Christ is risen! Alleluia!
I hope these words ring joyously true wherever you are this Easter. They may not. You and your community may still be caught in the grief and limitations of pandemic. You may be weary after over a year of trying to lead a community in a physically distanced world. These factors and many more may muffle the sounds of Easter and the promise of new life. Yet, there is still good news to be proclaimed and people who are in desperate need of a word of hope, healing, grace, forgiveness, and/or love.
So let’s take a deep breath and trust the Spirit to lead us. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of people saying that we’ve been in Lent since March of 2020. Yes, in some ways it is true. The church has certainly found itself wandering in uncharted spaces. Many of us have endured loss after loss. Some of society’s sins have come to the fore. However, I am not certain how many of us have been wrestling with temptation or honestly naming our personal sins. Wandering in the wilderness without penitence may not quite be Lent. It’s lonely and it’s hard. Yet, have we opened ourselves, as individuals and as communities of faith, to facing our failings and our ambivalence if not apathy? Yes, we’ve moved into a virtual world. It remains to be seen if this wandering time will bring about much-needed change as we slowly return to our buildings and sanctuaries in the coming months.
This Easter is the perfect time to ask ourselves what New Life means for us—individually and communally. Did we witness Jesus’ determination to humbly face into humanity’s sin as he rode humbly into Jerusalem. Did we see that he went to the Temple and did not stay? (Was that disappointment in how easy it is for religious authorities to shape religion to fit their own needs?) Did we share in the Last Supper and witness that humbling washing of feet? Were we awake for the betrayal that led to false conviction? Did we remain or scatter as Jesus was crucified and despair settled over the world? How do we arrive at Easter morning – well-rested because we kept the story at a distance or a bit rung-out because the story is still being played out in our world?
Peter told his listeners that “God shows no partiality” and that everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ will be forgiven in his name. (This isn’t they only way to receive God’s forgiveness; it’s the way for those who believe in Jesus). Perhaps Resurrection for the church this year might look like embodying that forgiveness more fully. Who have we excluded from this message of forgiveness and mercy? Who do we believe isn’t loved by God the way we are loved by God?
Isaiah invites us to a feast for all people. Do we approach our spiritual lives like it is a feast of rich food open to everyone? What if Easter is a reminder that we have the spiritual resources we need? We have not been alone in the wilderness. We need not be afraid to name the temptations to revert to what has been comfortable for a long time, or to stay with all the same structures, or to not live into the promise of creating some kind of hybrid service when the time comes. Whatever each of our communities is tempted to hold onto, we have what we need to let it go and take a new seat at the feast that awaits us.
When it comes to the Gospel texts, both have power. It doesn’t matter how long you have been preaching these texts, you don’t have to find something new to say. We just need to find something truthful and authentic to share with our people who are weary and despairing because this pandemic has gone on so long, and magnified some difficult truths about our social structures. John has the beautiful moment when Mary recognizes her beloved Rabbi. What helps us recognize the power of the Risen Christ in our midst? On the other hand, Mark reminds us of the truly awesome power of God as the women flee in terror. A reminder that we cannot shape the power of God as we please or tame the Holy Spirit is not a bad thing. Have you ever been awe-struck by God’s power and presence? What makes that real in this moment?
Wherever you are on this journey, you are not alone. God is with us and we are bound to one another with the love of Christ. There is joy yet to be experienced and shared in this world. What are you preaching? What is bringing you joy? Where is your hope?
Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is an author and the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, video series, and books at Beachtheology.com.
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