The End that Wasn't

In Awe of Grace

Easter Sunday, Year A

You will see him, that’s the message of Easter. You will see him, the living one, the alive one, him. And in that seeing, you’ll be able to breathe deeply again. Happy Easter.

This is it. The end of the line. Our journey is complete. We began Lent by wandering in the wilderness, acknowledging our hungers. We encountered Jesus on the way. We came to him by night for a confusing conversation about claiming life, and a promise of love that we cling to even in our darkness. Especially in our darkness. We met him in the middle of our day, when we hoped we wouldn’t be noticed, and he told us everything we had ever done, and he loved us anyway. So, we ran and told everyone we knew, even those we had hoped to avoid by going to the well at noon. We felt him rubbing mud on our eyes so that we could see what we had never seen before, and whole new vistas opened up before us, and even though those around us couldn’t see what we saw and doubted that we were anything other than the blind one we had been before, we reveled in the light that he brought into our lives. Then the stone we had been hiding behind, the stone that blocked our way forward, that cut off our air, crushed our hope, was rolled away at his command; and we walked forth, blinking in the light of life. He did that for us, we remembered. We wept tears of joy and hope; we clung to him, wanting to stop and dwell, to set up camp, to just be. He wouldn’t stop.

He kept moving forward, and we went with him, not wanting the light to dim, not wanting the life to fade. We went with him, waving our palms and shouting with joy and with hope, “Hosanna. Save us. Claim us. Want us; we are yours, for now and always, yours.” He rode on our carpet of many colors as we cast our coats before him. He acknowledged our shouts and promises of allegiance with a sadness we couldn’t grasp. Our joy was real. Our commitment was deep. We were his. He kept moving.

We sat at the table as he lifted the bread. He told us it was him. The bread, somehow, was him. His body, broken into as many pieces as we needed, would need, now and into eternity. We ate with clouded eyes and confused minds. He was here, right here with us. Why did we need this bread to be him? The cup he raised, giving thanks for the fruit of the vine and the sweetness we would drink, then he gave it to us and said to drink, because it was him. His blood, his very life, poured out, as though a sword had pierced his side, flowing down to cover us, to cover our sin, all that would keep us from him, from clinging to him, as we had just promised we would. We drank, tasting the bitter and the sweet, the pain and the promise both. It burned all the way down as we gazed into his eyes and heard his words of the betrayal to come. We prayed with him in the garden at night, tried to stay awake to comfort him, but sleep overcame us, and we left him alone to rail against the night and succumb to the will of the one who sent him.

We walked with him when they came, with swords and clubs, with hatred and fear. We walked with him as they tore him away from us, beat him, and abused him. We walked with him as they laid on him a sentence of death, a cross of shame. We walked with ... No, no we didn’t. We wanted to. We thought we did; we promised we would. But it was our fear that tripped us up again. How many times had he told us not to be afraid? And we deserted him in this hour; we denied him; we betrayed him. And now, he walks alone, down those palm-strewn streets, out to the hill; and he gave himself up for us. And the world wept and shook as the darkness descended.

And now here we are. The end of the line. Nowhere left to go. It is as if a conductor has announced the last stop, and we shuffle to the exit with no destination in mind. We stumble blindly in our personal darkness, wondering what happened to hope. We gasp for the breath that now escapes us, as though we had just run a marathon and can’t breathe without feeling the pain of our exertion, desperately needing the wind to blow, the air to fill our lungs again. But there is nothing. A stillness. An emptiness. It presses down on us, a weight too heavy for us to bear. All we can think of is death. His death, and ours. He carried us with him when he went. When he breathed his last, he took the air out of our lungs. And now we lie, gasping for life, like the fish we caught that day when he found us and sent us out into the deep water. All those fish. Dead. Like us.

When we can think of nothing but death, where else should we go? We head to the cemetery. Just to look. Just to see. To see the only reality we know anymore. The only certainty we have. Death. His death, and ours. So, we go. Just to look.

What did you go to see? The Marys who went sightseeing in the cemetery, what did they go to see? Death, tombs, stones, and shrouds. They went to weep at the end. The end of the line, nowhere else to go. Nothing else to hope. Just ... death. And life surprised them again. Not a quiet, unassuming life. Not a gentle fluttering of doves. But the ground shook, the stone rolled, a being of light came and sat on the stone as though it was a royal throne that he was keeping warm for someone else. When he spoke, it was like an organ playing, like strings plucked, notes reverberating through the air. Don’t be afraid. Still those words are said. Our final nemesis isn’t death after all; it’s fear. The fear of death, yes, but the fear of abandonment, the fear of failure, the fear of disappointing the one we love more than life itself. We are gripped by fears too many to name, crippling us, binding us, limiting us in ways we barely comprehend. “Don’t be afraid,” the being of light sang to us. Don’t be afraid.

I know, he sang with a smile because he was in on the divine joke, because she was ready with the punchline. I know you seek the dead one. The died one. The killed one. There ain’t such a person at this address. No death here, even in the realm of the dead. No one by that name, Jesus the dead one. Unable to forward, person unknown. The orchestra sitting on the stone could barely contain the laughter. But, she chuckled, “if you want Jesus the Risen, I can give you the directions.” “I’m your Google maps,” he slapped his thigh at that one. “I’m your GPS,” she snickered behind a shining hand. Go, the song swells. Go, the strings vibrate, and the horns announce, “Go.”

Go where? Go home. Go home, the place you’ve run from because it bores you. Go home, the place you run to because you think it will keep the world at arm’s length, though it fails to do so on a regular basis. Go home and there you will see him surrounded the familiar that now looks different because he breathed life into you. Surrounded by the ordinary that now crackles with the lightning of divinity, the earthquake of love that is stronger than death. Go home, to the place you felt most alone and know you will never be lonely again. Go and see the world in your backyard. Go and see heaven in the earth you know best.

So, they run because they can’t think of anything else to do, any reason not to. They run full of hope and the fear that simply won’t release its grip on them. On us. We run, with a word. A message. You will see him. You will. See him. Him. Not the dead one, the hung-on-a-cross one, the stripped and beaten and spat-upon one. But the Risen One. The alive one. You’ll see him, where you live, at home.

You will see him, that’s the message of Easter. You will see him, the living one, the alive one, him. And in that seeing, you’ll be able to breathe deeply again. Happy Easter.

In This Series...

Palm/Passion Sunday, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Maundy Thursday, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Good Friday, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Holy Saturday, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Easter Sunday, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes