Psalm 118, Jeremiah 31: 1-6, Matthew 28: 1-10
Surely on this Easter Sabbath during this time of global pandemic, we can resonate with the Easter story when the earth quaked in sympathy with the great tragedy of the cross Jesus, a time when death seemed to reign and it fell like all hope was lost. We join with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary as they went to the tomb, their hearts heavy with grief, tears blurring their vision, legs weak with apprehension.
Each day that we hear the news or watch the red dots on the world map changing daily, growing brighter red in places marking the place where people are being ravaged by this terrible virus- Covid-19 – we share that feeling that the earth is truly quaking, shifting and changing in ways we can barely comprehend as of yet. When have we even known such a time when societies around the globe are virtually shut down for a time – factories, oil wells, retail stores, schools, museums, libraries, service industries, church buildings, mosques and synagogues….
We also quake within our own hearts and minds as we consider the ramifications of all of this…..As we listen and ponder, it can feel like too much to take in and we can become numb with fear like the women who came to the tomb where Jesus lay, ….like the disciples who keep their distance back home, hiding themselves from the threat of the very real danger to their lives from the authorities who were keeping an eye on them. We may know what that feels like as the police and bylaw officers ensure we obey the social distancing orders.
Yet in Matthew’s version of the resurrection story of Jesus, the quaking of the earth announces the arrival of an angel that rolls back the stone and brings a powerful message from God of new life beyond death.
Every day we are witnesses to the many people who are being angels, who are inspired by some deep sense of vocation to bring healing to those who are being struck down by Covid-19. Everyday we are hearing moving stories of the nurses, doctors, technicians, ward clerks, paramedics, personal support workers, firefighters and morticians, ….a whole host of angels who are healers of all kinds who walk into the places where death is occurring and could occur, to bring all their skill and love to bring healing and compassion to people who are suffering.
Along with those already named, we think of all those essential workers who ensure that food, drugs, clothing, shelter, education, construction and hardware materials are still available to everyone…..truckers, grocery clerks, teachers, retail staff at places like Walmart and Home Depot and volunteers at Food Banks. We think of all those people who commit to bringing the essential emotional and spiritual healing that is so needed in these days gripped with fear and isolation… parents and grandparents, counsellors, kids help line workers, women’s shelters, clergy of all religions and their members, the police….. We honour the sense of vocation shown by our politicians who are pursing life for their people, freeing up resources to those most deeply affected by financial losses, especially those who are working together, putting aside their partisan differences to bring life to our communities.
And of course we see the gifts of God’s wisdom and intellect at work through the public health staff, epidemiologists, scientists and lab techs, who are spending long hours of experimenting and testing for solutions which will bring healing and one day prevention or cure for Covid-19. Their curiosity and courage to peer into the mysteries of this virus are truly awe-inspiring for those of us are unable to see into the deep mysteries and designs of cell life, especially those cells that turn on life itself.
So who are the angels in your life right now? Who are the people who are brining the nourishment, companionship, solace and courage to help you get through every day and night? Silent reflection
As a great force of nature moves away the stone from the tomb, the angels who are radiant with light do not speak to the men who guard the sealed tomb, those who are instruments of the Forces of Empire that have crucified Jesus, but they speak to the two women, the ones whose powerful love has drawn them to this place of death and loss, despite their fear. The angel addresses them with urgency, inviting them first to check out the place where Jesus had been laid, but was no longer present, and then to go to the place where they will begin again in Galilee. As they move forward with a renewed sense of hope in their hearts, the risen Jesus greets them and they take hold of his feet and worship him.
Right now, as many places in our world are experiencing the devastation of being at the ‘peak of this virus, where many people are still called to be at the tomb, touched by grief and loss in the face of death, how do we hear our call to go to Galilee, to notice the shrouds but then to look to the future with hope?
Our minds can go either way at this juncture, can’t they? No doubt some call this the apocalypse, blaming the Devil, blaming God, blaming other countries, blaming WHO (the World Health Organization), blaming the folks who don’t keep their distance….conspiracy theories abound as they did around the time of Jesus’ own death.
In Matthew’s telling of this story, the Divine messenger broke through the women’s shock and grief to urge them to keep looking forward with hope, to reunite with the One whom they loved, to reach out to their community – the other disciples- and to begin again, maybe in a whole new way. That was their first step on the journey beyond the tomb – to witness to hope, to the possibility of life beyond death and suffering. This is the central experience of the resurrection life which we celebrate on Easter morning. This was their first step in the risen life- to find their community who just might believe again in God’s vision that Jesus had given his whole life for.
So who are the people you are connecting with? Who will you share your hope with for a healed and more compassionate world even as we work together at ‘flattening the curve” and getting through this.
When the women meet Jesus, risen from death, it is then that they experience not only their fear, but joy and their feet are made ready for the next step in the journey. What is amazing is that they were able to do or say anything at all, for they could have remained paralyzed in their sense of loss.
So even though we may feel entombed in our own homes this Easter – whether self-isolating because you are sick, returning from a trip, working from home, parenting full-time, obeying the new rules for social distancing – how do you still keep your minds and hearts open to the possibilities of life before for us? Are we imagining the kind of families and neighbourhoods we will becomes as a result of this experience? How will we continue to worship Christ as a community of believers? How will our economies be different and what will we consider to be ‘essential’ to our collective well-being, especially the well-being of the earth which quite miraculously is repairing herself of the damage our excesses have been causing in the decades before this?
How will we become Easter people in the days, weeks and months that lie ahead for us? The invitation goes out again this year to be witnesses to the Spirit of God whose powerful love can move away the stones of grief and raise that which is dead within us to life again. Like the psalmist in Psalm 118, may our hearts be strengthened by turning to our God in prayer:
Easter us in joy and strength.
Be our God, be your true self, lord of life,
massively turn our life toward your life
and away from our anti-neighbor, anti-self deathliness.
Hear our thankful, grateful, unashamed Hallelujah!