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  • Writer's pictureFather Nicholas Lang

Easter Day

Power fascinates us.


The powers of nature both terrify us and intrigue us. Tsunamis, storms, lightning, hurricanes, the devastation of a tornado, the movement of glaciers. These and other events remind us that we humans are no match for nature’s power. But these are not the only powers that can overwhelm us. The advent of technology has unleashed new realizations of how limited we are as human beings. Artificial Intelligence now harbors the potential for power that we can’t really comprehend. Every new discovery both thrills and chills us because we can barely fathom the powers that lie beyond our comprehension and abilities as human beings.


It’s no wonder then that we find it both intriguing and terrifying to think about the reality of the resurrection! It’s often simpler for us to say, did it really happen that way? There must be some other explanation. That’s likely what the first disciples said too....

Resurrection: No one saw it happen. No one posted it on Facebook or YouTube. There was no twitter or email about it. There were no security cameras at the tomb catching any possible body snatchers in the act. His friends had gone into hiding rather than keep vigil at the grave of the crucified one.

 

Mark’s Gospel account tells us that a small group of women, followers of Jesus, make their way in the darkness to the grave they left just the day before. It is Judea and in that part of the world, a body begins to decay at the moment of death. There was, of course, no embalming, so they covered the body of the deceased person with sweet-smelling spices, from which we likely get our modern tradition of sending flowers to remember the departed.

 

The Easter account turns the mores of the prevailing culture of the time upside down. In all four of the Gospels, the distinction of receiving and announcing the news of Jesus’ Resurrection was given first to women—not men. Understand that women were of no regard in first century Palestine culture. They were second class citizens at best. Look at some of the images of the way women are treated in Middle Eastern cultures today and we get a glimpse of what it was like for Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James and Salome. Jesus, however, is a barrier breaker. Mark’s account represents a radical message about the place of women in God’s sway. Too bad it took the Church so long to get that.

 

In addition to carrying those sweet spices to the grave, the women who came on that early  morning carried something else—the human inclination and longing for good news in the face of a Good Friday world. Easter is, after all, a metaphor for hope because it promises that God will do for us what God has already done for Jesus. His resurrection two thousand years ago was not the end, but the first of many other resurrections to come and—if we keep our eyes wide open—we will see them all around us. Hope tells us that there is a power at work outside ourselves that will help us carry on. Hope gives us the capacity to struggle even when we’re not so sure about the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

 

More than two thousand years later, the world still marvels at this mystery and still celebrates it, albeit too often with chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks. Easter shouts out that resurrection goes on and on, that God continues to resurrect lives. Every time we let God’s love rise in our hearts, every time we accept a call to live into some new and exciting facet of life, every time we raise up some person from the tomb in his or her life, we have experienced the miracle of resurrection—in fact, we are a part of it.

 

There is great power in the story of Easter. Sometimes, even against the mightiest of forces, the power of Resurrection trumps the power of evil intent. Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin was as powerful a man as there was on earth. A Russian Communist leader, he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, was editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda and was a member of the Politburo.

 

In 1930 he took a journey from Moscow to Kiev to address a huge assembly on the subject of atheism. Addressing the crowd, he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity hurling insult, argument, and proof against it. An hour later he was finished. He looked out at what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of people's faith. "Are there any questions?" Bukharin demanded. Deafening silence filled the auditorium but then one man approached the platform and mounted the lectern standing near the communist leader. He surveyed the crowd first to the left then to the right.

 

Finally, he shouted the ancient greeting known well in the Russian Orthodox Church: CHRISTOS VOSKRESE!” "CHRIST IS RISEN!" En masse the crowd arose and in unison the response came crashing like the sound of thunder: “VOISTINU VOSKRESE!” "HE IS RISEN INDEED!" Some stories of God’s rule simply cannot be suppressed, cannot be buried, cannot be overpowered.


Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor, says this about Easter: “By the light of this day, God has planted a seed of life in us that cannot be killed, and if we remember that then there is nothing we cannot do: move mountains, banish fear, love our enemies, change the world.”


Does our culture persuade us to look for the tomb, rather than for the new dimensions, new expressions of resurrection around us. It is far easier to settle for the ambiguity of the empty grave than to embrace the breath-taking power of resurrection. Claim the promise that God will continue to breathe life into the dead zones of our lives, raise us up, and restore us.

 

Sometimes, like the women on that early Sunday morning, we need to alter our expectations. In that awesome Easter hope we proclaim what has been shouted throughout the ages and again throughout the whole world this day: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!


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