A Solitary Easter?
Originally published on Barefoot Theology.
The Rev. Josephine Robertson
All Saints, Bellevue
This is perhaps the most authentic Easter morning the church has experienced in a very long time.
After all, despite our predilection for big choirs, glorious music, and sprays of flowers the original Easter morning was an altogether private affair.
Mary woke up before dawn, or maybe she never fell asleep, eyes gritty and hot with tears. Perhaps she was stiff and sore from standing at the foot of the cross, from huddling in the garden watching Jesus be buried, from crying tears that seemed to have no end.
There were no angel choirs this morning. I had never thought about it before but how odd. One of our birth narratives tells us that heaven couldn’t help but sing at Jesus’ birth, angel choirs serenading shepherds in their fields. But the only choir on Easter morning is a few sleepy sparrows calling to one another in the streets, a songbird or two in the tree outside the tomb.
Easter morning is quiet. Mary goes to the tomb alone. And when nightmare piles atop nightmare and she finds Jesus’ body missing no one can help her. The other disciples are useless, despondent, not even willing to stay with her in that moment of ultimate loss.
Instead she stands weeping, lonely and stubborn, refusing to leave.
And that is Easter morning.
When Jesus approaches her there in the garden of her loneliness she doesn’t recognize him. How much love and compassion must he have had for her, begging him to tell her where his own body has been taken.
And he says the only thing she could hear in that moment: her name. And her hearts knows him.
That too is Easter morning.
This Easter feels especially poignant to me. Disease has stripped away the pomp and circumstance, even from our simple church. We are left with nothing but Easter itself. We are left with nothing but good news in a garden, revealed at the sound of our name. The truth of Easter is so simple, so intimate that maybe it is no surprise we’ve gilded it, and layered on trumpets and grand organ pieces, and golden vestments, and overflowing bouquets of flowers.
Because Easter itself is almost embarrassingly intimate.
Easter is good news that we can cling to, good news that knows us. That walks into our personal grief, and fear. Easter is good news that embraces us and puts our pieces back together again.
But never forget that if Mary had walked away when Peter and the other disciple did there would be no story. There is Easter because she stayed with the grief, loss, and confusion. Because she gritted her teeth and refused to give in to despair, refused to give up, refused to let go.
Because she stayed in that empty garden, by the frighteningly empty tomb she heard her name, she met her beloved friend and teacher, she saw the resurrection with her own eyes.
If this Easter is solitary, if it is quiet, if it is painfully simple, remember Mary alone in a garden.
And remember that God came looking for her, found her, called her name so that she would know she was never alone at all.
Don’t give up, and don’t leave the tomb.
Stay with it, stay in your sorrow, loneliness, anger, or confusion.
Keep demanding the one you love. Keep searching for Jesus among the ashes, for God in the darkness.
Until you hear your name, in that impossible voice of love, in the quiet of your own soul.
Until you feel your heart swell with gladness and God is laughing with you, dancing with you, teasing you gently because of course God was going to come, and find you, and call your name, and sweep you up into loving arms like a lost child.
Because this is Easter and there is no power in heaven, or on earth that can stop the love of God, that can stop the resurrection. Though it might be different, and foreign, and strange.
We stand at the tomb with Mary, eyes still gritty from crying and we proclaim:
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!