I awakened this Easter hours before daybreak. It’s not because I am preparing to attend a “sunrise service.” I’m not. The church I serve will meet today at 10, our normal time for gathering on Sundays.
This is our third Easter since our community went into pandemic mode. On the first Easter, we met on Zoom and there were many tears shed. Last year, we met outdoors in person. We simply hosted a party for the neighborhood. It was a blast but some of the members of our congregation wondered “when church was going to start” and apparently we disappointed them.
This morning, I am ready for another in-person gathering that will look a little more like normal. We’ll gather outdoors for a little while at the beginning but then we’ll head into the sanctuary to sing, hear the story together, reflect upon it, and pray.
As I think about the way our ministry has changed over the past two years, it is heartbreaking to me to acknowledge that we have let so many people down. That’s not the sort of thing you want to hear from a pastor on Easter Sunday, but it’s the truth.
Our church decided to approach the pandemic as an opportunity to experiment with different ways of being. I suppose every church has had to do that to some extent, but the sad news about our little congregation is that, despite our efforts to innovate…the church seems to be dying.
We’re all tired. So tired. Grieving the loss of what we once knew. Confused, frustrated, and sometimes angry. All the feelings you would expect to feel…in grief.
This Easter, I feel like a failure. That’s the God-honest truth.
In Scripture, we are told that some women made their way to the tomb “at dawn on the first day of the week,” not long after they had laid Jesus to rest just before sunset the previous Friday.
In the apostle John’s account, Mary Magdalene remains at the tomb weeping when she sees that the stone has been rolled away from the entrance of the tomb and Jesus’ body has gone missing.
That is what I feel like this Easter.
But as I am wakeful this morning, and the sun has yet to rise, I am cherishing the collective memory of Jesus’ appearance to her in the garden by the tomb. She thinks he’s the gardener at first. Until he asks her why she is weeping and speaks her name.
So, this morning, I am speaking with my Lord in my own inner garden. Asking him to tend the ground of my entire being with care. Asking him to see my tears and open the ears of my heart so I can hear him speak my name.
And I’m asking him to heal this world. And I’m asking him to help me be even a small part of that healing work, to share his resurrected life and his renewing love with others. I’m asking him for faith. I’m asking him for fresh hope. I’m asking him for rest not only for myself on this day after the Sabbath but the rest of his peace for our entire society and for creation herself. Start with me, Lord, but let the rest of your resurrection usher in a new dawn, a new day, the reign of grace and joy and all things bright and beautiful.
Lord, make it so. Deliver us from the clutches of death, even if it means something needs to die for your love to rise.
Weeping at the Tomb
reflections by troy cady
*Photo by Orkhan Farmanli via Unsplash. Creative Commons License.