Instead of the End – the Beginning

The Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Elizabeth Eaton offers these words:

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb. So begins the Easter story in the Gospel according to Matthew. The women had lived through the pain of Friday and the emptiness of Saturday and were expecting death. All of their hope had come to a dead end. And just then, as the first day of the week was dawning, hope was restored. The angel said, “Do not be afraid; I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here: for he has been raised, as he said.”
 
Instead of death – life. Instead of the end – the beginning.
 
On Easter, we will have glorious celebrations in our congregations and worshiping communities. There will be rejoicing and music and flowers and alleluias. And that’s a good thing. But when the flowers fade and the pressures of life seem so heavy, when the brokenness of this world breaks our spirits, when we have come to a dead end … rejoice. Because it is exactly there where the risen Christ meets us. It is precisely there where we are given resurrection life. It is at that point that we say, “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Hallelujah.”

The cries of resurrection can still be heard on the mountaintops. Thanks be to God! From the mountaintops we travel to the upper room where the disciples have hidden themselves out of fear. There, Jesus appears. A week later, disciples are still in the upper room. There, Jesus appears. It will be on the beach, where a campfire is tended, that Jesus will appear to his disciples and feed them breakfast. There around the warmth and light of the fire, the light of the world, will ignite a flame in the disciples that will inspire the world.

Instead of death – life. Instead of the end – the beginning.

I read this reflection before the great celebration of Easter. It has carried me forward since we began the celebration of these great 50 days of resurrection. It is entitled Setting Out Once Again by Kelly Hall and Phuc Luu:

Out of the stale darkness, he rises into the light, bright rays of sun split the tops of trees, and clouds depart and blue fills the sky – the smell of angels lingers in the air – his hair feels the cool breeze again. This was not the garden, but a new world made from the eruption of hope and a life that could not be held down. We were witnesses to the life that rose from the dead. God’s relentless love, who comes close to us moving stones from tombs opening the heart to another possibility, death no longer stands. My heart races in my chest as I step forward to face the future, my future, that I grasp with open hands with new naiveté, a child toward a mother to be held and lifted up, and cradled with care. At times, I hesitate and I grasp onto memories of what once was but I know that I am not alone in my apprehension. I feel the hands of others holding me. These are my sisters, my brothers, who are not strangers to my fears and frailties, who have also confronted a hope that frightens them – who can feel their own scars, both fresh and old, they step in pace with me – the weeping women at the gravesite, the scared disciples waiting in the upper room.
 
This is our future, where we walk together toward our new home built by the hands of a wounded king – the new Zion, forsaking the kingdoms marked by borders and divides where all our settlements are only temporary shelters, sanctuaries of rest for the wounded and weary. Then the Christ returns to visit us, as Galilee’s boats pull to shore, these places seem familiar – the lapping water and the sand, but we are not to return to these lands, not those dreams – but become pilgrims, to set our belongings in another home, to wash our sandy feet in some other place, to lay down our tired souls on a distant promise, quilted from both the today and the tomorrow.
 
And we dine as a day sees another setting sun sitting across from each other once again – seeing each sweet face laughing deeply feeling whole once more. And we see the Savior’s smile, he knows our journey’s end and pours us another cup full of his own love and this time, our eyes tell him that we understand.

Thanks be to God!  See you in church,
Rev. Christian Marien

(This article is taken from Ascension’s May 2017 newsletter).