Friday, April 13, 2012

Avoiding Easter

Last week was busy.  I'll spare you the run-down, but I had something important/worship-related pretty much every day of the week.  The Christmas season and the Easter season are packed full of stuff that pastors have to do and Easter is most especially tiring because all those important things happen in one week.  Easter itself, though, is supposed to be a time of renewal, of joy, of awe at what God is capable of doing in the midst of tragedy.

Easter hasn't come for me yet.

Once again I'm feeling very detached from this season of the church.  Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday were all days that I could authentically participate in - they were focused on suffering, loss, grief, betrayal, confusion, despair, and the tortuous experience of living after you've lost everything you cared about.  But Easter?  Easter is about unexpected joy, about life when there was only death, about return and renewal and being shocked by how GOOD things can turn out.  And wow, I'm so not there.

On Easter morning I said to the congregation of my church - He is Risen!  And I believed that.  I believe it still.  I DO believe that Jesus is alive, that death was defeated, that loss was turned into gain.  But my soul is still in sheol - my spirit still feels like it's living in the gray shadowlands of grief.  I know that reading this kind of post is not incredibly uplifting for many of you and it occurs to me that many of you are probably wishing I'd stop talking about how sad I am and focus on something like how awesome my son is and how photogenic he can be.  And if I'm being honest, I would LOVE to be able to write something more positive, more hopeful, more resurrection minded.

But I can't.  Because it's not true to what my life is right now.

Yes - Gareth is great.  And photogenic.  And my church family is wonderful and supportive.  And professionally I've got a great job.  And I have a home and a car and many luxuries that put me int the global 1%.  And i have financial support from family and friends and emotional support from those who love me.  But that doesn't mean that I've found joy yet.  Or that I've stopped crying everyday.  Or that I, for some perverse reason, have to pretend like I'm okay with how my life has turned out.

On Holy Saturday, before Jesus rose from the grave, do you think the disciples were okay?  Would you have dared face Mary Magdalene and tried to cheer her up? NO! Because they had lost everything and were stumbling about in the dawn of a new day that they DID NOT WANT TO FACE.  They had to KEEP LIVING in a world that had BRUTALLY MURDERED THEIR HOPE.  Their loss was total and there was no reason to expect the resurrection at all.  And our smug hindsight when we read the story is insulting - "oh, how could they be so sad? Jesus is alive!"  

Once again I'm finding myself in the stories of deepest grief - of Mary watching her son crucified, of Mary Magdalene discovering the missing body of her best friend and begging for his return so she can cradle his empty body herself.  "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away."  Yes...I know that the story ends well, that resurrection is true and that hope is born again.

But my life right now is stuck on that Saturday, in the midst of loss and with no possibility for rebirth in the near future.  I have no Easter to give me perspective yet.


Paul Rimmer said...
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Paul Rimmer said...

Easter is often referred to as the "Eighth Day". There are various possible reasons for this. My baptizer, Father Chrysostom, preached about one of the reasons for this. I didn't really appreciate or understand his sermon until I read your post.

He said that Easter is a day of new creation, commemorating Christ's victory over death in his resurrection. On the seventh day he rested. On the eighth day he creates again. Ultimately, it refers to the new creation, the new heavens and the new earth.

We are trapped in seven day weeks. The new creation hasn't come yet. Christ is risen, but the world is still broken, and everyone still dies. The true Easter Feast is still one more day away. We never get there this side of Heaven.

I didn't think about this sermon very much until I read your post.

Your post also made me think of the song to Mary that is said every night at the end of Compline, during ordinary time. It is a prayer that still brings me comfort, though it's been a long time since I've said the words.

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy
Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve
To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and wailing in this vale of tears.
Turn then most gracious advocate thine eyes of mercy toward us.
And after this our exile, show unto us the most precious fruit of thy womb, Jesus.