210404 Pastor’s Page
April 4, 2021
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!
The surprise, joy, and excitement of this opening exclamation of Easter remain fresh, even after all the centuries of its proclamation. We are used to hearing these words at the beginning of a lavish Sunday service in which we exuberantly sing our favorite hymns in a worship space decorated in splashes of white and gold, the perfume of lilies wafting through the air. On this day we invite special musicians to enliven our song and we literally pull out all the stops on the organ. After worship we spill out into a bright fellowship hall and mingle with our neighbours over coffee and hot cross buns. And after that we gather with family for festive meals.
Not this year, of course.
In 2021 our Easter celebrations will be more muted. Some of our community will be able to be present in person, but most will worship online. We'll have the organ, and the special brass instruments, but they won't be accompanied by a congregation together in song. We'll hum along with the strong hymns, of course, or maybe sing out loud from our homes. When we greet each other it will be with a small bow, or a wave of greeting – with only our eyes to show the smiles we wear behind our masks. There won't be large family gatherings. Easter in 2021 will be less exuberant and more reflective, less extraverted and more introspective.
As it happens, the Easter story we hear this year comes from Mark's gospel. And the story that Mark tells of the resurrection is not full of dramatic, loud sights and sounds. No earthquake and angel descending from heaven shining like the sun, no exclamations of joy, no excited running to tell the good news, not even any appearance of Jesus at all! Instead Mark points to an event that happened in darkness and mystery, announced in simplicity by an ordinary young man. The women who hear that Jesus is no longer in the tomb react with alarm, terror, and amazement. The original gospel ends by telling us that “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
It seems to me that this is the gospel story we need to hear in 2021. From Mark we learn that the news of God's astounding power to raise the dead to life can be told quietly, intimately, and still powerfully. As Mark tells it, the new life of the resurrection doesn't burst forth like lightning but it grows inexorably like a seed stretching out its roots and shoots in the darkness of the earth, or the bud of a pussy willow determindely making its appearance in spring, or a crocus slowly reaching up from the barren earth. And this is the way we are likely to experience new life this year.
In 2021 we, like the women who came to Jesus' tomb that long ago Sunday morning, are “bordered by evil and surrounded by death.” We come to this resurrection morning shocked and perhaps in some ways traumatized by a year of pandemic living. As we look ahead we know there will be no sudden moment when everything is back to what it once was. Told that all this fear and death has been overcome by Christ, we are likely to be slow to absorb the news – receiving it with skepticism, perhaps, amazement and even alarm.
I take comfort to know from Mark that Easter doesn't have to be loud and bright and unmitigated celebration. It can also be quiet and filled with wonder and mystery. Easter can take its time as the good news slowly dawns on us: Christ is risen! Because he lives we shall live also! Life arises, even within our darkest night. We may not feel it in the moment but that does not change the power of God to renew and restore all things by the power of Christ's life that flows out from the tomb to infuse all creation.
May your Easter be filled this year with quiet joy and grateful contemplation.
May you know the power of Christ's resurrection in your own renewed life.
May love and joy and faith an hope grow up softly in your relationships.
May your fear be turned to confidence as you proclaim boldly,
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the name of the risen Christ,