Well, I for one am glad it’s Easter Sunday – for many different reasons.
What with this recent ice storm, it seems we’ve been through a long, grey, wearying winter.
And Holy Week prior to Easter – with its tough and gritty emotions surrounding the suffering, torture and death of Jesus – all of that just beats us down into weariness and exhaustion.
Someone recently sent me this funny picture on Face Book, of a cat, with tired, weary eyes just looking so blasé into the camera.
And this cat has all these little black mice scampering all over its head. But the cat is still dutifully following the discipline of Lent to “give up” something, and is just too weary and exhausted to chase and catch them.
And underneath, the caption reads: “Is Lent Almost Over?”
Indeed, Lent is over! Holy Week is over! And Easter Sunday has arrived. I’m glad for that.
But …. I’d hazard a guess …. that, even this morning, many of us may still find it hard to tap into the joy of Easter … for many different treasons.
And if that’s the case for you … if the grey weariness of winter, or the weariness of life lingers and keeps you its icy grip … here’s my message for you:
Don’t lose heart! You’re in good company!
Those first women at the tomb – those close friends and female disciples of Jesus – they were anything but joyful, sunny, confident and sure upon hearing the news that Jesus was alive.
From the scripture passage from the Gospel of Luke, words like “perplexed” and “terrified” stand out, describing Mary and the other women’s reaction upon hearing the news of Jesus’ resurrection:
And back in Jerusalem, when the rest of the disciples hear the news of the empty tomb, what’s their immediate reaction but mocking derision and disbelief:
An “idle tale” they say.
No sunny, confident joy.
Instead, we have bewilderment, uncertainty, stunned disbelief, confusion.
The Gospel of Mark’s resurrection account even goes so far as to say the disciples were downright “afraid.”
These are hard, messy emotions.
Now, having said that, if there is any joy to be feeling this Easter morning, it is in knowing that God’s resurrection power of new life and love happens regardless of how we may be feeling in the moment.
God raises Jesus to new life regardless.
The joy is knowing that God is not put off by, or disapproves, or condemns us, for the doubts, confusion, grief or fears that may be swirling in and around us.
In fact, it is precisely in that messy swirl and in the dark shadows that resurrection power first ignites!
Where did Christ’s resurrection happen?
In a sealed, tightly enclosed cave.
In complete silence, in absolute darkness, with the smell of damp stone and muddy earth in the air.
New life starts in the dark: whether it’s a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb…. It all starts in the dark.
Being in pitch blackness can be very scary, confusing, and bewildering.
But the joy of Easter is in knowing that it is precisely there that God’s life and love awakens.
Now there’s another part to this, one other detail in Luke’s scripture passage that we need to pay attention to.
Two angelic beings who mysteriously appear before the terrified and perplexed women in the tomb ask them: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
To me it’s a question that inspires movement, action, eventually going from places of tombs, grief and despair … toward places of life.
It’s a call to each one of us to come alive … so that eventually, what we say and do speaks to God’s most powerful force of life and love in the universe… even when all evidence seems to point to the contrary.
Why do you keep looking for the living among the dead?
Stop wandering aimlessly among the tombs of death and despair, stuck in the status quo, unmoving, unchanging.
Get moving! Speak! Tell! Act!
Show – in whatever big or small way – that God’s resurrection power of life and love is stronger than anything else.
In the midst of fear and despair we feel over the bombs, violence and destruction in Brussels and Syria … we don’t just cower away, hide and do nothing.
We provide shelter, food, medical aid and a comforting presence for refugees and the injured.
Amidst the realities of e-coli bacteria-laced drinking water, and mold-infested houses in First Nations communities in northern Ontario … we don’t just turn a blind eye and wander aimlessly in denial.
We do something! We raise awareness of poverty especially among our aboriginal neighbours, and provide the practical help needed – financial, medical, and social.
Into the middle of self-destructive messages of personal inadequacy and unworthiness, we speak out loud clear, easy-to understand words of affirmation, value and encouragement, to raise the dignity and self-respect of all people.
I love the true story Howard Thurman tells in his autobiography With Heart and Hands.
Thurman was an early twentieth-century African-American author, theologian and activist.
One afternoon, he took his two little daughters to the beach at Daytona.
And as they walked the beach and headed up toward a nearby school playground, they passed a swing set.
And the girls said, “Look Daddy! Let’s swing on this swing set!”
The girls didn’t know that all public school property including the swing set upon which it stood, was off limits to all black African-American.
It was against the law for them to use the swings.
Howard had the unenviable task of introducing his little girls to the sad story of racism in the U.S.
But this is what he said to his girls.
“You can’t swing on these swings because you’re black.
But, I’ll tell you, it takes the courts, the governor, all the members of the legislature, and most of the white people of Florida…
… it takes ALL THOSE PEOPLE to keep you two little girls off those swings…
… THAT is HOW IMPORTANT you are!”
Words of resurrection power, spoken loud and clear, at a time when his girls really needed to hear words of affirmation and value, in the midst of the ugliness and injustice of racism run amuck.
Easter morning isn’t about feeling ‘just right.’
It’s about doing right, saying right.
And it’s about remembering how God ‘did right’, and continues `to do right’ regardless.
This is our joy!