Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
But not quite yet. For church professionals, we first have to endure the hard and holy week leading up to Easter. We live out the mental, emotional, and spiritual drama in real time.
On Maundy Thursday, we may wash feet or share Communion, or both (hopefully with some hand sanitizing in between). Some of us strip the worship space of all adornments. Good Friday brings contemplative prayer, choral requiems (requia?), Tenebrae, prayer around the cross, or Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? Saturday might be the day of the parish Easter egg hunt, or the family celebration since church professionals are unlikely to have much to give after Sunday worship! Saturday might be the time to start and finish the Resurrection sermon – I’ve always found it hard to write about the Resurrection until after the Crucifixion. Saturday evening may bring a vigil, with fire and Scripture and music and prayer.
Then. Then we can say, along with Mary and all the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”
Though, according to John 20:17, we cannot hold on to him, nor to the place where all this happens. Jesus isn’t concerned about the tangible world of hugs and shrines when he speaks with Mary Magdalene in the garden. She is neither allowed to touch him, nor to stay and pray in the garden where she found him. The meaning of the resurrection seems to be beyond earthy concern. Perhaps your community is holding too tightly to something, and needs to be reminded that the resurrection is not bound by buildings or rituals or denominations, or any other baggage that our churches tend to carry.
If you are using Luke to tell the Easter story, there are more disciples involved (both male and female), but no appearance of Jesus. His resurrection is announced by the men in dazzling clothes. Were they angels, or just early discoverers of sequins? In John, the disciples do not understand that these events are the fulfillment of Jesus’ own prophesy. In Luke, the disciples remember and understand. Which account is more meaningful for your congregation? Do they need to hear that they are able to put together the pieces of what they’ve been told before, or do they need to be reminded of their occasional ignorance?
Easter Sunday begs for stories of new life. With the cathedral of Notre Dame still burning as I write this post, I’m reminded of Coventry Cathedral in England, which was destroyed by bombing during WWII. Instead of trying to rebuild the original structure, the church decided to save the walls that remained and create a sacred open-air space that could be used for a Litany of Reconciliation every week. The new cathedral adjoins the old one, and is a spectacular work of art and architecture in its own right. Coventry was able to bring new life out of destruction. How will Paris respond? Will Notre Dame be rebuilt, or will we witness resurrection in a more unconventional way?
Where do you see signs of new life this Easter? Are you including one of the other Revised Common Lectionary posts in your preaching for Sunday? How many other sermons are you writing for this week, and do you have ideas to share for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, or Easter Vigil? Triduum questions and comments are welcome below! And please, share how the Resurrection will be coming to your community this year. Blessings in your Holy Week prep and leadership.
Katya Ouchakof is a Lutheran minister in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. She’s spending this Holy Week working for a paddlesports shop, and is looking forward to getting out on the water for the first time this season! Katya blogs occasionally at revkatyawrites.com.
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