On the first day of the week,
the women came to the tomb bringing spices.
Grieving, they could have remained at home;
that would be a normal response to death.
Death had left a void in their hearts and their lives,
that hole was in the shape of their beloved, Jesus.
Still, they love Jesus.
Still, they want to honor the memory of Jesus.
Still, they come offering what have: their own broken hearts.
Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary go out at the first light of dawn.
They go out before they can distinguish shapes with sunlight.
They go out while all is yet uncertain.
Easter begins with stories such as these.
Easter begins while everything is still hazy.
Like this fuzzy ending to the pandemic.
In the beginning of the pandemic,
there was a brief moment when we thought that
we would all just quarantine for two weeks
and then return to life as normal.
The two weeks turned into months.
Still, I heard churches dream about what the return would look like.
A party! A big homecoming!
A moment when we would celebrate because everything
would have definitively returned to what it used to be.
We have not been able to perceive that pandemic ending
quite as clearly as we had hoped.
Instead, the ending has been hazier.
It has been quieter. It has been more like:
It is over. It is not over. Is it over? Is it not over?
It reminds me of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary
stepping into the fog of twilight.
I am fascinated by today Easter story.
It is so different from the story of Christmas,
which is accompanied by a distinct choir of angels, a star,
and a gaggle of strangers.
In contrast, in the Easter story,
there are no trumpets, no flocks of angels singing,
no fanfare or crowds of strangers. No party even.
Easter begins with a hazy whisper.
In this quiet beginning, which we read about today,
Christ is conspicuously absent!
No one has encountered the risen Christ yet.
We, too, are left at the edge of our seats,
wondering what will happen next.
Just like the disciples, who wondered,
Is it over? Is it not over? Is it over now?
The moment when the lines between life and death are muddied
this is the precise moment to start looking for resurrection.
At the tomb, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary
look for the body of their beloved Jesus.
They find only an empty grave. A robbed grave?
They are at a loss of what to think
as two figures in dazzling, disorienting garments appear.
With terror, the women fling themselves to the ground.
The figures inquire,
Why do you look for the living among the dead?
Jesus is not here. Christ has risen.
Remember what Jesus said?
Suddenly the words come rushing back to them:
On the third day, Christ would rise again!
They run back to the others,
who are also dazzled and disoriented.
In a rush, the others respond, This can’t be! This is nonsense!
This news was more than they could believe.
The response of the disoriented others makes me curious:
What does resurrection look like?
Sometimes, it takes time for us to awaken to resurrection.
After all, the risen Christ rises not to pomp and circumstance
but to disoriented disciples.
When Christ finally appears
to the ones walking on the road to Emmaus,
initially, the disciples will not recognize Christ.
There’s a block.
The miracle of Easter is that Jesus abides,
always, even in the moments that we have given up on resurrection.
Author and activist Maya Angelou once said,
“I’m always amazed when people walk up to me and say, ‘I’m a Christian.’
I think, ‘Already? You already got it?’ ”
Angelou’s words remind me that resurrection is a process.
A revealing. An enigma.
The rising confounds our sense of time and logic.
Just like the date of Easter,
a date which is different every year.
You can’t pinpoint it. It’s imprecise.
It is the holy day hidden in plain sight.
It is like the Highlights magazine search-and-find.
Elusive and ever-present.
Waiting to be witnessed.
When will we receive resurrection?
Or if we are receiving it, as the disbelieving disciples do,
when will we perceive it? When will we open ourselves to it?
When will it finally feel like Easter is here in our soul?
Sometimes on Easter Sunday
it can still feel like it is Good Friday or Holy Saturday in our soul.
Sometimes resurrections take time.
It’s the mystery of faith, which can never be logically puzzled out.
God rearranges time all together.
The Holy Triduum is Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter.
In the Holy Triduum is yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
In Good Friday is every death, every mourning,
every time our hearts will shatter.
In Holy Saturday is every moment of aftermath,
every moment of waiting, waiting, waiting,
as the Spirit witnesses to our grieving souls.
In Easter is the eternal rising, the rearranging,
the newness budding into the ground of our being.
God has the resurrection patience of a healer
who will never leave our side.
God never abandons us even when we get scared
or decide to stay home,
because an empty grave simply boggles our mind.
Could this be? Peter wonders.
Peter runs to the tomb to find out.
At the tomb, he finds only grave clothes.
Jesus is not there.
Do the words of Jesus come back to him, too?
On the third day, Christ would rise again!
Peter leaves amazed.
You have to go experience yourself.
Come, perceive, experience, and come away transformed!
God is beyond our understanding.
God gets us beyond the limits of our understanding.
Beyond the cave of our hearts.
Beyond the echo chamber of our minds.
Resurrection is outside of perception altogether.
It cannot be detective with a night-vision, motion- activated camera,
like it is a nighttime raccoon or tiger.
Resurrection supersedes perception. It overruns us.
Like the dazzling angels that appear to the women.
Or the empty grave that amazes Peter.
Or the breaking of bread that reveals to the Emmaus travelers
that they have traveled with Jesus.
Something overruns our heart, and it takes a lifetime,
an eternity to understand at last what has happened to us.
What was this resurrection moment,
this resurrection of our heart,
this astounding, confounding moment that
happened to us outside of our plans and designs.
The Spirit helps us to recognize these resurrection moments
even when we remain home in disbelief.
The Spirit helps to go, hmmm, to go, how interesting,
to wonder, oh wow, what if I check this out for myself!
Come, experience, and come away transformed.
Or stay home, mind boggled, and be transformed.
God’ll reach you. Resurrection is irrepressible. Irresistible. Unstoppable.
Can’t stop the rising! No matter how improbable.
It will be burst into a chorus
in the whisper of the dawn.
In the birds. In the sun.
In the budding trees.
In the mushrooms breaking down the old,
preparing the new.
In your own pounding heart. Bumba bumba bumba.
It is there. Alive!
Suddenly, something is recognized.
Maybe we can’t translate it,
but something opens up deep inside.
Something warm. Holy.
Alive. We are alive.
Wherever we are,
resurrection meets us.
God reaches across time and space, to bring you out of your grave.
That tomb you have laid in for days, for decades.
You. You. You.
You are free.
Yesterday. Today. And tomorrow.