Easter can be a tricky day.
We usually think of it as big and bright and even loud. There are stunning flowers, soaring music, sunlight streaming through the windows. We sing “Alleluia!” and hear words about resurrection and new life.
But what do we do when we’re not feeling big and bright? When we come to Easter with hearts that are heavy, minds that are distracted, spirits that are troubled?
What do we do when we’re unsure about what to make of Easter? Unsure because of what’s going on in the world around us. Unsure because of the anxiety and uncertainty within us.
Maybe words from John’s gospel can help: Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark. . . .
It’s easy to miss how John’s account of the first Easter begins. Our minds automatically skip ahead to how we know things will end: with resurrection, belief, joy.
But in the Fourth Gospel, the resurrection narrative begins while it's still dark. And it unfolds through a series of small steps, small discoveries that reveal a path out of that darkness.
At each stage in this story, something new is revealed. Mary, along with Simon Peter and the beloved disciple, makes small discoveries. And each small step leads closer to the mystery of Easter.
Mary doesn’t recognize resurrection all at once. It’s a process that unfolds in each new experience and as the focus moves from the tomb toward the world. The full recognition then dawns as Mary encounters Jesus and hears him call her name.
It seems to me that we also recognize resurrection gradually. We come to realize the possibility of new life, not all at once, but through small steps of discovery. We come to understand the mystery of Easter, not by focusing on an empty tomb, but by looking away from that grave toward the world. We come to recognize the power of resurrection when we notice the small signs of hope, of new beginnings, of transformation around us.
On this Easter, where do we see signs that point to the power of resurrection?
I’m guessing we’ve each noticed such signs in stories about people reaching out to others during these challenging days of the pandemic.
Stories of people ordering meals from local restaurants to be delivered to hospital staffs or first responders. Stories of people singing for their neighbors from their balconies or porches or front lawns. Stories of people creating signs and banners to let others know they’re not alone or forgotten.
And, of course, stories of people who staff our hospitals—from nurses and doctors to janitors and food service personnel. Stories of EMTs and paramedics, of fire fighters and police officers. Stories of grocery store and pharmacy employees, of delivery drivers and utility workers, of teachers and social workers. Stories of these and so many others who risk their own well-being in order to care for others.
We also could share other stories. Stories about the resurrections we’ve experienced in our own lives.
Stories about when someone reached out to us—through a note or a phone call or a touch on the arm—just when we felt most alone. Stories about when some tiny sign of hope—in the beauty of nature, the laughter of a child, or a song on the radio—touched our hearts when we were sure they were too numb to feel anything except despair. Stories about times when we thought that God had deserted us, only to discover that God was finding us anew—that God was calling our name.
During this Easter season, I invite you to join me in taking small steps of discovery. Steps that will lead us to the place where we may see evidence of resurrection. Where we may experience the transformation of God’s love. Where we may hear our name being called.