REV. ASHLEY LYTLE CARR
Wow, what an Easter! This year we forego choir anthems and big hats, we miss the smell of lilies in the sanctuary, and we sacrifice the joyful Easter morning hugs with our friends that help pull us out of the depths of a long Lent. This year, things are different. We Easter in our new normal—this solitary togetherness. We Easter in our PJs with a cup of coffee in hand and the glow of screen on our faces. Perhaps you’re even a man wearing a hat while you video worship and Barbara Jamison isn’t watching to tell you to remove it!
You see, everything is topsy turvey.
And there’s a piece of me this Easter morning that’s almost grateful for the disruption.
I’m not saying that Easter needed a software upgrade, and I’m not thrilled to be preaching to my computer, nor am I glad about the pandemic wreaking havoc on this globe. But, I’m somewhat grateful because there’s a chance that this forced departure from Easter traditions past might help us remember exactly what Easter actually is all about.
I know, you know what Easter is. It’s the miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ from the confines of mortal death. After judgement and death upon the cross, God raises the lifeless body of his only begotten Son in the tomb and sends him back out into the world alive again with the wounds still in his hands.
But Easter is about more than the resuscitation of a human life. It’s got rich theological meaning that defines the Christian faith. It’s an event that grounds that which we believe in. It’s the foundation upon which our doctrine is built. Easter is a big deal. But, it seems that we’ve gotten a bit confused about what Easter is since that first one 2000 years ago.
Here’s what Easter isn’t:
Easter is not a fashion show.
Easter is not a choir concert.
Easter is not a photo shoot.
Easter is not a bunny.
We know these things…
What’s more, though, during this global pandemic, amidst the fear, anxiety and uncertainty, it’s important to remember that:
Easter is not a vaccine.
Easter is not an eraser of sorrow.
Easter is not a return to normalcy.
Easter is not going to fix everything.
If you woke up this Easter morning and still couldn’t take a deep breath, or you still felt that pit in your stomach, or you’re still holding the anxiety of this pandemic reality, that’s okay. The resurrection of Jesus Christ does not take away our experience of grief and sorrow. After watching Jesus die on the cross, Mary Magdalene probably wasn’t instantly freed from her sorrow when she encountered the living Christ outside of the tomb. Human hearts and souls and minds just don’t work that way, we can’t immediately snap out of our pain—even when we get the outcome we’ve been hoping for. There’s still the heaviness of what we’ve been through weighing on us.
And yet, here we are. ”Pandemic-ed,” broken, and human as we are, this is still Easter Sunday. We are still Christians. This is still one of the most joyful and wonderful celebrations that we share in our tradition. The Lord is still risen indeed, and we still cry “Alleluia!”
In anticipation of this Easter Sunday, many of us have been wondering what we’re supposed to do with the resurrection this year. How does Easter fit in to our current reality where that sorrow and heaviness remain in the midst of the joyful resurrection? Well, it seems that this year Easter has to mean something deeper and truer than ever before. We have to let go of those things that aren’t Easter, the secular implications, the distractions, and even the hope that Jesus will bring us some magical fix to make us feel better.
When we do that, when we let all of that fade away and sit in our stillness with the resurrected Lord, we remember that Easter is our assurance that God really is quite powerful.
The first Easter was not without its own sorrow. There were a myriad of enemies and complications and grief-stricken moments that lead to the cross. But, in Easter, God flexes that powerful muscle, sacrifices His only begotten son, defeats death by raising him from the dead, and in doing so, promises us eternal salvation. And what’s more, in the Easter event we are given the comfort and knowledge that that powerful God shows up and makes good on promises and restores our hope for a brighter tomorrow. That’s some powerful stuff. God is something powerful. Does that change the harsh realities of our mortal life? No. But if we allow ourselves to believe in the power of God working in our lives, if, in the midst of our darkness and despair, we let our hearts and minds rest in the truth that God is powerful, it will, it will, sustain us.
That’s what we need from Easter this year. Sustaining Truth. Sustaining understanding of God. Sustaining peace and comfort and hope that only God can bring us.
Easter teaches us that God is big enough and strong enough and powerful enough to hold our everything along with us. If we can find it in our faithful hearts to rest our fears and anxieties in the hollow of God’s powerful hand, we might just be able to get out of bed in the morning and move into this uncertain world. If we can breathe in the hope of the resurrection, we might just find our anxieties quelled, if even for a fleeting moment. If we can let that mysterious and holy peace wash over us, we might find a clearer vision for a new day.
Easter doesn’t undo life. Easter sustains God’s children for life.
A truly powerful God who is bigger than anything that afflicts us shows us at Easter just how capable of a God He is. I am convinced more than ever this Easter Sunday of the power of God. We can see it at work. The power of God brought you here to this screen. The power of God keeps you at home for the good of the whole. The power of God feeds our community in personal care homes The power of God is the hand on the back of the medical professionals hard at work. The power of God is the innocence of a newborn child. The power of God is our sustenance. That’s Easter.
So, as we continue to sit in this uncertain season, I compel you to let your mind rest outside of the news, outside of the food inventory, outside of the statistics, and outside of the fear. Let your mind rest in Easter. Let your mind rest in the trustworthy power of God. Because when you take everything else away, when the trial ends, when the crowd dissipates, when the bodies are removed from the cross, when the hour is silent and thick with grief, what we’re left with is the power of God who promises to show up in those moments. We’re left with an almighty God who defeats death, unites people, and restores our hope for a brighter tomorrow indeed.
And joyfully from the mountain tops, or sorrowfully from our knees, we cry Alleluia alleluia!