Easter begins in the dark. Always.
In today’s account of the resurrection, Mary of Magdala with Mary the mother of James, and Salome come to the tomb while it is still dark. Mary Magdalene feels the predawn darkness around her and within her: a void of hopelessness, a crushing sense of loss, grief that cannot be articulated in words. She never thought it would end like this and now she comes to anoint Jesus, he was the messiah!
It began in the darkness of the night on Maundy Thursday, his betrayal and arrest, then came the cross on Good Friday and the tomb of Holy Saturday. It began with fear and violence, doubt and desertion, and the women walk faithfully to the tomb and then it all changed for them that Easter morning…
Easter begins in the dark of night. If you have ever kept vigil, worried to death at the bedside of a loved one, if you have ever been unable to sleep because of what was to come, if you have ever been overwhelmed by doubt or grief, Easter has dawned in your life. God has been with you through those long hours; God has embraced you in your isolation; God has come in the morning.
Easter begins in the dark earth. Easter is a seed planted in the new spring soil that struggles through the winter hardness to blossom. If you've ever struggled to change or worked hard to remake your life in the wake of loss, hurt or devastation, Easter has dawned in your life. Easter is that light that reveals death is not the final ending but the passage way to the God who first breathed life into you.
Easter begins in ashes. If you've ever been swallowed up in hopelessness or fear or if you've ever been paralyzed by hurt or ill-treatment, Easter has dawned in your life. No matter how hard we fall, no matter how broken we are, no matter how deep the chasm into which we've fallen, Easter is the Risen One walking in your midst in the compassion of loved ones, the support of friends, the dedication of saints.
Easter begins in the darkness of night, in the seeming finality of earth, in the hopelessness of ashes. But Easter moves beyond those states, for in the words of the tomb, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Go and tell, he is going ahead of you; there you will see him, just as he told you.” And the women left the tomb in fear and amazement, they left in the light, the light they would share…
Easter is more than dogmas and truths; look for Easter in the small candle that defies the darkness, in the small flower that pierces the cold April earth, in the land that reaches out to you when all seems hopeless. Easter is the eternal morning after our darkest & stormiest night. Easter is the stubborn hope of a God who re-creates us and our world until his dream of a humanity bound in his love is realized. Easter is the Risen Christ in our midst, enabling us to re-create our broken lives in his love and peace.
On this day as we celebrate Jesus victory over death, Jesus’ resurrection, we come this morning to remember how through Jesus we have come to find life, a life that was broken on Good Friday, but out of that darkness, he has brought abundant light and life to the world.
As we walked through his passion & sacrifice this week, I found a beautiful story from Thailand that I think wonderfully illustrates his sacrifice and his bringing life to us. Let me end with the legend about the bamboo.
When the great garden of the earth was first planted, Bamboo was the most resplendent plant of all, the favorite flower of God, the Master of the Garden. In one corner of the earth, there were some dry fields. A spring of water was in the center of the fields, but its water could not reach the dry earth. The majestic Bamboo offered its own stem to the Master.
The Master of the Garden cut down the Bamboo stocks and stripped off its branches and its leaves. The Master gently carried Bamboo to the fresh water spring. Then, putting one end of the broken Bamboo into the water channel in his field, the Master carefully laid down his beloved Bamboo. And the clear waters raced down the hollow channel of Bamboo's torn stem into the waiting fields.
The rice was planted and soon the shoots grew and the harvest came. On that day, the legend says, Bamboo, once so glorious in stately beauty, became even more beautiful in its brokenness and humility, for in its brokenness Bamboo became a channel of abundant life. [From In The Shadow the Nine Dragons by Eric Hague.]
Brothers & Sisters, Happy Easter for Christ is risen Alleluia! Amen.