18 Apr Opened Hearts, Embracing Resurrection
Resurrection. New life. Second chances. Redemption. A fresh start. These are all good ways to talk about the meaning of Easter.
Last Sunday, what churches call Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday, marked the beginning of Holy Week. During this week Christians trace Jesus’ journey from his lauded entry into Jerusalem, to his last observance of the Passover Seder with his disciples, to Judas’ betrayal of him to the religious authorities, to his arrest, trial, crucifixion and burial. Holy Week concludes when we gather to celebrate the empty tomb and the appearance of the risen Christ to his followers.
I love Holy Week and Easter. I love to see the kids decked out in their new Easter finery. I love the joy that is shared among young and old alike which creates a special kind of electricity in worship. I love to watch our “littles” clutching baskets and racing around the church yard hunting for brightly colored eggs. I love hearing, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” I love these things because they are signs that reflect the heart of our Christian faith—that God is not in some far-removed heaven, aloof, distant, unseeing and uncaring. No, God is with us, in the midst of all the pain and suffering that come with our human condition, and God is not only with us but is miraculously working to bring life, beauty, and good out of places and situations that seem hopeless.
Some churches perform reenactments of some portion of the Easter story. One of my clergy colleagues has been growing a beard since Christmas, along with twelve other men in his congregation, and on Maundy Thursday they will create an Upper Room vignette to commemorate the Last Supper. Other churches offer creative ways to “walk” the Via Dolorosa, the route through Jerusalem believed to be the path Jesus traveled to Golgotha and the cross.
I’ve had an unexpected reenactment of sorts lived out in front of me in my own extended family. This has caught me off-guard, but at the same time it has given me a different and rich perspective on how Easter plays out in our lives. I am watching one relative cling to his burial clothes. He is shrouded in fear and anxiety which is causing him to live a shriveled existence, without either joy or much hope in his day-to-day routine. He desperately needs to change, to try something new, to break out of his self-imposed tomb, but he refuses. Perhaps you know someone who will not or cannot break free from their worry, narcissism, addiction, anger, or depression. The freedom of resurrection is readily available to each of us, but it will not be forced upon us. We become active participants in resurrection by receiving it.
I’m watching other relatives who are embracing new relationships, new commitments, and new jobs that require relocating away from family and friends. Fear and even grief are a natural part of all this newness—after all, while the excitement of new challenges propels them forward, there is an accompanying sadness at leaving behind people and places they love. This has been a mirror of the disciples at the resurrection. There was certainly much to celebrate, and a new mission was given to them that they would put their whole hearts and souls into, but they still missed Jesus’ physical presence. Their emotions were still raw from the events leading up to the crucifixion, and they needed time to transition to their new reality. Their experience is a reminder that tears of joy and sorrow sometimes flow together down our cheeks, and that’s okay.
While the Easter story is familiar with its annual repetition, as we enter Holy Week each year, we are different. And that creates space for us to insert ourselves in the story in a new way, to hear it with fresh ears, to be touched in ways never before imagined. I wonder if you might, right now, open your heart to embrace the newness that is made possible by an empty tomb. Because friends, he is risen! He is risen indeed!