The seeds of my reflection this morning were sown by an article entitled An Upside Down Easter Meditation by Parker Palmer. You can find it here.
I attended the funeral of a young woman Thursday afternoon, a good friend of my daughter-in-law and my oldest granddaughter’s godmother. Beth was 39 when she died… she had had breast cancer, multiple treatments and surgeries, and despite all that, still found joy in living. And while I am sure she had her moments of despair, she also faced her life with courage. That joy and courage served her well when she found love after cancer… and again when she found herself unexpectedly pregnant… and decided to continue with the pregnancy, despite all the treatment her body had been subjected to. And Thursday afternoon, that little 2 ½ year girl ran around the funeral home, while all around her people wept… and laughed… and wept again…
Beth’s partner will need every bit of joy and courage in the years to come, and I bet he wouldn’t change a minute of his current sorrow for the joy of being with Beth and the joy that their daughter will continue to create with him.
Joy and fear and sorrow and courage.
Joy and fear is what the women who came to the tomb that morning experienced. Whether or not you believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus’ body, I think all of us believe that something so significant happened that transformed his followers from trembling, fearful deniers of their friend… to daring, faith filled women and men who couldn’t remain silent.
I deliberately said women first… in all of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection, it is the women who are present…the women remained at the cross… and the women went to the tomb… They were the ones that went back to tell the rest of the disciples… that the tomb was empty…Matthew writes that they were filled with great joy and fear… Those two emotions are often combined aren’t they? Great joy and fear mean change….
Think of the highlights of your life… or perhaps they were not highlights… perhaps as you look back on them they were turning points…When you remember them… did great joy and fear mingle together? Were there times in your life when it would have been easier to stay locked in the tomb of fear and doubt… but you took the next step… and the next… and the next after that… and sometimes the next step… Perhaps your steps faltered… but slowly, almost inevitably… you walked… and you realized that you were walking the path of joy…Perhaps it was a different road than you first envisioned… almost certainly it was…And perhaps you were forced on that road… and started walking it with bitterness dogging every step…
I have walked that road of bitterness… and betrayal… and depression… and it took every bit of my courage and determination to not stay on that road. There were many days that it was easier to stay on that road… I didn’t have the courage to face my changed circumstances. But… companions on the journey made the difference… friends and family who supported me in a multitude of ways… and there were also those who couldn’t walk with me on that path…
Parker Palmer writes, “Sometimes we choose death-in-life (as in compulsive overactivity, unhealthy relationships, non-stop judgmentalism aimed at self or others, work that compromises our integrity, substance abuse, pervasive cynicism, etc.) because we’re afraid of the challenges that might come if we embraced resurrection-in-life.”
Do you believe that resurrection is possible?
We are walking the path of interim ministry… a time when we are seeking to end the cycle of behaviour and attitudes which have led to two interim ministries in the last twenty years. Can we embrace the future that is waiting for us with joy despite the fear you might be experiencing? A future that will be different from the past… and yet still full of God’s grace and presence and goodness.
The women who went to the tomb that first morning did… they told the other disciples what the angel had told them. Despite their grief… despite their fear… despite the fact that they hadn’t actually seen Jesus… they ran to tell the other disciples that Jesus wasn’t in the tomb.
The coming Sundays in worship are full of stories of the disciples meeting and interacting with Jesus… except that they usually don’t recognize him at first… Those encounters, more than anything else, tell me that the resurrection wasn’t a single event… that resurrection can happen in us and to us and with us every time we have the courage to see it.
Can we recognize joy amidst the fear of the unknown?
Can we encourage others?
This Easter, let’s take our story to the world.
Let’s create the path where beauty and justice and love mingle with each other.
Thanks be to God, for the challenge and the opportunity of following Jesus out of the tomb, amen.