“Do not be afraid.”
It seems an odd statement for Easter morning. After all, isn’t Easter all about joy and happiness and hope? What’s there to be afraid of?
I mean, on Good Friday, there is plenty to fear…political violence, religious extremism… cruelty and torture, hatred and abuse. Yes, on Good Friday, fear seems reasonable. And I, for one, am not surprised that most of Jesus’ friends went into hiding. I get it. I read the paper or hear the news …and there is so much violence…so much hatred and so many threats being made …in Syria and Ukraine, Iran and Afghanistan, Korea and Sudan, Nigeria and Columbia, France and Mexico, El Salvador and Somalia…in every corner of the world…even our own. And I often wish I could just hide from all of it…stick my head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist. Good Friday is everywhere, it seems…and fear is reasonable.
But yet…today, in the midst of resurrection…twice we hear the reminder…”Do not be afraid”. “Do not be afraid”. Resurrection, it seems, comes with its own terror…
According to our gospel, it hits us like an earthquake, shaking the solid ground loose beneath us. The women, as happy as they were about the news that Jesus was alive…were afraid. And indeed, resurrection so terrified the soldiers guarding the tomb that they became like dead men….knocked them out cold.
Good Friday didn’t have that effect. But maybe that’s because they, like we, understood Good Friday. That fear is all too familiar coming to us in the daily news. But resurrection…that’s something else. It’s unfamiliar. It’s risky. It means that what we thought was true…isn’t. The things we hang on to for dear life…the things that we think make us secure…the ground we think is solid beneath us…isn’t. And so resurrection means “letting go.”
Our bishop recently shared a story her spiritual director told her about a woman who missed her footing in the dark and fell out of an open hotel window. She landed on a narrow ledge and clung desperately to it all night long, only to see at sunrise that she had been only 6 inches from the ground the whole time.
I wonder, in the dark, had someone told her to jump…if she would have?
In some ways….Easter is God telling us, while we’re still in the dark… to let go and jump off the ledges that we cling so desperately to. Jump off the narrow, familiar and precarious safety that we’re accustomed to – of “what we’ve always done” and “the way we’ve always done it”. Jump off that narrow ledge of living cautiously, not making waves, playing it safe…and live. Fully. And love. And be loved. And trust that God has you. Really. Resurrection means actually trusting that God really does have us, hold us and is not letting us go…and trusting it so much that we finally release the vise-like grip we hang on to our safety and security with. But that isn’t easy. Letting go is scary.
I talked with a couple of folks who have jumped off the ledge recently…both making the decision to become foster parents. One for a local infant born to parents whose addictions made it unsafe for their baby to go home with them. And another who will be taking in children whose parents have been killed in the rampant violence of their home country. These are children born into a Good Friday world where fear is legitimate. But they are finding new life…resurrection life…in homes where people have faced the fear of resurrection and leapt into the unknown. Trusting God…who has them, holds them, and won’t let them…or these children…go.
Resurrection Fear…it’s real. Don’t get me wrong. It has the power to drop Roman soldiers …I mean, knock them out cold. And it does it to strong people all the time. Time and time again…it keeps people all over the world from experiencing the new life God wants for us…from believing that new life is even possible. The fear that keeps people from accepting forgiveness….from believing God or anyone else cares about their sorry selves…so they might as well just keep taking the low road…keep hurting themselves and others?…that fear?…that’s Resurrection Fear. And the fear that keeps addicts reaching for the bottle and the pills…because they are familiar old friends…while sober life is terrifying and unknown?… that’s Resurrection Fear. And the fear keeps us from loving others…because we might get hurt…oh, let’s be honest…because we WILL get hurt. That’s what loving people does….it gives them the power to hurt us…it’s part of the deal. That’s why it hurts so much when they die…it wouldn’t if we didn’t love them. Anyway…that’s Resurrection Fear. Resurrection fear paralyzes us and keeps us from living life to its fullest….it keeps us from living freely as children of God.
Resurrection Fear is the fear of failing…the fear of hurting…the fear of the unknown…the fear of falling off the ledge…and it is powerful. We want to cling to our old securities…our comfort zone. But this morning…Jesus says jump. Jump off the ledge…and trust that I’ve got you. Trust…that nothing in this world can separate you from my love. Trust that not even the Good Friday horrors of this world can separate you from my love. Trust…that you can go to Galilee and I’ll be there. Or in other words…you can go home…and I’ll be there. You can go someplace new….and I’ll be there. You can risk loving someone….and I’ll be there. You can step out in faith…and I’ll be there. You can confess every deep, dark secret of your heart…and I’ll be there. You can face your life sober…and I’ll be there. And you can fail… and hurt… and fall…and I’ll be there. And you know what? You can even die…and I’ll be there. You do not have to be afraid. That’s the word of Jesus for you this day.
This life is meant to lived with a resurrection kind of fullness. That’s what Easter is about. Our limits, our insecurities, our fears…they’re 6 inches tall. While God …God shakes the foundations of the world with resurrected life… cracks open tombs and shatters our walls and rolls away the stones. We can let go and stop clinging to whatever makes us feel secure…and step out..in faith…because resurrection means God’s got this. We don’t have to be afraid of living …or dying…after all. People of God, shout “Alleluia!” Alleluia! Again I say, shout “Alleluia!” Alleluia! Amen.