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Happy Easter, Everyone! There are WAY too many people to thank for this Sunday's service - you'll have to watch!
A rainstorm isn’t what we usually think about when we think of Easter Sunday morning – We think about green grass, and how flowers are starting to bloom, and soft warm sunshine. We don’t think about the rain. But what if that morning, that morning where the women, the disciples, what if when they went to the tomb, it was a rainy day. They would’ve gone, with heads, bowed low, wondering where God was in the middle of this? And what if they had to walk through mud and puddles. So not only are their hearts heavy, but the sky seems to be weeping with them, in their sadness, in their hopelessness, and in their despair. Because they didn’t go to the tomb thinking they would find anything magnificent there; they went with heavy hearts. They went expecting death. They went hoping to do something that might comfort them in the midst of their grief.
We don’t usually think of a steady rain on that first Easter morning, but after this year, it did make me wonder: What if that first Easter morning happened in a downpour? That certainly would have better matched the mood of the women and the disciples, after the week they have had, a week of grief.
And we’ve had our own week, here at LPC, with losing Bob Hafler, and Bob Ridgway, and PoIly Palchefsky. It’s been that kind of year, a year of loss. A year of disappointments and fears and hopelessness. Even now that we are slowly beginning to emerge, there has been so much change. Too much change. Whiplash inducing change. This is how Chee Chee describes this past year, in a nutshell:
This past year, we came home from Florida, not knowing what we were facing – the pandemic, and my cancer returning, and there was good news, then bad news. And especially this news (that the cancer had spread to my brain.) Because your brain is who you are, your responses, how you give love.
We’ve had to stumble around, trying to learn as we go, when we’re feeling unsettled and uncertain and unclear. Everything has changed. We have changed. Who are we now? Do we even recognize ourselves? And who is God? Can we dare hope to see the Risen Christ?
In these trials and tribulations….The pandemic changed each of us, in some way.
And I thought about Peter, Peter who had to change over and over and over again. He thought he knew who he was, who Jesus was, what God’s love was all about. What we heard Helene read is such a small part of his story. Peter’s own story of faith is one of whiplash, of starts and stops and stumbles. Of mis-steps and mistakes. When he had to face things about himself that maybe he didn’t want to see. When he saw things about God’s love that he found hard to believe.
Peter comes to that first Easter morning after abandoning Jesus three times the night Jesus was arrest and crucified. What must he have been thinking? Before he ran to the tomb, before he heard the tomb was empty. Surely there was no way could anything good come out of this. No way. Before he ran to the tomb, it all seemed unsalvageable. And there are times when it does seem like it’s all bad; all of it.
This whole thing has been kind of awful. I don’t see any benefits. My freshman year has been all whacked, and bad, and everything is harder.”
So when we hear Peter raced to the tomb, when everything was so so hard, and he was the first one to look inside, what was he hoping to see? What did he need to find? What would he see that would be hard to believe?
Maybe in this pandemic, you have discovered new things about yourself, what you need, things about yourself that surprised you.
Even though I am outgoing and extroverted, I can stay in one place. But there is a limit, and I need to leave, because I feed off other people. The best day was the day I was dreading, going back to school. It filled me. While I can go without, I really need people.
And in the very same pandemic, Lizzie Albertine discovered something very different about herself:
For me, social interactions can be exhausting, and it’s easier to stay inside. If I’m on zoom I can zone out, go off camera. You can’t do that when it’s in person.
Sometimes our insights about ourselves are surprising, sometimes more humorous and humbling. Here’s what Natalie Bailey learned about herself early on in the pandemic:
I learned that baking isn’t the worst thing ever. I always said I wasn’t a baker, I just enjoy eating the results. It was one of those domestic things I refused to do, it felt like a slippery slope. Then I said, “Fine. I’ll bake.” And I did find it enjoyable!
And Eric Albertine discovered this universal truth:
I realized that stay at home parenting is really hard, and I’m not good at it. I needed more patience. I always respected people who stayed home with their kids, but I didn’t know the level of mental and physical exhaustion, and that’s just one kid!
This year of pandemic, even sometimes in spite of ourselves, we’ve seen the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Resurrected Christ, show up over and over and over again. Because Easter isn’t just what happened one morning. And it isn’t just what we celebrate one time a year. This year, we’ve seen how God brings hope out of despair, joy out of exhaustion, new life where we only see death. Every Easter reminds us to celebrate the God whose love cannot be defeated or destroyed. The disciples, Peter, the women, once they saw that empty tomb, there was no going back. Once they saw the Risen Christ, there was no pretending they could go back to how things were. Now, they had to trust the Risen Christ would lead them into a very unknown, uncertain, unclear future.
We can’t go back. Well, we can try, but there’s no “back” to go back to. So much has changed, and we have changed, and we don’t know exactly how the future will unfold. But in our relationship with God, we know we still have much to learn about ourselves, and Christ, and God’s love.
And we know how that love shows up: In our relationships. With each other. Our friendships. In how we communicate and find ways to stay in touch. This is what our youth told Betsy and Jason:
It’s relaxing to have time to myself, but it’s also important to surround myself with friends, to be more social, any way that you can, so that you aren’t always isolated.
How important every interaction. Even if it’s just friends on the phone talking.
Talking to people is good; it’s important, whether in person or on zoom – It’s good to communicate even if it’s harder.
Even though technology keeps us apart, it does bring people together. We’ve found innovative ways to hang out, like zoom, and social distancing in our backyard. We had a garage Christmas. It’s huge, this virus, but everyone is helping everyone out.
Sometimes social distancing does bring us apart, but I learned I don’t necessarily need to see everyone every day. We can talk virtually.
And we have some hints about how to move forward, as brothers and sisters of the Risen Christ. What’s really important, that we need to pay attention to. The Easter Message of God’s new life in Christ has been with us this entire year. We are different. We know things now we couldn’t have known a year ago. We are changed, and we can carry what we have learned with us. There’s no unlearning, or unseeing.
And Monica Anthony shared:
When I went to my colleague’s for an outdoor visit, it was magical, just talking. I had no idea how much time had passed.
I think we’ve all missed that togetherness, that ease of being in-person, much more than we would have expected. This time has forced us to name what matters to us, and live that out in our day to day lives. Peter and the women and the disciples all had to take stock of what was important, and figure out how they were going to live new priorities in this uncertain future. If God could do this, then how much more powerful was their Creator’s love than they had ever imagined? The Risen Christ turned everything upside down. How will they live God’s love now?
It’s made me slow down, and prioritize what is most important… How to be there together with the people we care most about. I’m hopeful that in the future I can keep the stress low, and prioritize what matters most.
There is new life here in Christ.
How will you live into this promise of eternal life, not just for some distant future when your heart stops beating, but now, right now, today?
Here’s how Chee Chee describes it:
I’ve had “me” conversations about not being here. But I know my faith, faith in my kids, and my grandkids, and Blair. I pray each day, and I know how gracious God is. It’s made me realize I have to have hope each day, and it’s made me appreciate each person I know and love. I can say this to everyone, I put that aside. Each day is a gift, and I enjoy that gift. You never know who will call, or knock on the door, or leave you a message – I open it every morning, and close it at night. God’s love is a surprise.
What Peter, and the women, and the disciples, found at that empty tomb that first Easter – It shouldn’t have been a surprise, not really. Not if they had known how to listen and trust what Jesus told them. But what that first Easter shows us is how to watch, how to see, how to expect and be amazed at how God’s Easter resurrection love shows up every day. Peter grew to trust it so much, he saw it everywhere he looked, in every person he saw. That resurrection Easter love is in every breath we take, every blade of grass that pokes through, every flower that blooms. Dare we trust it?
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