I recently wrote a devotional for the CBWC’s Kitsilano Christian Community Lenten booklet. I wrote on Easter Sunday and had a 450 word limit. I took 1150 words the first time round and 630 the second. The editors were patient. Attached is the full length piece which is offered in hopes that it might re-affirm your walk with Christ as we all come to celebrate His resurrection this Easter morning.
Christ is Risen
He is Risen Indeed
Christ is Risen
He is Risen Indeed
I wait all year to say those words, to hear them from others and to repeat them over and over all Easter day long. There is no more wonderful, mysterious or powerful greeting. No greater cause for celebration. It is a burst of joy that needs no apology, no modifying for the moment, no accommodation to the deadly boredom of muted emotion. There are many things I do not understand, grasp nor comprehend in this journey of faith, but this I seize on. “Christ is Risen” and in Him and with Him I shall too. I stand with Karl Jung who, when asked near the end of his life whether he believed in God, replied “No I do not believe, I know. I may believe a great many things but I am very particular on what I say I know. This I know, that on the third day Christ rose from the dead.”
I am also very particular about whose voice I wish to hear in scripture on this matter. There is a veritable chorus of people to choose from, but it is the company of Mary Magdalene whose company I most often keep on this Easter day.
“Mary stood weeping outside the tomb” begins in a place I often find myself; overcome by the circumstances of the moment I can be blinded to the God who is present. Sometimes, as in Mary’s loss, there is every reason to be overcome. Edward Murrow once wrote “for some things there are no words.” I would add no words, just tears. Mary has that wonderful encounter with the angels in the empty tomb. As western intellectual pride has tried to out enlighten the Enlightenment Christians have often exchanged mystery for the mundane. I’ve never met an angel. I know those who have. I believe their experiences even though I have not shared them.
Mary has another experience that I deeply cherish. An experience that while I was not present for it, it is mine, as if I was there that day. Like Mary, I often natter on about how someone has hidden Jesus from me (v. 13b – 15). It is a blame game which would be humorous if it didn’t look like a simplistic theological version of “Where’s Waldo?” Mary really wants to know where Jesus is and in her tears, pain and flailing cannot see Him. I love Mary and her story for this. It is a measure of her genuine search and love for Jesus that when she does apprehend him, she responds in joy. I have often searched, not wanting to find. I know many like myself. I know few like Mary. It is what happens next that overwhelms Mary and overwhelms me each time I read it. Jesus says just one word. Mary. She is known by Jesus and in his call to her she knows the resurrection personally, powerfully and completely.
Mary’s gift to us is that she makes this mysterious event real, intimate and touching personal. She seeks Jesus openly and without reservation. She is not bound by the mediocrity of metaphor. She is not tempted by a triumphalism that is blinded to the peril and pain of our world. Many would have enjoyed the Dali Lama’s response to the question “Can you be a Christian and a Buddhist?” to which he diplomatically and soundly replied “at some point you will need to choose between re-incarnation and resurrection.” Or N.T. Wright, when he states that the bodily resurrection of Jesus is a clear and new concept in ancient and modern thought. Wright suggests its uniqueness has a powerful and simple truth: Christ is indeed risen. Despite all their declarations, it is Jesus calling Mary by name that touches me. He has called me by name too. It is in the intimacy of that naming that calls me to the joy of resurrection this Easter Sunday morning.
John Updike is compelling in selections from his Seven Stanzas at Easter.
Make no mistake
if he rose at all
it was as his body:
if the cells dissolution did not reverse, the
molecules reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as his Spirit in the mouths and
fuddled eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as his flesh; ours.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages;
let us walk through the door.
In previous years, on the night before Easter Sunday, I would go down to the place where we were going to celebrate the Sunrise Service at the Planetarium. In the dark. By myself. To pray. I would pray for Kerry, Jessica, and Andrew. I would pray for many of us at Kits church. I would pray for the city spread out before me and I would pray for the world under the canopy of that night sky. Then I would wait in the silence, in the dark, and experience the senseless empty dark, the soul scouring silence of this world and my life without Christ risen. I would breathe it in. Shudder at the emptiness. And go home to wait the morning.
Never was Easter so met in me then when I took Mary’s story in John and replaced her name with my own. I heard and experienced Jesus calling out “Jeremy.” It is a very emotional exercise to imagine and experience. While “Christ is risen” now rises from my heart each day, not just on Easter day, it is in this time and place that “Christ is risen” arises from every fibre of my being as in no other day.
Lord, You are risen, risen in full form; spirit, body and glory. I thank You for the gift that You are. I ask that this gift, this full gospel of redemptive change and renewal would come to me this day, to me Lord, to our family, friends, church community and world. May I always remember the fullness of who You are. Might I recall Augustine: “My heart is restless until it finds its rest in You.”
In Christ’s name,