By: David H. May, Rector
Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
I have a file folder that I carry around with a label on it where I’ve written the word ‘Now’. I have paper copies of email, lists of things to be done, notes from meetings, and other things in there. They’re in the ‘Now’ folder because I need to pay attention to them and follow through on them now. It’s also labelled ‘Now’ because I used to have a file folder labelled ‘Later’. I put things in there which maybe could wait til later. I’m not exactly sure what happened to that folder. I could have lost it or just realized that ‘later’ sometimes actually meant ‘never’ and so it just sort of went away.
Anyway, I was looking through my ‘Now’ folder yesterday and I came across some notes from our program staff meeting at the beginning of March. The notes were about a meeting where we were thinking through Palm Sunday and Holy Week and Easter services. The first note reads “For procession of palms on Palm Sunday – DM and crucifer, go slower!” Exclamation point. Apparently, last year, the crucifer and I marched off and left the big procession behind. There’s also a note about dimming the lights for the stripping of the altar on Maundy Thursday and an interesting note that reads: “Don’t forget treats for after Vigil!” Exclamation point.
But then I came to notes from a staff meeting maybe a week or so later that reads: “What is livestreaming? How does it work?” And then from a few days later a note reads “Decision about Caritas – can we do two weeks?” And finally on a sheet of paper from a few days later: “We have to stay connected – how?”
These pieces of paper and the notes on them are only from a few weeks ago. But I felt like I was on a historical research project looking at old dusty documents from some bygone days. It feels like a lifetime ago. Somewhere along the way, we passed from one world into another.
So much seems to have passed and even passed away in such a short span of time. And their passing has been exhausting. Because one minute you’re up and hopeful, ready to go; and the next your terrified; and the next tearful, really tearful, from watching a video that millions of people have watched that shows people on the sidewalk cheering and applauding nurses leaving and arriving at a hospital at a shift change.
And so here we are for the fifth Sunday in an empty church, talking to a Smartphone, trying to pretend that I can see Isabel or Kennon or Harry or Jack or Lucy.
Last Easter morning as near as anyone can tell, there were about a thousand people crammed into this church for the two services. And all anyone was worried about was finding a parking place or seating for Easter brunch.
This isn’t like any Easter Sunday that any of us can remember. Not one of us. But we are a part of the beloved community of Jesus so – did you know – that we are surrounded at every moment by a great cloud of witnesses the great communion of saints so we have with a long and living memory. So I have been thinking that this quiet nearly empty church resembles an Easter day a long time ago. Long before a single Easter hymn had been written, long before there Easter traditions like special dresses or amazing displays of flowers, long before there were even churches of any kind. A long time ago in the quiet with nearly no one around…
“After the sabbath,” we read about that long-ago time, “as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.”
It makes me glad that they went together. At least they had each other. But it was only the two of them. In another part of the story we hear that everyone else was locked away in hiding, terrified that they’d be the next to fall. They went expecting to see Jesus grave “a monument,” Tom Long writes, “to the sadness they felt in the soul, a confirmation of the cruel truth that the world finally beats mercy and righteousness to death”.
Might does make right. Dreams of peace and justice and mercy are just that, dreams. And thinking that love is the answer is for losers. The forgotten stay forgotten. The lost stay lost. And most certainly, the dead stay dead.
But something happened as those two women, arm in arm, make there way through a world they thought they understood.
In the new world they pass into the earth has shaken off the stone closing up Jesus, and soldiers are too afraid to draw their swords, and an angel sits nonchalantly on the stone, his legs dangling off, like he’s wondering what all the fuss is about, saying, “he’s not here.” And then the angel gives them a few pointers for living in this new world they’ve passed into.
First, do not be afraid. Because God has raised Jesus, you genuinely and fundamentally do not need to be afraid – not of dying and not of living. There is hardship. There is calamity. You will be called losers, dreamers, fools and worse for the love of Christ. Do not be afraid. Yours is the kingdom of heaven – not later, now.
And in this new resurrection world we have passed into, we can expect to see Jesus risen and glorious just as he told us we would. Wherever a cup of water is giving to the thirsty, wherever the naked are clothed, wherever the blind receive their sight and the captives are set free, wherever on this day doctors and nurses keep showing up to bring the gift of healing under fearful circumstances, we will see him and fall at his feet, because he has promised to be with us always, showing us that his love for us is stronger than death, for he is risen.
We are in a new world right now. We’ve had to leave so much behind already. And there is so much we need to do and will need to do in the days to come to bind up what is broken and mend what needs healing. In a way I don’t think any of us could ever have imagined, we truly all in this together, all a part of the human family. God will have work for us to do in the days to come to show how near his risen Son is to the hurt in this world. And just as the angel sent Mary Magdalene and the other Mary running to bring tidings of great joy to those locked away in fear, we to will be sent out to be Jesus’ people of healing and hope and joy, because we are children of the Resurrection. For he is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!