Meditation on This Week's Gospel
by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010:
First Reading: Acts 10:34-43
First Reading (Alt.): Isaiah 65:17-25
Psalm: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Second Reading (Alt.): Acts 10:34-43
Gospel: Luke 24:1-12
Gospel (Alt.): John 20:1-18
I've talked to many people who seem a bit amazed at how fast this season of Lent has zoomed by us. I've talked to several people who don't feel ready for Easter at all. Are we ever ready for Easter?
Some years feel more difficult than others. In the past year, we've lost some pastors who were vital parts of our Florida-Bahamas Synod, and I suspect our Synod isn't alone. And that mortality seems to echo the mortality of our larger church, as many of us have spent the past year wrestling with the actions of our larger ELCA. And in recent weeks, we've seen explosions in the Catholic church, as more allegations of sexual abuse and cover up come to light. It cannot bring us glee, if we're thinking people, to see these struggles, which may leave the larger Church broken and bleeding.
If we're lucky enough to have been spared from natural disaster ourselves, we've likely looked on in horror as other parts of our world have suffered horribly. If we're thinking people at all, we have to realize how precarious is our existence on the surface of our planet, that surface which looks stable, but we know that forces are rumbling underneath.
Every Holy Week brings us knowledge of fellow parishioners who struggle with disease or impending death. Every non-Holy Week probably does too, but during Holy Week, as we hear about the Passion of Jesus, our mortal struggles take on a poignancy that might not be there otherwise, if we didn't have that backdrop of readings and hymns in our heads.
Maybe you say to yourself that you're still in that Ash Wednesday space. Maybe you ask, "How can we celebrate Easter with the taste of ashes still in our mouths?"
Hear that Easter message again. Know that God is working to redeem creation in ways that we can't always see and don't often understand. But we get glimpses of it.
The earth commits to resurrection this time of year. Green sprouts shoot out from hard earth everywhere. Each spring, we are reminded of the cyclical nature of the world, which can bring us hope in the times in which we suffer. This, too, shall pass.
The social justice goals of past generations have come to fruition. We may be seeing ravaged populations today, but in a decade or two, we may see healing. Imagine going back to 1987 and telling everyone you saw that the Wall would soon come down, that the Soviet Union would soon be no more, and the world's stockpile of nuclear weapons would soon be reduced. No one would believe you. And yet we know it happened. We can pray for a similar outcome in the Congo.
We know that sometimes our bodies can produce miracles. We convince the cancer not to kill us this year. Damaged wombs can bring forth children. We abuse our physical selves with too much exercise or too much drink or too much smoke, but to our surprise, our bodies can heal.
But maybe we see those examples of resurrection as random and capricious. We taste the ash in our mouths. If we've heard the Easter story (and the Holy Week stories) again and again, we tend to forget the miraculous nature of them. Maybe we're tempted to downplay them even. Maybe we're beaten down and tired (tired of praying that the insurance company gets its act together before the next hurricane season starts, tired of praying for health and people getting sicker, tired of praying for peace in the world which never seems to come), too beaten down and tired to believe in miracles anymore.
Resist that pull towards despair, which some have called the deadliest sin, even worse than pride. We have seen miracles with our own eyes: Nelson Mandela walks out of jail to claim his place as president, for example; peace in Northern Ireland; peace in some parts of Eastern Europe. We're often too shy or scared to run out of our gardens to tell everyone else what we've seen, what we know.
But we must remember we are a Resurrection People. Commit yourself to new life. Rinse the ashes out of your mouth with the Eucharist bread and wine. Celebrate the miracles.