On that first Easter Sunday Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome were carrying spices but they were not carrying joy in their hearts on their way to the tomb.
These wonderful women were… it was almost as if they were acting on instinct.
And — when we are traumatized… or when we are, experiencing the depths of grief — it takes incredible energy… it takes incredible courage just to get out of bed in the morning.
__ “We need to get the spices, we need to go to the tomb, we need to anoint his body, we need to find someone to roll the stone away… we need to say goodbye the right way.”
His death had been so disturbing and awful, being able to perform these simple and normal rituals… satisfying the instinctive need to honor the dead… this is how they… how we all have always created the space for healing after a loss.
__ “We need to call the funeral home, we need to meet with the pastor, we need to order the flowers, to pick the hymns…. we need to invite everyone to lunch to share stories, we need to say goodbye the right way.”
A good argument could be made… by all of us living through this COVID-19 pandemic… that this Easter Sunday will have brought our congregation as close… spiritually and emotionally… as close as we have ever come to sharing the surreal amazement and sadness of that first Easter Sunday.
The penitential season of Lent, the betrayal and chaos of Maundy Thursday, the trauma of of Good Friday… these all felt… authentic.. they felt in tune with life in these days.
But, Alleluia…? “this joyful eastertide” …? this morning, that just feels like bullshit... an
it feels inauthentic… there will be no packed church this Easter Sunday shouting “he is Risen Indeed”… there will be no children singing…no bells ringing… or elaborate processions… there will be no Holy Communion.
Like Mary and the other women it is completely understandable if our reaction to the news of resurrection this morning is to be really upset over being denied our normal rituals…. There would be no anointing and preparing Jesus body for burial… there would only be terror— and amazement— and fear and an empty tomb…
As I look again at this camera lens in the middle of an empty church… I can relate.
What the Women on that first Easter morning couldn’t process yet was that the emptiness they thought they needed to fill up with rituals for their healing gets completely flooded by resurrection life.
The only thing left empty was the tomb.
That resurrection, that divine life…had swallowed up death completely. And they couldn’t grasp… they couldn’t make sense of the words of the young man in the white robe telling them that this divine life that flows from God had raised Jesus and was going on ahead of them to Galilee, like he said he was going to…
Faced with this new reality of resurrection life and being forced to completely abandon their rituals, their spices, and their plans for honoring the dead… they did the only sensible thing… they fled and said nothing to anyone…
It was too overwhelming… it was too good… How could God be this good? How could any of this be possible…? It would take them a long time to begin to make sense of how their faith was shaped by that morning… and our wisdom about how the new reality of resurrection life… forms our faith is still being discovered and rediscovered in every generation since.
Every generation has to carry their own spices to the tomb… so that God can show us that they are useless there now, the stone is rolled away and he is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia.
Every generation must experience and participate in the twisting of faith to gain political power, to exploit the poor and promote human prejudices, racism, bigotry, and all forms of injustice so that God can remind us that Resurrection Life is relentless in its struggle toward justice and compassion and that the stone of our hatred is rolled away and he is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia.
Every generation must come through the valley of the shadow of death so that God can reveal to us again and again how Resurrection Life does not not stop because the women fled in terror, in the face countless martyrdoms, or being forced to worship in catacombs, or after centuries of persecutions and abuse the stone of our fear is rolled away and he is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia.
Every generation must attempt to serve a dead Jesus, to hold onto rituals and human traditions …so that God can show us the empty tomb, and remind us that our faith is living and that there is no breathing and growing and that we serve Jesus who says, “I am the resurrection and the Life.” the stone of death is rolled away and he is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia.
On this Easter Sunday, this one that is more like that first Easter Sunday than we have ever known…perhaps we do need to take our turn and go to the tomb carrying our useless spices and our shock and sadness and fear… Perhaps we do need to move through some of this instinctively as we lament the ways things were before, to seek to perform our normal rituals over the crucified, dead, and buried Jesus … but, you know…just like Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome we won’t find him there. The stone of everything that we thought about how things work and who Jesus is… that stone is rolled away and he is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia.