Sunday, April 12, 2020 Easter Sunday
Do you have a favorite movie or movies that you have watched multiple times?
There are some movies I watched with our son more often than I care to remember – Mary Poppins and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea when he was little, Star Wars (the original 3) as he got older, then Lord of the Rings.
Even though I knew the endings and the story lines, on some viewings, new things jumped out or some things took on new meanings. Subtleties that weren’t noticed in previous viewings became moments of clarity. The good movies still have scenes when I forget the ending and get caught up in the drama, and the suspense and uncertainty draw me in so much that the ending is forgotten.
Folks who know the “stories of Jesus” know the endings, and we know the Good Friday ending that isn’t an ending, if you will.
Our preparations for significant holy days are calendar-driven. We know when the holiday (or ending) will be. Advent ends December 24 with Christmas Eve and the birth of the long-awaited Messiah on Christmas. We have Lent where we prepare for Holy Week dates that are on our calendars years in advance. We could use a formula and find the specific Sunday Easter will be on in a thousand years. After Easter we wait for Pentecost – another 50 days or waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Our liturgical year is laid out for us – it fits neatly into our 365 well-planned days. There are periods of waiting but no real mystery or suspense.
How often I have secretly wished I did not know these dates. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that sense of adventure, of impatient anxiety, of wondering “will the day/time come?” What if, like the Hebrew people and then the disciples, we didn’t know?
Perhaps you know where I’m going with this. The story of Holy Week and Easter looked at through today’s lens. We are in a time of waiting for an end to the coronavirus. Will it end? When? How long must we wait?
We are at the end of Lent, and Easter is on our calendars for Sunday, April 12. We lament that it doesn’t feel like Easter. We won’t have our opportunity together in person to worship and celebrate. What difference does that make?
What is important about Easter Sunday? Dressing up in new clothes? Easter flowers and special worship decorations and settings? Soaring choir anthems and full organ music? A sanctuary brimming with people? An unforgettable Easter sermon (can you remember one)?
On Good Friday the world ended and time stood still for the disciples. Easter was not on their calendars. Everything had just been shot to pieces. Darkness was all they could see. They were in shock, gasping for breath, waiting to breathe again.
The pandemic is a time like this. It is a terrible tragic time, perhaps not for all of us this very minute, but it is for many, and the potential for tragedy is there for all of us.
Our lives have become so organized and planned out that we are struggling with this time when plans have been demolished and calendars are only useful for marking days off and not for making definite future plans. What can we do but wait and hope and pray?… Doesn’t this sound like a time for turning to God?
Let us celebrate our at-home Easters this Sunday. And let us hope and wait and pray for the Sunday when we can come together again for worship, a date we don’t know today. Perhaps in May, maybe on the day we would celebrate Pentecost, perhaps a different Sunday.
There’s a little suspense but this will be a day to celebrate together the joy of the living Christ who overcame death, for whom physical death is meaningless. In him and with him there is life beyond death, life everlasting.
More than new clothes, spring flowers, glorious hymns and music, and that unforgettable sermon, we will celebrate the mystery that we still do not fully comprehend.
A mysterious love that makes sense one moment and then is beyond grasp the next. One that has subtleties which become clear on occasion, one that draws us in each time we hear or read or experience it, one that we can return to time after time and never get tired of finding new meanings.
Let us wait and hope and pray, and sing our Alleluias!
Evie Doyon, Easter, April 12, 2020