I am finding it difficult to write the Easter message this year. There are a number of friends and members of my congregation who are weighted with burdens that will not some how magically disappear when the sun rises on Easter Sunday. There are some who will continue to live in the liminal space between Good Friday and Resurrection. Last Sunday my friend and fellow pastor Sarah Klaassen reminded us in her sermon that our Lenten task – our Christian task – is 'to accompany shadows.' We are a people who do not choose the happy and easy road, but who walk the way of the cross. We forgo the pursuit of happiness in favor of walking the dusty road with Christ. On Good Friday and throughout Lent this is, if not a welcome message and challenge, an appropriate one. But on Easter, full of budding flowers, sweet hot-crossed rolls, and loud Hallelujah choruses, where does the lingering grief and confusion still fit?
I often feel this way around Christmas as well. A celebration of light and joy when, for some, life seems full of darkness and sorrow must feel particularly oppressive. My pastoral colleague Jonathan often says, ‘What you see depends on where you sit.’ I think it may be difficult to see and hear a story of resurrection when you’re sitting in the tomb next to death, or addiction, or depression, or unemployment or homelessness or any number of losses and traumas that we bear in ourselves or on behalf of another.
For this reason I think I will speak from Mary’s perspective this year. Mary Magdalene who first encountered the risen Jesus, also first encountered the confusion and fear of the empty tomb. Where is the body? Has someone taken him? Why is the stone moved? Who are the strange and white robed men? Who is this man, the gardener and does he know what has become of my Lord? I weep with Mary who ‘as yet did not understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.’ (John 20:9) And I will try to proclaim with her ‘I have seen the Lord!’ even though I, like she, may not recognize him right now.
**The image above is by Chinese artist He Qi, entitled 'The Empty Tomb'