Lent was very intense for me–great attention to practices, increased awareness of the suffering of the world, ongoing wrestling with what this walking in faithfulness to Jesus means. It is a grace to have completed that part of the journey for this year, and have a silent Holy Saturday to ponder in anticipation of what new thing God might be doing again in the world and in me, and then to enter the joy of Easter Sunday.
I was asked to think about how I would preach Easter this year:
I would preach Easter this year as the Quiet Revolution. I am reading Susan Cain’s insightful new book, Quiet, which demonstrates the power of the introvert and small encounters; it chronicles the deep changes that can be made in quiet and confidence, rather than by the brass quartets and mass choirs that our culture celebrates. The quintessential Easter story for me is in John 20:11-18, where three quiet movements underlie the earthshaking and radical shift that the resurrection of Jesus brings.
I am taken to all the first post-Resurection noticings and meetings. No more huge rallies. no more night courts, no more military brandishing and ecclesiastical posturing, just quiet personal conversation. In every gospel Jesus appears first in quiet conversation, with one other or where two or three are gathered. As much as I love the beauty, majesty and thrill of most Easter gatherings of worship, what I long for is the quiet encounter with the Holy.
First, Jesus comes to Mary Magdalene as a complete surprise, alone, unrecognizable at first. Yet all the rules of the universe have been changed. Far away from the chanting crowds of Friday, this huge sea change is intimate, but deep.
C.S. Lewis talks about being “surprised by joy.” Sister Mary Corita claimed, that “all the rules will be fair and we will have wonderful surprises.” This Eastertide, these next six weeks, I want my heart to be open the the surprises that the resurrection of Jesus heralds–in me, in the world, even in the Church. Will my Lenten practices have opened me to notice the ways that my name is called in particular? to hear the voice of the Holy One in another? to become vision enough to trust that God is making a way where there is no way? to move out in trust even though I can only see the next right thing?Furthermore, Jesus demands that we learn to love and follow him in a new and different way. “Don’t hang on,” he tells Mary. Easter challenges us to keep learning who the Holy One is, with an expanding repertoire of trust and care.
My challenge, as someone who is very conscious of again and “time’s swift chariot hurrying near,” is to discern the ways in which I must let go of life as I knew it, even ways of knowing and being that are precious to me, in order to be open to the new thing that is happening. Sometimes this is painful when I feel that the the wisdom I have accrued is not worth much in the brave new worlds of 21st Century child-rearing, church reorganization, technological amazement and globalization. However, I want to trust in this Eastertide that letting go is part of Resurrection life, that not everything that was useful for awhile in my lifetime is still of use in this moment, and I need to create space for the surprises that Christ will bring, not just hope to cram it in around past moments of faithfulness and hope.
Moreover, the resurrection mandates that Mary Magdalene participate by going and telling, sharing this new reality with the community. Even though this Easter is quiet, it is not private; it is good news for the world that God love. Across the background of shrill and clanging noises of our geopolitical world, the quiet revolutionary act of God in the resurrection changes everything and gives us hope and energy for our lives in this world and the next.
Some of my grief at letting go is amply comforted by the good news that there is still meaningful work of love for me to do. Jesus shares this new life with me by showing me how and where I am to bring good news to the world. Initially Mary Magadalene was not an important person to to her world. As a woman, as someone not attached to an important man, in the cultural scheme of things she was negligible. Jesus changes all that, even through the quiet morning of resurrection, by including and empowering her to be a Light-bearer for the goodness of God in Christ. Quietly, I celebrate in gratitude the power of the resurrection–to change the rules, to let go and to let me blossom!