8 Apr 2012
“‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him.’” (John 20:2) In the name …
Today’s Easter emotions: Joy, hope, triumph. First Easter: Confusion, fear.
We never read Mark’s Easter account. Women so afraid, ran away, never said a word.
Can’t blame the first witnesses for all the confusion. Thrown into the radically unexpected.
I can maybe do that now for some of us here. Rumors of Christmas-Easter church folk. Link with going to church and poinsettias and lilies. The computers between our ears link these things together.
Lilies = Easter. “When I come to church there are either lilies or … Poinsettias!” (*)
Another example of confusion. A couple of weeks ago I was at the Whately Congregational Church for one of our Lenten Discussions. After the gathering, I was talking with Ed Farrick and Bill Girardi. It was a business man, a teacher and a priest. Sounds like the first line of a joke. Ed is saying to the both of us, a teacher and a priest, “I love kids.” O.K., that makes sense in a conversation with two guys who work with kids. Then he goes on to say, “They were auctioning some kids off.” Well, now he’s got my attention. He goes on to say, “My heart was saying ‘buy a couple of kids,’ but my head said ‘no.’” Now I don’t know what Bill Girardi the teacher’s reaction was to this statement of buying and selling kids, but I was completely befuddled. Then it started to dawn on me. Right next door to the Whately church is a little farm and drawing everyone’s attention as they walked into the hall before the lecture were the newborn goats. Mr. Farrick was talking about those baby goats, those kids. He wasn’t talking about Mr. Girardi’s students or the children carrying carnations in this morning’s Easter procession. He was talking about baby goats, and his word choice was 100% accurate. The reason for all my confusion was with the way I heard them. For me kids is another word for children, and it’s a word that I use all the time. I can’t remember the last time I talked about baby goats.
We revert to the familiar, and when we meet up with the unfamiliar, that’s how confusion can start. And confusion was rampant on that first Easter Sunday morning. The followers of Jesus reverted to the familiar. They knew that Jesus had died on Good Friday. They knew that He had been buried. And they thought they knew that He was going to stay dead and buried. Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb probably to grieve by the grave of a loved one. When she finds the tomb has been opened, a confused panic takes over. She reverts to the familiar. She thinks the tomb has been vandalized. She definitely is not thinking resurrection. She runs to the disciples in a terror and screams to them: “Jesus is risen!” No! She yells, “‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him.’” The disciples also revert to the familiar. They don’t believe Mary Magdalene, so two of them go running to the tomb to see for themselves what’s going on.
Everyone on that first Easter morning is reverting to the familiar. The Easter mystery opens with a story of utter confusion. Confusion is where Easter begins because Easter is so unabashedly extraordinary. In a time when history was more often than not about propaganda rather than facts, where history was told to make some people look real good even if they weren’t and others real bad even if they weren’t. What we’ve got here, instead, is a story of complete confusion. Jesus doesn’t emerge triumphant. He hasn’t even been seen yet. And the followers of Jesus are not depicted in any way heroic. They mostly deserted Jesus on Good Friday and now they won’t believe in the resurrection. This is messy and sloppy. This is unflattering and … well, this is real. We’re not getting a censored version of what should have happened on Easter. We’re getting recollections of what did happen. The confusion and the repeated failures to believe are not made-up to glorify the first witnesses. They’re told to us because the sense of confusion was never forgotten by those Easter witnesses. When they thought back to it they couldn’t believe what happened at that tomb. They weren’t prepared for it. They had reverted to the familiar, and the radical unfamiliarity of Easter knocked them on their proverbial rear-ends. That’s a memory that stays with a person. That’s the memory that’s shared with us today.
But just like those first Easter witnesses reverted to the familiar, and just like I had reverted to the familiar when I heard Mr. Farrick talking about going to the auction to buy kids, we can also revert to the familiar when it comes to Easter still today. We now associate Easter with themes of glory and joy. That’s the reason for the children holding flowers, for the choir’s gift of song, and even the added gift of Kirsten’s trumpet. This is the holiest day of the entire year for the church. This is a day of triumph and victory after a long Lenten season filled with the themes of trial and sadness. This is the day of Jesus’ vindication after the treachery of Good Friday. Jesus has arisen from the grave, and that gives us all the gift of hope. That’s why the Sanctuary is filled with flowers, especially the lilies that tradition holds as Jesus’ favourite flower. On Easter we stand at the threshold between heaven and earth. We can feel the tug of both of them simultaneously. We are here today because we believe that there is more to life than what we see, that we are defined by more than our physical bodies, and that this physical world is not enough to define us. Today other realities seem so very close. Today we celebrate, because today, Christ and us, we touch.
We’ve seen how easy it is to revert to the familiar and the confusion that it can bring about. Since the first Easter, we have been called to belief in the extraordinary, and to believe in the extraordinary is the only way to make sense out of Easter. Anything less will only lead to confusion because Jesus comes to us with the power of what can be. What is, is not enough. Easter makes sense to the degree that we are willing to hope, and hope can be such a powerful force. If we can believe in the reality of hope, then change for the better is not fantasy, it’s potential. It’s what can be. This is the often underestimated power of Easter. This is the power of what we say we believe in by coming here today. Let’s strive to not revert to the familiar. Let’s strive to hope in the extraordinary, to make a difference in the world and the people around us, to make a difference in ourselves, through the power and the presence of the risen Christ. In joy and hope we pray for these things in His name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo