Standing six feet apart. Trying to breathe with a mask on. Is my sneeze from allergies or from the virus? 1,681,964 confirmed coronavirus cases world-wide. 102,026 deaths world-wide.
Resurrection…Where? How? Wishful thinking? What is true and eternal?
Last Saturday morning Jennifer and I were sitting in our living room talking, while the morning sun touched the carpet at our feet. We talked about whether our daughter Andie would make it home from California. What if our son Ro had an asthma attack, should we take him to a hospital or take our chances at home? How vulnerable is my mom living with us at 81 years of age? What is our role in the church? Are we doing enough? The morning sun moved through the room, quiet and unnoticed.
I looked outside our window at the ancient spruce tree growing in our front yard. A mother was with her young daughter, just a toddler. The child was looking up into the boughs of the tree with pure delight, awe and wonder. Her vibrant smile radiated joy. What was this little girl looking at? What did she see that we did not?
Jennifer and I ran outside to greet mother and daughter. “Your little girl’s joy is so beautiful. We just had to come see her.” We said hello to the toddler, but she was too lost in wonder, love, and grace to notice us. Her mom smiled and said, “Yeah, someone forgot to give her the message.”
What is the message? What is the narrative that we live and share with ourselves, our family, our community and the world this Easter? Is love stronger than death? Does the coronavirus have the final word or is there life after it? Can we rise?
In the Gospel of Mark, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome arrive at the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. The tomb is empty, and an angel tells them not to be afraid for He has risen. Their response? “They ran away from the tomb frightened out of their wits. They said nothing to a soul, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:5-8). Father Richard Rohr says, “running from resurrection” has been common ever since that first Easter morning. There is the human temptation “to run from and deny not just the divine presence, but our own true selves.”
We run from our souls. Our dreams. Our hopes. Our identity. We run from joy, peace, wonder, and beauty. Rohr says, “Resurrection offers us a future. One that is unknown and thus scary.” So, we cling to the familiar even if it harms us or no longer serves us or society. “It is easier to gather our energy around death, pain, and potential problems than around love, joy, and new life.” What do we hold on to? What do we cling to? Can we let go and enter into new life?
That precious child looked up into the old spruce tree and saw something amazing, wonderful, and awe-inspiring. She was so enchanted she couldn’t move. What did she see? As we grow older “we have to be taught or reminded how to look for anything infinite, positive, or good.” Fear, negativity, and death seem to grab us and hold our attention more so than love.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve read books, or I’ve had discussions about the problems of evil. The number of nights I’ve spent tossing and turning over what’s wrong or could go wrong. These are valid and necessary conversations. Yet, I agree with Rohr that a much more “confounding and astounding issue is the problem of good.” How do we account for so much gratuitous and sheer goodness in this world? How do we account for so many people willing to risk their lives during this pandemic to save the life of a friend or a stranger?
Easter is the celebration of new life. Resurrection. Goodness. Hope.
What do we see this Easter? Yes, there is sickness, death, and hardship all around us. We need to see it, feel it, and grieve it; and, we also need to see compassion, kindness, and gentleness. We need to experience resurrection. Is love greater than death?
The Guatemalan poet Julia Esquivel wrote:
Join us in this vigil
And you will know what it is to dream!
Then you will know how marvelous it is
To live threatened with Resurrection!
May we acknowledge our fears, our pains, our grief, and our uncertainties and may we also live lives “threatened with Resurrection!”
May God’s spirit be with us.