunt for Easter eggs, even after we were eligible for Social Security.
Nowadays, the family feasts circulate among three homes: mine, my sister, Sarah’s and my cousin, Sue’s.  Sue lives “in town” and we wondered if having twenty adults limping around her yard for the entire neighborhood to watch would push her to opt for Thanksgiving over Easter.  However, Sue is a good sport and has never worried too much about what the neighbors think anyway, so last year, we hunted through Sue’s yard, looking for eggs.  Sue has some pretty good hiding places, including a grove of pine trees with low-growing branches. Egg hunting in this family is really not suited for those of delicate demeanor.
Another tradition that is not kept on purpose, but seems to keep itself is that one egg is never found—until the following year, or whenever the egg hunt is at that person’s house.  So, since Easter is at my house for the first time in two years, there is a two-year old egg out there waiting to be found.  I know where it is, because I found it in the summer of 2014. I put it in a safe place where it will be found. In 2014 cousin Bobby found the missing 2013 egg at my house.
A newer tradition is that my daughter Miriam goes to the farm to help her 90+ year old grandmother dye the eggs the day before Easter.  Because the chickens on that particular farm lay brown eggs, you might think the eggs don’t dye very well. Au contraire! They develop the richest deepest hughes of blue and green and red and yellow.  They make colored white eggs look like pale imitations of the real thing. ( I urge you to buy brown eggs next Easter; you will be pleased with the results. )These beautiful brown eggs have been carefully chosen and set aside the week before because all good cooks know that fresh eggs don’t peel well after boiling.  The eggs need a little age to allow the shells to slip off easily…once they are found.
As I was writing this, I realized that I needed to go to the basement and find fifteen or so baskets.  Some of the nonagenarians opt to stay in the house and watch us through the windows. But not all of them.  Aunt Nitzi is always out there with the rest of us, 94 years of experience giving her a slight edge on the competition. Yes, it is a competition.  We count the eggs, not only to make sure that we find all twenty-four, but to see who finds the most. If the tradition holds this year, we will find only 23 eggs.
There have been times in the last thirty-five years that we have had toddlers with whom to compete.  Again, I can’t remember competing against three-year-olds serving as a deterrent to the forty-year-olds. Maybe it has something to do with our farm roots; if you’re old enough to feed chickens, you’re old enough to hunt eggs.
So, this afternoon we will hunt for Easter eggs in my flower beds, downspouts, bushes, and trees.  Will we find twenty-three or twenty four? And will someone find the egg from 2014?
And who will hide the eggs this year?  Dad quit about five years ago.  Now we take turns.
What a silly tradition, but what a signature event for our family each year.  Hunting for eggs, Easter eggs.
The Bible does not mention hunting for Easter eggs.  Easter Eggs and the Easter bunny are to Easter what Santa Claus and Christmas trees are to Christmas–traditions that have come from non-Christian sources that add festivity and fun to the Christian events of the season. The egg is quite adaptable to Christian symbolism…every egg has the potential to hatch new life. Easter is about new life, impossible life, life after death.
The Easter of Mary and Peter and the “favorite” has its own hunt.  Did you ever wonder why the followers of Jesus went to the tomb on Sunday morning?
They would not have been able to anoint his body with oils and spices.  There was a great big rock sealing the tomb, barring any entrance.  Add to that the presence of Roman soldiers guarding the tomb.  There was nothing to be gained by visiting the tomb.  Except that’s what we do.  Have you ever visited the grave of a loved one? Of course, you have!
What are we hunting for, hoping for when we visit a tomb, a grave, a place full of memories?
Mary was hoping for the same thing…..really, hope is not the right word. There was nothing to hope for. She had watched Jesus die, she had watched him being taken off the cross, she had watched his body being hurriedly prepared with oils and perfumes and wrapped in linen and placed in a borrowed tomb. She had watched the heavy, hard stone being rolled against the opening.  That was that. The end. No more Jesus. No more teaching. No more learning. No more fellowship. No more blessing.
But she couldn’t stay away. And when she arrived, what she found changed history.
She told Peter and one other disciple. They ran to the tomb, to see with their own eyes what Mary had described.
The tomb was not just empty; the burial linens remained, folded and lying neatly. There were two angels, so real that she heard them ask her, “Woman, why are you crying?”   This was not the scene of a body snatching. Yet, she didn’t know what she was looking at because she didn’t know what she was looking for.
Only when Mary collapses in tears on the rocky ground does she receive the good news of hope. The good news comes in the form of her own name: The stranger who has joined her says, “Mary.” How sweet to hear that lost voice say her name.  “Mary.”
How sweet it is to hear anyone’s voice say your name. (At this point, I invited the congregation to say the name of the person seated next to them to the person. Very nice.)
The sound of Jesus’ voice is all it takes to reveal the amazing news to her. He found Mary; she went looking for something, but she was the one who was found.
That’s how God’s plan for us works.  We never have to go looking for Jesus.  Jesus is continually seeking us.  We don’t have to hunt for salvation, for peace, for wisdom, for love.  Jesus is the one doing the seeking.  All we have to do is say his name. All we have to do is come out of hiding and embrace our Savior.  Humanity’s hunt for salvation ended when Jesus left the tomb.
We spend a lot of our time hunting for things, not only Easter Eggs, but lost keys, answers to puzzling situations, cures for illness.  But one thing can never be lost; Jesus’ love for us. The original Easter hunt, the original hunt for an eternal relationship with God ended when Jesus walked out of that tomb, fully human and fully God and fully loving us, hunting for us, waiting for us to say His Name. Amen.