Back when all this COVID-19 stuff first started–so, you know, 10 years ago–and we closed the church building, Council and I also decided that when we returned to in-person worship we would celebrate Easter again, together.
This was very early, back when we all were picturing that we’d be worshiping again in a few weeks. We weren’t thinking about masks yet. We certainly hadn’t realized that we wouldn’t be singing when we gathered again. I know that I, at least, was picturing everyone who usually comes to worship, together again, as we sang Easter songs together.
This service that we’re having today wasn’t what we were picturing, in other words.
But isn’t that the Easter message in a nutshell? The disciples had been following Jesus for years at this point. They had probably been to Jerusalem before, to celebrate some of the other Jewish festivals that centered on Jerusalem. But this time it had gone all wrong–Jesus was arrested the same night as their Passover meal, and then, impossibly quickly, He’d been sentenced to death and died on the cross. This was not what the disciples had been expecting of their teacher. They’d expected Him to save them, and instead He was dead. This was not how they’d pictured their time with Jesus would end.
And then, before they could really begin to process what had happened, some of Jesus’ women followers went to the tomb early in the morning to prepare His body for burial. He’d already been buried, of course, a rushed job after He died but before the Sabbath began, but they wanted–no, needed–to do it properly. And then, instead of a quiet time of grief and honoring Jesus, an angel comes, terrifies the soldiers who were guarding the tomb to make sure no one steals Jesus’ body, moves the massive stone that would have kept the women from entering the tomb, and then tells the women, “Jesus is alive! Go tell the others–Jesus is alive!” And on their way to tell the others, they meet Jesus, who is certainly alive.
For all the hints Jesus had dropped about how this is what would happen, this is not how they pictured their morning going.
We are in good company, in other words, as we find things changing, as we find our expectations unmet because suddenly everything is different, as we struggle to live with new realities.
And even more than that: Easter is a story for those kinds of moments. Sure, we often celebrate Easter as perfectly as we can, with beautiful music and flowers across the steps, and special Easter paraments–but we can celebrate it just as well here, with everyone seated six feet apart, while wearing masks and without singing a single Easter song. Jesus is still risen, and it’s still good, good news, even if we can’t all shout out ‘Alleluia!’ like we normally would. Easter–the good news that God cannot be defeated by death, by our fear and violence and sin, by all the ways we run from God and strike out at those we’re afraid of, and not only cannot be defeated by it but in fact is powerful enough to rise above it, to live again–that is the good news we celebrate. And we can celebrate it here just as well as upstairs; we can celebrate it now just as well as on the day when we’re “supposed” to, because it is good, good news for every time and place, every person and situation. It is just as good now as it was two months ago. It is just as good, whether our celebrations of it have changed or not.
Jesus is risen; Jesus is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Alleluia, and Amen.