Yes, it’s the strangest Easter… except maybe the first one.
As a minister, the church and Holy Week are usually filled with so many details… choirs rehearsing… visual arts creation… worship being set up and torn down and set up… how will communion be served… how long should I preach… baking for a family feast… and so on…
This week has been very different… there was still worship to arrange and sermons to preach… but I am doing most of that at home… alone… and of course, online worship brings on a new set of demands and stressors!
My feelings, all my feelings, are very close to the surface these days… joy, anger, resentment, happiness, frustration, tenderness. I find myself easily moved to tears… I wouldn’t be surprised if you are too.
As we celebrate this very different Easter, some things remain the same for me! Listening to or watching Jesus Christ Superstar! I can hardly believe that it’s been 50 years since it was released! 50 years! I’ve had 50 years of singing, playing, watching, experiencing the Rock Opera that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice wrote. Of course, I was barely out of diapers… It relates the events of the last week or so of Jesus’ life. I told my husband last week that I was going to watch the latest production that Andrew Lloyd Webber made available on YouTube… and warned him that there may be singing! If you haven’t seen that production, I encourage you to do so, it’s an incredible experience with an updated context for today.
It demonstrates that the themes of power and oppression are as current as they were 2000 years ago. I loved the hashtag: followthetwelve! Once again, I found their treatment of Mary Magdelene to be superficial and not based on the biblical character, but rather how she has often been portrayed throughout the years, as a prostitute. But aside from that, I may watch it again this afternoon!
It ends on Good Friday… Jesus taken down from the cross and sealed in a tomb… That’s part of the reason I often watch or listen to it on Good Friday. We know, as followers of Jesus, that Good Friday is not the end! We know, even as we feel locked in our homes, unable to gather as a community of faith, unable to gather with friends and family for a special meal, perhaps separated from your children through a shared custody arrangement that is no longer safe, still we know that death is not the end.
Often, we want to go from the high of Palm Sunday to the high of Easter Sunday, without experiencing the betrayal, crucifixion and waiting that is an integral part of the Jesus story and an integral part of our story. It’s human nature and DNA programing to avoid pain. However, we have all known betrayal… we have all known death… we have all known waiting… seemingly endlessly for light and life to break forth once again. We all have all known resurrection! We have all seen Jesus alive and active in the world!
Those women who went to the tomb that morning found an angel and empty grave clothes and heard the angels words, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
Jesus is not here… in this empty sanctuary… even as it has been an important and integral part of our spiritual lives.
Jesus is… Kennedy MacLean, an ICU nurse in Toronto.
Jesus is… the store clerk at Chaters Meat Market
Jesus is… Amadou…
Jesus is Susan Rodriguez… supporting people in a small options home…
Jesus is… Breann Taylor… screening people for COVID19 at the children’s Hospital.
Jesus is… Jocelyn Edmunds… IT specialist with the Nova Scotia Health Authority,
Jesus is Bill Elliott… working in the hospital…
Jesus is Courtney Myers… and some of her co-workers in one of the nursing homes.
Jesus is this woman delivering oil…
Jesus is this man making sure we have clean water…
Jesus is the postal worker, who ensures one of the basic methods of connecting with one another continues to be possible…
Jesus is the NSLC employees who know that people struggle with addictions and the medical system cannot cope with people quitting cold turkey.
Jesus is the truck driver… who continues to make deliveries of essential items…
Jesus is the garbage collector, without whom we would soon be drowning in refuse.
Jesus is the firefighter, who continues to respond to fires.
Jesus is Sam…
And this guy whose name I can’t remember… And all the others who work behind the scenes at the Food Bank…
Jesus is the convenience store clerk, where else can you go late and night and find essential supplies
Jesus is all the local farmers, these ones from Taproot Farms, delivering fruit and vegetables, meat and pantry supplies right to peoples homes.
And Jesus is each one of you…
Jesus is out there:
with you, your family, your neighbors;
he’s out there:
in the midst of this pandemic,
in the middle of all the fears;
he’s out there:
caring for folks in retirement communities
and the vulnerable in residential settings;
he’s out there:
making masks and ventilators,
building field hospitals,
working on a vaccine;
he’s out there:
stocking the grocery stores,
listening to folks on the hotlines;
he is not here.
he’s out there.
Don’t look for him in the empty tomb… he is not there! Amen!
With thanks to Thom Shuman whose Facebook post sparked an idea and those who sent me pictures!
Mark 16: 1-8
April 12, 2020 – Easter Sunday
Stairs Memorial United Church