Every year, we say it’s not about the bunnies …it’s not about the egg hunts and baskets of goodies….it’s not about the full church or the spring decorations. Every year, we say it’s not about the brunches or dinners or family gatherings or new clothes. Every year, we remind ourselves that Easter isn’t a holiday to be celebrated ..but a deep reminder of what is true at the very core of all being.
But the rest of it is all so fun…so happy…so joyous…so good….that sometimes it all gets tangled up somehow. But maybe this year…maybe this year, when there are no egg hunts, when we haven’t been able to go shopping…when family can’t visit….maybe we can see Easter a little more clearly. Maybe the words will resonate more deeply.
Because Jesus’ resurrection didn’t happen amidst pealing church bells and seas of lilies. It happened in a graveyard. It happened in the midst of earthquakes and darkness. It happened when the world was untrustable…and people didn’t know what to believe….and they were afraid.
Sound familiar? The morgues are full around the world…and people are waiting to go to the graveyards to bury their loved ones when they can finally gather again. Around the world, people are frightened. Tired. Unsure of what to believe. Funny…people will remind us that death was always happening before this….but the massive numbers were usually found in one place at a time. A tsunami in Indonesia. An earthquake in Haiti. A Flood in Yemen. But something is different this time…as every corner of the world is touched by this virus. Life is not going on as “normal” for anyone. For all of us, the ground is shaky and we don’t know what the future holds.
And yet…this is Easter, my friends. Truly Easter. Easter is for the frightened and the grieving and the unsure. With all the pomp we can muster, we may sing “Gloria” and ‘Jesus Christ is Risen Today’….but the truth is, for many of us, doubt and pain are often our most faithful companions. That why, this morning, we finally hear the truth that Easter comes…resurrection happens…not with a “Hallelujah!”…but instead, with the words “Do not be afraid”…and “I will be where you are going”.
When the angel meets Mary and Mary at the tomb…that is what he says. “Do not be afraid…Jesus is risen and he is going ahead of you to Galilee…you will see him there..”
And then…when they actually see Jesus…his words are the same. “Do not be afraid. I will be where you are going. You will see me there.”
Friends, these are the words we need today. Do not be afraid. Whatever is ahead of you. God will be where you are going. You will see Jesus there.
And that is truly Easter. It is the promise that whatever today holds…whatever graveyards you find yourself roaming in…you are not stuck there. You get to keep going. And whatever is ahead of you….you will find God there.
Easter is the truth that the ultimate reality is not death after all….rather, it is life. Life that stubbornly persists…rising up out of death over and over again. Easter is the reminder that death means nothing to God. It does not hold God captive. And it does not need to hold us captive. “Though we die, yet shall we live”. Those are Jesus’ words and we believe that and we confess that at every funeral…at every graveside.
But we also believe and confess that at every loss…when our lives are dismantled by broken relationships or lost jobs or shattered expectations. Though we die…yet shall we live.
Yes, THAT is Easter. Easter comes not in bunnies and baskets…but with the surprising stubbornness of a single sprout riising up out of the barren dirt.
It comes with lives rebuilt after walking away from domestic violence. It comes with jobs given after incarceration. It comes with new relationships built amidst the daily work of sobriety. It comes with being loved after enduring abuse. It comes with knowing that if the worst happens….when the worst happens…even if we lose everything…we will be okay…because life persists. Love persists. God persists. Resurrection happens. Again and again and again. Even for us.
Easter comes today…in homes that are filled with love…and in homes that are filled with pain. It comes in spite of our circumstances…God comes. And says to us “Do not be afraid. Wherever you are going…wherever this road leads…I will be there. You will see me there.’
Whatever tomorrow brings…Jesus will be there. We will see Jesus there. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. Or that it will be cute and cozy and filled with bunnies and chocolate. But God WILL be there. And you will be okay…because the truth…the rock bottom truth about who you are is that you are God’s beloved child. And Jesus is ALWAYS with you.
That is the blessing I give babies before they are able to reach for the bread and wine of communion. ‘You are God’s beloved child. And Jesus is ALWAYS with you.’ Today…on this Easter day…if you have bread and wine or juice available…we invite you to join in our communion meal…but if not…may you hear clearly the promise of that meal…that you are God’s beloved child…and Jesus is ALWAYS with you. Do not be afraid…wherever you are…Jesus is there…and wherever you are going…Jesus is there ahead of you. Waiting for you. With new beginnings. With resurrection. And that is Easter. Amen.