Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Resurrection & New Life: Is This Easter?

Image found at:  http://www.canadianlutheran.ca/a-well-spent-lent-2/

Today I invite my wife to be my guest blogger here on "virtues."  Rev. Carrie Carnes is the pastor at Chenoa United Methodist Church which is just 25 minutes North of Bloomington-Normal, IL.  She will graduate from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary next month, although she finished her classes last summer and has been serving at Chenoa as a full-time pastor since.

This isn’t what Easter’s supposed to be like, is it?

Scripture:  Mark 16:1-8

Throughout Lent, we sang “Lord Who Throughout These Forty Days”.  It’s a great hymn about Jesus’ time in the desert. The hymn reminds us that when we are in barren places- Christ is with us. When we find ourselves in those wilderness places we often feel alone and it can be difficult to see God walking with us. During Lent we inspect pain, suffering and sin with the assurance that God is with us- and with the knowledge that Lent ends with Easter.
Scott and I had a rough Lent; especially the first part. We were in the wilderness. Scott had brain surgery in February. As we returned from the hospital and subsequent stay at the Berry Family Convalescent Home and Pet Boarding Center (what we call may parents’ house). I was ready to go. I wanted to dive right back in to everything. But then Scott got the flu and I had to find someone to fill in for me at the last second that first Sunday. We had to make unplanned trips back to St. Louis. Scott’s recovery plateaued. We were in the wilderness. I wanted so badly for things to be normal again but nothing seemed to be going right. Towards the end of Lent things looked up a little. I felt like I got my groove back. I felt refreshed and could feel the Spirit’s presence with me more and more. Holy Week was wonderful, and Easter Sunday brought such joy. I felt like I had lived liturgical cycle and was filled with new life. Plants and plans were budding. 
And then it happened. Scott started in with intense migraines again. We wound up back in the hospital Saturday. We were transferred back to St. Louis Sunday and informed that Scott needs yet another surgery. I feel like we went back to the beginning. Lent’s over. We’re not supposed to be in wilderness anymore! Lent is 40 days, so I found myself wondering: did we take a wrong turn? Have we gotten lost? Will we become like the Hebrews stuck in this wilderness 40 years?
After the news sunk in, and after a little sleep I began to feel a little more hope. I’ll admit however, that I’m not quiet ready to sing “Alleluias!“ just yet. Though in churches we rightfully celebrate the resurrection with great joy; if we take time to read Mark’s account of the resurrection noticeably absent is the joyous celebration. Mark instead describes the morning with great fear, showing us the darker side of the resurrection.The women have just witnessed their friend and leader crucified. All the other disciples have fled in fear and while the women have remained, it seems safe to assume that these women have remained not without fear- but despite their fear.  The women nervously venture up the hill to the tomb. They discover the tomb is empty and are greeted by this young man in the white clothes of a martyr. He tells them “Don’t be alarmed”- now he wouldn’t have had to say this if they weren’t alarmed would he? He instructs the women where to go to find Jesus, “...he is going ahead of you into Galilee”. In saying this he is sending the women back to the very place where the Gospel began- where he first called the disciples. I wonder if the women also thought, “So its like we’ll be starting back at square one.”  Then the Gospel ends with its final two chilling sentences, “Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
When I read that Easter passage, it’s hard for me to imagine lilies, Alleluias and the bright festivities. This passage is filled with challenge and dread. The women are not venturing out into the Lenten wilderness, but there is a terrifying journey that lays ahead of them. 
During Easter we celebrate the resurrection. The past couple of days have reminded me that Easter is not just about the thrill of an empty tomb and new dresses. While God is creating new life all around us, that life isn’t easy. It’s still filled with pain and challenges, disappointments and starting over. And some days that sucks. But just as we are assured that Christ is with us in our Lenten wilderness moments so too does that angel at the tomb assure us that the risen Christ has gone ahead of us. When we are faced with frightening new starts and begin tedious new journeys we can hear again the angel’s words, “You will see him there”.

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