When I was reflecting on our text for Easter I recall an old familiar hymn.
“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Where you there when they laid him in the tomb?”
We have all been there. Thank all that is Holy for the front-line health-workers toiling away in the tombs so many hospitals have become! The stories emerging from those tombs have made their marks on all of us. Unlike the women who rushed to the tomb to anoint Jesus for his burial, we have seen and read the reality which haunts our media. The bad news is travelling faster than the good news and my trembling heart cannot sustain the darkness of this tomb into which our suffering world has been thrust. Yes, we know how the stories our ancestors so faithfully handed down to us end with resurrection. But, like the bewildered disciples, the sight of the linen wrappings on the ground offer us about as much comfort as images of discarded medical masks and PPE.
Mary was asked “Why are you weeping?” Why we are weeping? We are weeping because so many lives have been taken away and we do not know when our own lives can begin again. “For whom are we looking?” For a saviour, someone, something, anything which will release us from the tombs of isolation, despair, and fear in which we are all huddled for fear of what’s out there.
We have heard the words spoken over and over again, “Do not be afraid.” But even the empty tomb, which has provided such hope for generations, seems darker, too dark to provide the promise of resurrection. Like the followers of Jesus who ran away from the empty tomb, I too want to flee. But, there is no place to go. How do we celebrate resurrection on an Easter such as this? When the pandemic is on the rise in some countries and all that we see is despair and makeshift tombs.
In the midst of darkness “Suddenly Jesus stood before them and said, ‘Shalom!’ The women came up, embraced Jesus’ feet and worshiped. At this, Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid! Go tell the disciples to go to Galilee, where they will see me.”
And so, I close my eyes searching my mind for the Galilee where I shall see the risen One. Where is the risen One to be found?
Well, just as surely as Galilee remained in the darkness of the persecution of empire, our world remains in the darkness of the perils of pandemic. And yet, it is into the darkness that the early followers found the courage to go to Galilee, so that they might meet the Risen One.
We cannot linger in the empty tombs of our personal isolation. We too must seek the Risen One if we are to find the courageous compassion we need to rise again, and again, and again.
Every year we shout Christ is risen! Every year, every day we met the Risen One. For just as surely as Jesus embodied the Love that Is the Mystery we call God, that Love rises in every act of human kindness, in every act of tender compassion, in every act of mercy, in every selfless act of courage.
Suddenly, Jesus, the Risen One, Suddenly, Love stands before us all and says, “Shalom!, Salam alakum, Namaste, Peace. Do not be afraid!” Do not be afraid to celebrate. The Earth is still spinning. The birds are singing again. The flowers are blooming and trees are budding. Soon the grass will be green again. Babies continue to be born. Children continue to laugh and play. We can sing and dance. Lovers continue to embrace. We are richly blessed. Love rises even in the darkness.
On Holy Saturday, when the darkness is darker than dark, I was sent a foretaste of the feast to come.
From the darkness of a hospital entombed by the fear of pandemic perils, some courageous compassionate healthcare workers dance a dance that is surely a dance of resurrection! Their dance celebrating the recovery of one of their COVID patients who is successfully take off a ventilator. https://youtu.be/iwBe450saxM
Love Is Risen! Love rises, again and again and again. Christ rises in, with, through and beyond us! Thank all that is Holy, especially all the frontline workers, nurses, doctors, orderlies, first-responders, retail workers, delivery workers, and yes, you and I the physical distancers; thank all that is Holy for being Love in the world.
Shalom! Do not be afraid! Go tell everyone to go beyond our fear, for there we will meet the Risen One, who is the Mystery that Is the Love we call God. May that Love rise in you over and over and over again!
“On the Christian calendar Easter is a feast of gladness. Grief turns into jubilation. Bitter defeat becomes exuberant hope. Even those who walk in the valley of the shadow of death know they need fear no evil. But, without a trace of irreverence, can we not also say there is something genuinely comic about Easter? Could it be God’s hilarious answer to those ridiculed, persecuted and crucified God’s prophet” (Cox 1987)
In some Orthodox churches, members meet in the church – usually on the Monday after Easter for a feast and festival. Games would be played. And there would be much laughter, dancing and joke telling.
Why? Because, they said, it was the most fitting way to celebrate the ‘big joke’ God pulled on Satan/Evil in the resurrection.
Why does laughter hold such a meagre place in our religious life?
A well-balanced life is going to be the life that truly understands the place of humour.
Because laughter can help to herald in the dawn of human hope.
Or at the very least, a hope about hope.
Let ‘progressive’ religion give long overdue recognition to the neglected gifts of humour, comedy, play, and laughter.
May these ‘gifts of grace’ be use for the healing of human lives, for attaining balanced lives.
It would do us well to remember the words of American pastor and poet, Howard Thurman:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” (Felten & Procter-Murphy 2012:70)
And I will leave you with the words that famous twentieth century philosophy Monty Python from the film, The Life of Brian:
Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life
Some things in life are bad they can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you’re chewin’ on life’s gristle, don’t grumble, give a whistle.
And this’ll help things turn out for the best.
And always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the light side of life…
If life seems jolly rotten there’s something you’ve forgotten.
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you’re feeling in the dumps don’t be silly chumps.
Just purse your lips and whistle, that’s the thing.
And always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the bright side of life