Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ready or Not, Resurrection (Early Easter Service)

Mark 16:1-8

            What happens when you’re not in the mood for Easter? What if the smells are too strong, the colors too bright, the alleluias too loud? We are all a little used to people talking about not feeling the Christmas spirit, but who doesn’t want new life… who doesn’t thrill at the sound of the trumpet… who isn’t ready for resurrection?

            Sometimes our own Lent goes on beyond forty days. Sometimes, in our own lives, our own passion story, our own feeling of crucifixion… exposure and abandonment… is not over in a week or three days. Sometimes resurrection comes, but we are not ready to get up. We are not ready to tell the story.

            The women heading toward the tomb for that first sunrise service, a service of laying on of hands and prayer… those women were not prepared for resurrection. They may have spent the whole day before, the Sabbath day, longing to be at the tomb. Maybe it was too far too walk for the Sabbath or perhaps the work was not permitted. So each of them quietly set aside ointments, cloths, spices in a little basket. Tears pouring down their faces, they crept out of their houses at first light, before their families were awakened. Instructions were given to oldest daughters and daughters-in-law about the morning meal. And then the quiet slap of sandals on hardened dirt streets.

            The mother of James probably thought she was the only one, until Salome hurried to catch up to her. They both saw the figure of Mary Magdalene ahead of them and scurried to be by the side of that beloved apostle on the way. Still stunned by how abruptly it had all ended, the ringing of the hammer on the nails in their minds… the feel of Jesus’ body gone cold as they laid it in the tomb… the confusion as to where the disciples had gone… was it true about Judas… how will they move the stone. It was all too much. These women were not ready for resurrection.

            But, ready or not, they arrived to hear of resurrection. They come with one task in mind, if they can accomplish it. That task proves worthless, all their planning, their grieved collection of materials. The task they came to do is moot and they are given another task, but it’s too much to absorb. We want to imagine them leaping in excitement and leaving the symbols of sorrow in their wake, a trail of spices, cloths, and broken perfume bottles leading to the empty tomb.

            They are stunned and afraid. What if this is a trick? What if Jesus’ body has been stolen? Do they go tell the apostles, who will doubtless come to the same conclusion and, possibly, accuse the women of knowing what happened? What do they do? Only minutes before they had a momentous task, honoring the body of Jesus. Now they have a different, monumental task… becoming the body of Christ. Carrying words as a balm, hope as the fragrance, faith as a spice.

            Did they go to the disciples right away? Did they make a plan to meet later in the week and talk about what happened? Did they return to their respective houses, already moving with morning activity, and slip back into their routines, knowing things were different, but unsure how to put that difference into words?

            Knowing things are different, but unsure how to put that difference into words is the Easter story for most of us. Sometimes we receive the news of resurrection, but we’re trying to understand how it applies to us. How it makes us free. How it brings us restoration, hope, and faith.

            Stories of grief have to be repeated until understanding comes, until relief arrives, until a light shines in the darkness. The women probably met again… maybe that afternoon, maybe a few days later. They had to get ready for resurrection. Because it happened when they were unprepared. It happens in the same way to us.

            Whatever our state of belief, of grief, of celebration, Christ’s resurrection comes to us, comes to all creation, whether we are ready or not. And here’s the good news about resurrection… we cannot stop it, we cannot slow its work, we will not stem its grace or welcome. Ready or not, we have been swept into the stream of Easter hope. The Spirit keeps us floating until we are ready to swim.
Easter is here, but resurrection is still coming, still washing over us, still be absorbed in us so that, like the women at the tomb, we too may take on the task of telling the story and becoming the body of Christ.


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