Not a normal Easter

I have been involved in worship leadership either as a pastor or as a church musician since 1978 and have never missed an Easter.  In fact, I don’t think I have ever missed being in church on Easter anytime in my six decades of life…until this past Easter Sunday.

No flowers.  No singing of “Jesus Christ is risen today.”  No soaring organ or alleluias.  No crowds of people. I didn’t have any props at all to get me psyched for “Christ is risen.”  Instead, I experienced Good Friday and the tomb of holy Saturday and the breaking news of Easter morning in a very different way.

Early Saturday morning I drove 300 miles to help my parents in a medical emergency with colleagues filling in for the worship leadership I was leaving behind.  My one brother had traveled the same distance the previous afternoon.  My other brother held a vigil of concern half a continent away.  It was  the strangest, the most frightening and exhausting Easter of my life.  (And holy week is never easy for a Lutheran pastor or musician.) It was also the most significant, and I didn’t step foot in a church.

The point being Christ is risen in spite of us and where we are.  We not only can share the story of Christ’s rising though glorious and inspiring worship, but just as profoundly, we can share that story when we see Christ living in our daily, nitty-gritty, close-to-the-tomb, difficult lives.  We sometimes meet the risen Christ in the darkness.

Mary Magdalene saw the risen Christ when she was weeping.  The two disciples on the road to Emmaus saw the risen Christ when they had given up hope.  Thomas saw the risen Christ only after doubting that it could be possible.  Where in our grief, or in our giving up, or in our doubting do we need to see the risen Christ?  Or where in our not knowing what to do next can we see the risen Christ face to face?  Where in a home filled with anxiety did I see the risen Christ?

Love.  I saw the risen Christ in love.

Before I say more, let me be clear: if my mom had been diagnosed with a brain tumor (which at one point we feared), or if we would have had to move her to a memory support unit (which we also feared), the risen Christ would have still been there for us and would have been just as real to us.  The good news of Christ’s risen power always runs deeper than our immediate circumstances.  The power of the risen Christ in our lives cannot be thwarted by anything that is happening to us.  God’s grace is too big.  God sends the risen Christ  to meet us at the tombs of our lives.  That’s where I stood, while Christians around the globe were celebrating.

I think my previous Easter celebrations have blinded me to the fact that resurrection is not easy.  In fact, it is much harder than a soaring trumpet refrain or an exhilarating resurrection sermon or an awesome candlelight vigil.  First, only God can accomplish resurrection, not any of us.  Not any of our prepared liturgies.  Only God does resurrection.

Second, there may be things that we need to let go of to encounter the risen Christ.  Mary had to leave off looking into the empty tomb, Thomas had to risk leaving his doubts, and the disciples had to leave their hiding behind locked doors.  But look at what a difference it made!.  You and I know Christ lives and loves us because these first followers listened to the risen Christ and let his power do new things in their lives.

And so while others celebrated the Vigil and sang Easter hymns, I had to let go and sit quietly with family. There I watched the power of Christ’s rising in the tenderness of my weary dad rising to care for and love my confused mom, of our praying openly with one another, in the soft singing of “Great is Thy Faithfulness” in the emergency room while holding my mom’s hand, and in the lively, renewed dialogue between my brother and myself.

My parents are home now, back on their own with a support system in place and home health care checking in.  We’ve come out on the other side and all is well. We can call that resurrection, and I am grateful for healing.  Just as I am grateful for the many who prayed us through those difficult days. Things are back to normal—actually, better than the old normal since new lines of communication and support have been taken on.  But resurrection itself isn’t normal; it is  inexplicably life-giving and life-changing.  It is God creating a new thing.
Thus I am different; there is something new and I still cannot quite articulate how yet.  Maybe I will in a future post.  But I know I have heard the risen Christ call my name in the dark, and I have seen what Easter is like in the silence.  And this quiet resurrection is full of love, not lilies.
May the risen Christ open our weeping eyes, our doubting minds and our fearful hearts to the love and grace that gives us life. 

Comments

  1. From a pastor who spent her first Easter out of the pulpit and in a chair behind the last pew beside her husband in a wheelchair, thank you.

  2. Thank you. I just read this to G, who said, ‘wow’!

  3. Peace be with you both.