April 4, 2021: Easter Sunday
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
This is the joyful day we’ve been waiting for during the long purple season of Lent. It’s the day when we feel the anticipation of hope fulfilled, when we can shout “alleluia” with joy, when we follow the women to find the empty tomb. It’s my favorite day of the year, because this day is the day that we celebrate Christ’s utter and complete victory over death and the grave, because the tomb was empty and he was not there! Last night we shot off fireworks to celebrate this truth, and today we hear hymns of praise and gather with families, seeing the hope of new life on the horizon just as much in the hope of the resurrection as in the hope of a world renewed by freedom from the specter of the pandemic.
But there’s a curious detail in our gospel reading that we are reminded of every three years. Mark is a bit of an odd duck as far as the gospels go, and one of the strangest parts of how he retells the amazing story of Jesus’ resurrection, his triumph over the grave, his bursting the bonds of death, is a very noticeable lack of Jesus showing up in the story.
April 3, 2021: Easter Vigil
We meet Mary, like we do every year, at the tomb of Jesus. She’s there after the tragic and difficult events of the last few days. This rock of Jesus’ ministry, the patroness who supported her teacher and his disciples for three years while he preached and healed, had seen just how wrong everything had gone. The triumphal entry into Jerusalem had soured. The crowd had been whipped into a frenzy against him. The governor had chosen fear over justice. Her teacher, her lord, her friend, was crucified—the most shameful death imaginable. And because of the Sabbath, she had to wait before she could go to his tomb to grieve.
And things just kept getting worse. After the world rapidly collapsed around her over the last few days, the one thing that should have been stable and reliable wasn’t. Jesus’ body was missing from his own tomb! Someone, some enemy of Jesus’ mission, had plundered his grave and was taking away the one thing she had left of her teacher—a place to grieve. I think we can feel that grief pretty well this year, in ways that we were only just starting to understand a year ago.
April 1, 2021: Maundy Thursday
One of the many books that we read with Hazel is a book called “What is love, Biscuit?” Now, Biscuit is a little yellow puppy who belongs to this little girl; the two of them are the main characters of the story. And this early reader’s book repeats the same question on each page: “what is love, Biscuit?” And a reply is always there: it’s the soft blanket the cat uses to warm its kittens. It’s the crunchy cookies we bake with Dad. It’s the warm woolen blanket Grandma knits. It’s the sweet kisses Biscuit shares with the little girl. Love is this nice, warm thing that makes everyone feel nice.
We explore the idea of love a lot in our culture. It’s a feeling between two people that makes a relationship last, the kind of love that gets repeated in weddings and in romantic movies and shows up on Hallmark cards. Love is the warmth of a truly supportive friendship, the trust you build with a person who’ll be with you through thick and thin and always has your back. Love is the constant bedrock of family, even when you don’t like everyone all the time. Love gets thousands of songs and poems and movies, all trying to present a particular way of understanding love. But what happens when we ask Jesus what love is?
March 21, 2021
Over the last few weeks, it’s been getting warmer. Last weekend was amazing, to the point that we got in several good walks and Hazel got to play on the playground without having to worry about the snow. All that warm weather got me thinking about the summer and gardening, and planning out what I’d like to grow. I imagine at least some of y’all who have gardens are also starting to think about that—or maybe you’re like my neighbor and are already getting your seedlings started indoors. In the midst of thinking about that, this phrase that Jesus says about a seed falling to the earth stuck with me.
Because think about how planting something works. You put the seed into the ground, and quickly enough there’s something green that comes up. The two little leaves poking up are a pleasant reminder of the return of life in any garden—but then there’s the long wait for the fruit. You plant your tomatoes or your beans or your corn, and for a good chunk of the summer, it’s just greenery. Even the fruit that gets put on seems to take forever to actually ripen! Can you imagine what it would be like if you had never experienced growing food before?