Easter Musings from the Manse

How do we emerge from the locked down times of life? The illness that has robbed us of sleep. The betrayal that has robbed us of trust. The bereavement that has robbed us of presence. For many this time can often feel like an endless Good Friday, or Holy Saturday, and not Easter Day. 

Yet here we are with Holy Week over, and wondering if the time of release has come at last, and life will be renewed. Will this be the time of freedom? Will this be the time of a new beginning? Will this be the time of new life? 

Alan Lewis in his book, Between Cross and Resurrection, A Theology of Holy Saturday, writes: “Through a few hours of worship and many of ordinary life (the Christian family relives) annually the growing tensions of the climactic week: the grieving farewells, the shameful betrayal, guilty denial, and agonizing fear of the night before the end; the long, dark, deadly day of pain and forsakenness itself; an ecstatic daybreak of miracle and colour, song and new-born life…” 

We find ourselves, as Lewis goes on to say, “on the boundary between yesterday and tomorrow.” Through long times of lockdown life we have hovered, or laboured, in a twilight world. Too long in the darkness of the tomb; too long in the half-light of the garden. The rumours of freedom; the hints of hope; only to be frustrated, and left waiting longer. But the time of Easter comes.

There is something almost cinematic about John’s portrayal of the resurrection. There is vivid detail; there is gripping suspense; there are powerful emotions. There is something almost visceral about the rawness of emotion expressed in this telling of the story. It is deeply, deeply personal. 

Like Christmas, we might wonder what is left to say about Easter. It has all been said before. Everyone knows the detail, or thinks they do. Perhaps the challenge of the Easter story isn’t so much about finding something new to say about it, but simply letting the story speak for itself, with all its questions and wondering and uncertainty and hopefulness and energy and joy. Perhaps we need to reflect not so much on the details of the story, intriguing though they are, but on the kind of community that comes to birth and thrives after Easter.

The scene is set in a Garden. Unlike the first Garden, Eden, where in its story humanity disobeys and falls away from God, here humanity runs towards God. Here humanity, believing and doubting, finding answers and questions, encounters God in the risen Jesus in a different way.

In the midst of the running to and fro, and the emptiness of the tomb, and the vision of angels, the first encounter of Jesus is a quiet, still one. When Mary Magdalen turns away from the untenanted tomb, she sees, “Jesus standing”. Just standing there, waiting to be noticed. How long has Jesus been standing in our lives, in our churches, in our world, just waiting to be noticed? Then He speaks and questions why Mary weeps and who she seeks.

Jesus sees her. Might it not be that Jesus, standing, is also seeing us this Easter Day?

Then He says her name. Might it not be that Jesus, standing, and seeing us, might also say our name this Easter Day?

In such a way Mary came to recognise Jesus. Might it not also be the case that for us we might recognise Jesus through the same ways too?Easter is meant to engage our minds, so that we think about Who and what Jesus is. Easter is also meant to engage our senses, so that, somehow, we might engage with and experience Jesus. When our minds and senses are engaged, the Good News that ‘Christ is risen’ becomes real. Like Mary, we too might find ourselves thinking and saying, “I have seen the Lord.”

The late, great actress and comedienne Elaine Stritch, in her one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty, tells a lovely story about a five-year old actor called Brandon De Wilder. It’s opening night for a Broadway show. All the grown-up actors are in their respective dressing rooms, shaking in their boots. Opening night is a big deal on Broadway. The stage manager calls over the tannoy, “Places!” A door opens and little Brandon comes out of his dressing room, skipping down the hall, knocking on all the grown-up actors’ doors and shouting out in excitement, “It’s time! It’s time!”

Easter comes. It’s time to open the doors. It’s time to let the light in. It’s time to meet Jesus.

Rev Nik Wooller

Easter Day 2021

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