What has Easter begun in you? – Mary-Anne Rulfs

What has Easter begun in you?

This Sunday we meet the risen Jesus sharing a bbq on the beach with his friends (according to Luke).

Last Sunday we experienced the risen Jesus appearing to frightened disciples who were hiding out in a room with closed doors (according to John).

On Easter Sunday, we had the option of reading Mark’s resurrection account (as we did at Palm Beach), encountering Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James arriving at the empty tomb to anoint Jesus with spices. Onlookers during Jesus’ death and burial, the women become central figures in this resurrection account.

They had looked on as Jesus’ body was taken by Joseph of Arimethea to this tomb late on Friday, and saw the stone being rolled across the entrance, to stop intruders.   Their question, as they approached the tomb on Sunday morning, implies they were expecting things to be as they left them, 36 hours ago, before the Sabbath.

‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’

I have no doubt that these women, used to manual work, could have rolled the stone along its track if necessary! So the point of their question wasn’t ‘what will we do?’ – rather, ‘we know the stone was in place!’.

But it wasn’t! It had been rolled back. The tomb was empty!

Such a surprise! Understandably, they are afraid. These are dangerous times.

Mark tells us a young man, (perhaps an angel?), told the women that Jesus’ body was not there – he had been raised. The particular tense of the Greek here conveys this meaning: God raised Jesus from the dead.

Go, tell the others, and head to Galilee. Jesus will meet you there.

As Jesus did. Along with hundreds of others, Paul tells us.  

It seems to me the stone was never the problem.

What was problematic was that God’s son had died, his mission seemed doomed, and the disciples had forgotten what was evident all along …

All along, everything pointed to the reality that the God of the universe who had broken into human history was only ever about life.

The beautiful prologue to John’s gospel reads:

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things came into being through him,

and without him not one thing came into being.

What has come into being in him was life and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness did not overtake it.

The life of God moved the stone, life that is only ever love, seasoned with grace.

Could it be that we focus on stone-like problems in our own lives? Perhaps what we really need is not help to roll back a stone, but a shift of our gaze and turn of our heart towards life, death and resurrection – the pattern of life from the beginning, authored by the divine life-giver and light-bearer. 

We get so fixated on problem-solving. 

Shifting our gaze from things we can’t change and relaxing our grip on controlling what isn’t ours to control can free us to see and do what’s life-giving, rather than expedient.  I’m not suggesting that when big stuff comes our way we ignore our responsibilities, rather, that we ensure we’re focussing on what really matters …

trusting that God continues to be present and visible,

not absent and invisible;

trusting that Jesus – life-giver and light-bearer – is alive, not dead;

and trusting that the whole of life is bathed with the grace of God.

One of Mary Oliver’s poems describes this well:  

It was early, which has always been my hour to begin looking at the world

and of course, even in the darkness, to begin listening into it,

especially under the pines where the owl lives and sometimes calls out

as I walk by, as he did on this morning. So many gifts!

What do they mean?  In the marshes where the pink light was just arriving

the mink with his bristle tail was stalking the soft-eared mice,

and in the pines the cones were heavy, each one ordained to open.

Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed…

Dear pine cone, let me hold you as you open.

I wonder … where is your gaze, your attention, today?

On the stone?

Or on the risen Christ, who meets us, even today?

What are you being invited to hold and appreciate and nurture?

What is opening up in your life?

The apostle Paul, whose life as a follower of Jesus was very much an experience of persecution, reminds Christians in Corinth of the good news, that in Jesus’ death and resurrection, our sin is carried and we receive our wholeness. While there’s no guarantee of an easy life, there is the promise of the life that really is life.

Paul tells us in other places that our life in Christ is to be cared for and nurtured, which happens best in community. 

God’s very being is relationship – a divine dance where Father, Son and Holy Spirit commune in the same space in love.  Being Christian is always about reflecting this trinitarian life of God in loving community. 

As the organised church declines in numbers and Christian community becomes more fragmented and individualised, we could view this as a stone that needs rolling away.  But what if we re-focus on Jesus being present in our world and our lives, and respond to his invitation – command actually – to love?  What might happen?

What if, as Christian community, we live and worship together in a kind of holy loving, grace-filled dance, always making room for others to join in? and being willing to join with others?

Bp Tom Wright says:

Easter is about the wild delight of God’s creative power… shouting Alleluias instead of murmuring them; lighting every candle, not just some; every man, woman, child, cat and dog should have a candle to hold; we should have a real bonfire; and we should splash water about as we renew our baptismal vows. Easter is about the real Jesus coming out of the real tomb and getting God’s real new creation under way.

Scott Peck wrote years ago:

Jesus didn’t command us to like each other.

Jesus’ command was to love one another.

To be with others you like is a club or clique.

To be with others you love is community. 

Dr Brene Brown’s research shows that we cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honour the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

“Love is … something we nurture and grow, a connection that can be cultivated between people when it exists within them. That is, we love others only as much as we love ourselves.”  

We need more real love”, she says.

“Gritty, dangerous, wild-eyed, justice-seeking love.”

It was real love that moved the stone at the tomb.

Gritty, dangerous, wild-eyed, justice-seeking love.

Love seasoned with grace. 

Let’s nurture wild, justice-seeking love as a Christian community making the risen Christ possible for others who have lost heart with the church, their families, life, or with themselves. Perhaps people who will be interested in joining our new Sunday conversation group at Palm Beach – Church for Doubters and the Pissed-off. Perhaps people who would like to join our craft groups or Community Connect or young adults group.

On Easter Day, Palm Beach parishioners brought a pot plant to place at the altar – to represent our ‘community garden of people’.  We’ll nurture these plants throughout the season of Easter, and give them away when we celebrate Pentecost.

A gift of grace.

An expression of love.

The embodiment of the cycle of life present from creation.

A symbol of Jesus’ risen life and the life of the Spirit, here and now.

Easter is a time for new possibilities, fresh focus.

Taking our eyes off the stone and onto the life of God in the risen Christ. Bringing something of Easter into our innermost life.

What will that look and feel like?

What has Easter begun in you?

Grace and peace,