I was visiting with a friend a few days ago.
She asked how I felt about the week ahead. I replied that Maundy Thursday and Good Friday seemed to be well in hand. However, I had not yet begun to think about what to offer on Easter.
And she replied, “Well, Easter rather stands on its own, doesn’t it?”
Indeed, it does.
For how can we capture in mere words the promise, the gift, the wonder of all that Easter is?
So it was that yesterday morning I officiated a funeral. It was small, family only, as so many have been this year. Only this one we had in the church especially because the one who had died had such great love for the church’s music. She was an old church organist and so she held the unique perspective of one who knew what it was to coordinate hands and feet, heart and mind and fingers to make that instrument sing. Indeed she always arrived in time for the prelude on Sunday mornings, and we though it was sweet irony that she breathed her last on a Sunday morning just as the prelude would have been sounding. And yes, she always stood and watched and listened as the organist offered a postlude as well.
So for the family the most important thing we could do as we gave thanks for her life this week was to share in that music: our organist prepared ten minutes for the prelude and finished off our time with a resounding postlude. Her daughter and her son and their families were present for it all.
For me, this is how it was: I sat in that sacred space as the music built. I closed my eyes and leaned back into a chair I have sat in during similar hours countless times before. Only it’s been a year by now since I’ve done so. And maybe that’s part of why it all seemed like such gift this time. Indeed, maybe that’s why I could hear it all the more deeply as our organist built from quiet melody to triumphant tones. Without words, I could hear God’s own movement:
- God’s promise kept in the stone rolled away
- The hopeful words spoken by the young man sitting inside the empty tomb that Jesus would meet them in Galilee
- The resounding truth that a gruesome death on the cross did not have the last word.
I left that holy space and as these things go, I found I walked onto holy ground once more as I made my way to a hospital call where I tossed my coat on a chair and pulled up a stool for the 95 year old I had stopped to see was in a talkative mood. Indeed, I had already prayed when she started launching into stories from her childhood. Finally we spoke of why she was there and what was likely to happen next during this hospital stay. She told me then that she was not afraid to die, but that she was curious. “About what are you curious?” I wondered. And she told me, she didn’t know what it would be like, if she would recognize people there. In heaven, that is. Indeed, she wondered if we will still even be people at all.
I couldn’t offer much for it is all mystery to me as well. For all of our effort we cannot begin to capture or imagine any of it, it seems to me. We cannot really stretch our imaginations beyond what we already know so well. Certainly not to what God has in store beyond this life for those God loves.
For Easter with all of its wondrous promise stands on its own.
Words cannot capture it, not really.
Music may come closer, but even that but points beyond itself to the so much more that God has in store.
And this year as we receive the story as shared in Mark’s Gospel we are left to fill in all the more as Mark offers so little detail now:
- Only that the women went early to finish the holy work that women had long done: anointing Jesus’ body for burial.
- That they did not have it all figured out. They, too were not certain what would happen next. They knew the stone which stood between them and the body of one they had loved would be heavy. They knew they wouldn’t have the strength to move it.
- From what we are told when they got to the tomb and saw the stone already moved, they didn’t hesitate. I wonder what carried them forward then. Was it curiosity? Or a building outrage at an apparently desecrated grave? Or might it have been a hope they couldn’t yet account for that this story was not yet over?
And then there is an unnamed young man in a white robe who recognizes their surprise, their fear, and is quick to assure them that not only is the body no longer there, but that Jesus is back out in the world.
And though he urges them to go and tell the others, as Mark’s Gospel has it now, the story ends in silence.
Only, of course it doesn’t right? If it had, we would never have heard of the gift and the mystery that all this day holds. Oh, at some point those women must have walked into and through and beyond their fear and found the words to pass along the news of a tomb that was empty. To speak the promise that life wins over death.
No doubt they struggled as much as you and I do to capture in words the promise of this day.
For how can we find words for that which we cannot fully comprehend?
And so perhaps with those women so long ago we stand still in the quiet of Easter morning.
We put ourselves close to the empty tomb.
Perhaps even right inside a place that once held fear, despair, grief, death…
And we marvel at the mystery and the wonder of what God has done. What God always does.
Bringing life again to places and people we thought were long dead.
Indeed, even to us this Easter Day as we stand at the end of a long year, uncertain of what will come next. Perhaps not beginning to be able to imagine how God will bring Easter Joy and Easter Faith to people who are weary, whose futures are yet uncertain, whose grief still weighs heavy.
But knowing that God always has and always will.
Even if you and I cannot quite find the words to describe it.
- How does one find words for the indescribable?
- How does one capture the joy and the wonder of Easter?
- How will you tell the story this year?
- Indeed, how is the promise that life defeats death especially meaningful to you after a year like no other? To the people you serve? To the community in which you live?