Pastor’s Corner Title: A Way of Joy

We are now in a season of Easter. It is a season of 50 Days that lasts until the feast of Pentecost. It is a time to celebrate the mystery of our faith, for Christ has died; Christ is risen; and Christ will come again.

Very often, we hold Easter at a safe distance, memorializing it as an event to honor the past, in order to make it less intimidating. The truth is that Easter is not a safe holiday, because to actually let the power of the risen Christ into your life is not a safe journey. If you want safe, keep to your Easter stickers. If you want something more, to be able to touch the power that overcomes the forces of even hell and death, then come with Christ on this dangerous Easter journey.

The journey of Easter is dangerous, because it begins with emptiness. Christ shows us that the way to experience the power of Easter goes through a journey of grief and exhaustion. It goes through the terror of chaos, when everything has been ripped apart and those you love have fled in fear. It goes straight through the darkness of Good Friday, of agony, abandonment, suffering and death.

The journey of Easter is dangerous because begins with emptiness. We remember it whenever we follow Mary Magdalene’s journey. She stood by Christ on the cross, wept when others fled, and after his death was with him even to the tomb. In her grief, she came that Easter morning to find comfort in caring for Christ’s body, but even that comfort was taken away from her. There was nothing left, nothing but an empty tomb and grave clothes.

The journey of Easter is dangerous because it calls us to begin with emptiness. When we come to worship, we bring the grief of our hearts and of this world. We come to mourn our pain. We come longing to hold onto the past and to grieve what we used to have. To take the journey of Easter means that we come with our vulnerabilities, recognizing to ourselves and to God that we hurt; we have times when we get lost; and we grow weary of keeping the appearances of control together by our own strength.

Every Easter God comes to meet us in the emptiness. Our Lord asks us why we are crying and listens to the needs of our hearts. Every Easter, he calls each of us by name, just like Mary that first Easter morning. We too have a choice: will we hear the calling of our names, or stay behind in the tomb, weeping and, clinging to grave clothes?

Easter is dangerous because it begins with an emptiness that opens the door to new life. In Christian terms, we call this resurrection. It is life that emerges out of death. It is a power that we cling to for eternity and a power God offers to us every day.

Yet when we think about resurrection, we’ve often limited it to a concept of simply rebooting, as if resurrection was reduced to an extra life God gives us as a reward for playing well enough on some kind of cosmic video game. Resurrection is more than getting a do over or an extra bonus life. Resurrection is new life. That’s why resurrection is not resuscitation.

The truth is that we often want things to be the way they were; what we’ve known and loved. We often want God to save and restore what has past. It’s like we yearn for a nostalgic reunion tour and ask Jesus to play his greatest hits so that we can find comfort in recreating our glory days.

Although resurrection restores, it does not return things back to the way things were. The resurrected Christ was still Jesus, and he would show everyone he was alive. He carried the scars to prove it. Yet Jesus was not going back to his preacher/healer days. He had new work to do. He had new work for his followers to do too. A new chapter had started that first Easter.

That’s why resurrection is not resuscitation.

Life cannot be contained or turned backwards in time. It grows and moves forward. It cannot be clung to or grasped or enshrined, no matter how much we want to bottle it up for ourselves.

This is the dangerous nature of Easter. There is no going back. Instead, we find the power to let new life emerge, and are given the courage to see the truth of the world: That Christ is alive and that God is making all things new. It is not our favorite hits replayed.

Easter resurrection power is new life – emerging, ascending, powerful, bewildering, untamable, and unstoppable.

Easter is dangerous because it shows us a power that overcomes even the greatest fears. That first Easter, later in the day, after Jesus had appeared to Mary, he appeared to many of his disciples. We learn from the Gospel of John, chapter 20, that his followers were hiding, in a locked room, afraid. Jesus appeared and his resurrected grace brought peace. He breathed on them the gift of the Holy Spirit. They became included in the story of resurrection. The Spirit had arrived and they were filled with joy.

This encounter, Jesus appearing in the midst of fear with a spirit of new life that filled the disciples with joy, is a key way for us to understand how we too experience the power of Easter. For when the risen Christ appears in our midst, we too are filled with joy.

This is why we risk everything and go on the dangerous journey of Easter. So that we too may know that God is with us every step of the way. So that we can experience the risen Christ who has the power to meet us in our fears, bless us with his spirit, and show us a way through to a new life of joy.

That is why we shout Hallelujah all the time during Easter. Hallelujah! Praise and rejoicing! Joy is a response of seeing that God is here, alive and with us. Joy is knowing that with Christ at our side, we can make it through anything.

That is why real joy takes a strength that only comes through resurrection. Joy is not the avoidance of pain, or repression of anxiety, or even avoiding despair. It’s what comes after the wounds have bled and the grief has torn us apart. Real joy has the courage to look death squarely in the eyes, to hold our deepest pains, and to say, “All shall be well.” Because you know that God is the one who holds you up. It is God who has the keys to hell and death. It is God who leaves the grave clothes behind and says, “because I live, you shall live….”

The best way for us to be an Easter people, to let the power of Easter flow through us, is to embrace joy. For it is through joy that Christ becomes alive for us and for the world! Joy is the reality of the resurrected life. It is our way of becoming an Alleluia.

Thanks be to God.