It has long been my Easter custom to gather with others early morning in the cemetery to sing together of the Resurrection, to share in the bread and the wine, and to shout to one another the Good News of Easter: Alleluia ! Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia! This year will be the first time in more years than I can remember when I will not do this. Or at least, like many of you, I certainly will not do it with others. I grieve this. I know those who would normally gather on Easter do as well. I expect many of you do, too.
And yet, I am remembering now that the meaning of this day is not actually found in cold early morning cemeteries in early spring. Indeed, the gift of this day is not to be found in packed churches gathered close with family and friends. No, the wonder of this day is ours to experience even this year, perhaps in an especially powerful way this year, as we hear in the very last line of the Easter Story in Matthew where Jesus says:
“Go to Galilee. There they (you) will see me…” (Matthew 28:10b)
I’ve gone down this path with Matthew’s telling before. And yes, what we hear next is that the disciples did see Jesus on that mountaintop. And yet, I have surely wondered at what more the disciples would see in Galilee when they went. Never, though, has that wondering held such depth for me as it does this year.
For this time around as I am considering what it is to see Jesus back in Galilee, back in the places where his ministry happened, I find my heart is especially full as I consider how even now, today we see Jesus in all these places…
In the teaching, to be sure, back on that mountaintop … and also even now in all those places where examples of his teaching are in abundance:
- For certainly we see Jesus in places where his teaching is even now coming alive, whether in the wondrous reversals of the beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) or among those who even now are salt and light in the midst of this present darkness. (Matthew 5:14-16)
- And don’t we see Jesus among those who have been able to use this quieter time to reach out in forgiveness, in reconciliation to those once loved but from whom we have fallen apart? (Matthew 5:21-25)
- And don’t you think we see Jesus as we have come to learn what matters most in a time such as this when we realize anew what true treasure is? (Matthew 6:19-21)
- And wouldn’t it be something if all of us could somehow rely more deeply on the truth that God will, in fact, give us all that we need? (Matthew 6:25-35)
And yes, it seems to me we see Jesus over and over again in households everywhere where parents are learning along with their children what it is to teach and learn at home in a way they perhaps never have before. And in teachers who lean in close to their own computer screens as well, continuing to educate and care for the children in their charge. For isn’t Jesus there?
And surely in all those times and places where the hungry are fed…
For don’t we still see Jesus feeding the thousands (Matthew 14:13-21):
- at designated locations all over town where children can come to pick up a free lunch and breakfast, ensuring they will still be fed even when school is not in session…
- in food pantries in all of our communities where volunteers are stepping up to bag groceries to hand them to people in their cars so as to keep a good distance…
- In homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters where workers are not only sheltering and feeding otherwise desperate people, but are also taking necessary steps to ensure the areas where they live are sanitized, often many times a day…
And surely we see Jesus even now all over the world even as we saw him bring healing to a leper, enable a centurion’s servant to walk again, put Peter’s mother-in-law back on her feet again, and cast out demons, not to mention everything else that tormented (Matthew 8:1-17). Oh, today surely we do see Jesus in ‘Galilee’ once more:
- In all those on the front lines who are donning masks and gloves and gowns (if they have them) and doing all they can to bring hope and healing to those devastated by this disease… In emergency room and ICU doctors and nurses, to be sure, but also in those who clean their rooms and prepare their meals and all the rest. Each one potentially putting themselves in harm’s way so as to be part of the healing…
- In all those behind the scenes people in public health and government who are looking out for what is coming next and doing all they can to keep us safe and well…
- And yes, in those who have bent their hands and their hearts to sewing machines to sew masks for those in care centers and group homes and yes, in County Jails, so as to give all God’s beloved a bit more protection from a virus which is too long invisible until it isn’t…
Jesus is, indeed, showing up all over the place these days in the places I mention and in a thousand, thousand more which you can name where you live and serve.
Perhaps it is so that on this very different Easter day we are given the gift of being reminded anew that Jesus is not to be found in the places where we normally celebrate his resurrection. No, not in the cemetery. And he is not in our empty naves, not really. Rather, he is out there in the world where he always was.
So this Easter may we especially have the eyes, the heart, the imagination to recognize Jesus when we see him.
For the promise is this. Jesus is already there.
There on that mountaintop of Matthew’s Gospel where his disciples would, in fact, see him next.
Where Jesus taught all it meant to be a follower of the one who lived and died and rose again for us.
Where he spoke of making disciples who would feed the hungry and heal this hurting world.
Where he promised his presence always as we go.
Back to Galilee. Back into the world…
- How will this Easter be different for you from Easters past? What makes this difficult or challenging? Are there ways in which the Easter story speaks to you differently as a result?
- Where have you already seen Jesus ‘back in Galilee’ this year? Where will you hope to see Jesus in the days to come?
- I am just starting to wonder whether or how this year’s experience of Easter will change all those yet to come. Have you wondered that as well? Where has your wondering taken you?