For many, this Easter season seems a bit underwhelming. Maybe social-distancing has you in a general malaise. Maybe your usual family get-together is becoming a meal of shifts, a drop-off, or is just canceled. Maybe news about the COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming all the other news. Maybe you’re sick, or know someone who is. And maybe you’re life has been disrupted by the loss of a job. In addition there is fear, anger, and many of the stages of grief, as we grieve the loss of the way things were, even the loss of the way we expected to celebrate Easter. We may even admit to ourselves that we’re expecting to be underwhelmed this Easter.
On the Today Show, the morning of Maundy Thursday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan addressed the difference this year in how our practices have been disrupted. And he suggested that this,
“might be an invitation to all to rediscover the genuine mystery and message of what Passover and Easter are all about.” “Most of the time when we celebrate Passover, some of my Jewish friends tell me, or when we Christians celebrate Easter, we’re kind of remembering something that happened long ago. Well, that isn’t bad. It’s good to do that, to remember the Exodus, to remember our Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection. Remembering that isn’t bad. But for both of us as Jews and Christians, the celebrations of our holy days are a lot more than remembering, because we actually re-live them. The Lord asks us to enter into these mysteries and to be absorbed by them and to make them part of our lives which he intends them to be.”
This is why we have a Maundy Thursday worship service, a Good Friday service, and Easter services. We re-tell, re-enact, and re-live the central events of Human History. This is the time when everything changed, when our lives turned upside-down. This is our story.
As the disciples were with Jesus in Jerusalem for the Passover, I’m sure it was strange. They felt Jesus clean their own feet. They heard Jesus say that one of them would betray Him?! They went out after dinner to pray, and Jesus was arrested. Everything seemed to be coming undone. There was a secretive trial at night. Only a few days ago “Hosanna” rang in their ears as crowds praised Jesus as the Messiah, and now the crowds chant “Crucify Him!” They see the great healer beaten and whipped bloody, and raised up on a cross. None of this is what they expected when the week began. The one who raised the son of the widow of Nain, the daughter of Jairus, and Lazarus from the dead, died. The Sun itself stopped shining from noon until 3 in the afternoon. And the temple curtain was torn right down the middle. They must have felt both underwhelmed by what they expected of Jesus, and overwhelmed by how upside-down everything was.
Our Easter experience is very different this year. Underwhelming according to our expectations, and we’re overwhelmed by how wrong this all seems. This year, Easter hits much closer to home.
We need to be delivered.
We need to be saved.
We need everything to be fixed.
Where is God?
We’re tired of being afraid, isolated, and alone.
And this is the very world God sent His Son into. The disciples were grieving, feeling isolated and alone. Everything that happened that Easter was so wrong and upside down. Overwhelmed by grief and circumstance they couldn’t believe the news when the women ran back from the empty room.
The one who hears your every prayer, every sob, and dries every tear has overwhelmed your weakness, your isolation, your brokenness, your fear, your need, and your sin. HE overwhelmed death. God sent His Son to be near us, so that we would never be alone, so that we never have to be afraid, so we wouldn’t suffer death as a final separation from God, so that we could be with Him forever.
This season things seem upside-down. But God, through Jesus, flipped the upside-down right-side-up, and we are restored and guaranteed life in Him. This is our story. It’s overwhelming to be in a place of such need and to know that Jesus came near to keep us near. We can live confident new life in Him right now through our baptism. And just as Jesus’ tomb was empty, so ours’ will be when Jesus comes again.
Christ is Risen!
And so shall we!
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