Sunday, April 5, 2015

Terror and Amazement

Easter Sunday Broadkill Beach DE
Christ is Risen
Christ is Risen Indeed.

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter. I am sitting writing this early on Easter Sunday morning overlooking the ocean at Prime Hook Bay, Delaware. The sun has just risen casting a wonderful reflection over the water. It is all very peaceful.

Yet, that first Easter morning would have been anything but peaceful. After the events of the previous few days, lives would have been disturbed and a feeling that of turmoil would have persisted.

When Andy and I read the lectionary passages for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday a couple of days ago we, too, were disturbed. It didn’t feel right to read about a God who was going to destroy a whole people group, a whole nation (Egypt). It caused a lot of heart searching. We still have no answers. But today, we are not thinking of death but of life.

The lectionary offers us two alternate gospel readings, John 20: 1-18 and Mark 16: 1-8. They are two different accounts of the same event. Yet, there are similarities. A wonderful example of what James Dunn calls in his book of the same name, “Unity and Diversity in the New Testament

 In the Gospel of Mark three of the women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus. In the tomb they found a young man who told them Jesus had risen. He instructed them to go and tell the other disciples. In the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene came alone to the tomb. After she found the stone moved, she went and found two of the other disciples. They saw the empty tomb but returned home while Mary remained to grieve. Ultimately she had a conversation with an unrecognized man, who was revealed as Jesus, and she returned to tell the disciples that Christ was risen.

As always with the Easter stories I love talk about the verses which show the women in such prominent positions. The women (three in Mark and one in John) were the apostles to the disciples. They were the first sent ones to bring news of the resurrection to the others. The dialogue between the risen Christ and Mary contains a real message of inclusion. Women were equally valued, they can be witnesses, they can be trusted.

Yet, the words that drew me today were those in the last verse of the Gospel of Mark. The women fled from the tomb, “terror and amazement seized them”, they were afraid. This seemed such an honest reaction.

 I’m sure my reaction would have been the same, if I had discovered an empty grave of someone I loved, especially if that loved one was a persecuted minority. There would be a first reaction of terror and amazement.

Actually, as I thought more about the two words, terror and amazement, I realized that the two go together quite often. These emotions can be present in any event. Think of the arrival of a baby (either by birth or adoption). There is amazement at the gift of the little person, yet fear about whether one is adequately able to parent the baby in a good and healthy way she deserves. Or think of any new responsibility, perhaps a new job, marriage or other significant event, again the mixed emotions of terror and amazement are often felt.

I try to imagine the thoughts of Mary, Salome and Mary. Their terror; has the body been stolen? What will this mean for us? Have we really got to go and tell the others what that man said? Will they think we are crazy?

But also their amazement would reflect their great hope. Could it be true? Could we have seen an angel? Could we be the ones who are going to tell this great news? Will we be able to convince the others?

Perhaps, that is the message of Easter for us today. Great hope!

I always love that nature reflects this for us in the Northern hemisphere.  The flowers starting to bloom (or push through the snow if you live in upstate New York), the trees are budding and the birds are singing and nesting. The atmosphere is pulsating with new life. They bring us great hope of the future things to come.

Of course, if, like my cousins, we lived in the Southern hemisphere we would now be preparing for winter so nature would be reflecting things preparing for hidden life as energy is stored.

But wherever you live, enjoy your Easter day.  May it be bursting with life and with great hope for that which is to come.