Saturday, April 19, 2014

Returning Light

Easter Sunrise 2014
The surprise is inside.

For many of us, this is way too early.

If you are a night owl like me, this sunrise stuff is for the birds.
The birds seems to be the only ones who truly enjoy this moment of the day.
My dog gets up way too early, also.
If the windows in the dining room are up a crack and he can hear the birds chirping, then my day starts way too early. "Brutus, hush it! It's just birds. Hush!"

Are the women heading to the tomb on that morning actually "morning people", or are they just weary with grief? There is nothing else to do. They didn't sleep well. Maybe they didn't sleep at all. It seems like they were just at the tomb, watching the stone being rolled into place and sealed with the dead inside. Scripture says they have arrived at the tomb early in the morning. Mark says just after sunrise. John says it was still dark outside. Either way, it's early. Mark's gospel says they are discussing amongst themselves about how they are going to or who is going to roll the stone away. They don't have much light. How will they see well enough to know what they are doing? Who is strong enough to move the gigantic stone? There is nothing to do at home. If they can't move the stone, see the dead, know he is there, then maybe just being at the tomb will be consolation enough. 

John's gospel says it is Mary, all by herself, coming early in the morning, before there is light. 
Well, she certainly couldn't have moved any large stone all by herself. So, why is she coming? The one thing that has brought her any joy and peace in this world has been stolen away. He has been laid in a tomb, dead now. When a light goes out in the world, a void is left to be filled. The only way Mary knows how to deal with it is come to the place where she has last seen him. The grave.

But, as she arrives, the grave is not as it should be.
The stone covering the entrance has been rolled away.
Who could have done this? Did some soldiers come and do this? Did they take the body somewhere else? As if actually seeing him die wasn't enough. Now, someone has taken his body away to who knows where.

That's all is takes to send Mary back home, running. 
What kind of thoughts would be going through your mind if the grave of a loved one had been violated, the body missing? Maybe there are no words or thoughts for that moment. Some atrocities leave us speechless. Mary's only thought is to go and get someone. She finds someone else near and dear to her Savior's heart.

We don't know what the disciples were doing that morning. Why didn't any of them rise early and make a pilgrimage to the tomb? Maybe the grief is too much. The memories too real. Some people have no problem paying their respects. Some were too close to the situation to bear the idea of coming any closer. For whatever reason, they are not present, and Mary has to find them.

The gospel account lays out for us several flash pan moments. The women go to the tomb. Mary runs back, makes an announcement. The disciples run to the tomb. I want to put it in respects of the morning routine. If you're an early riser, you've probably had your coffee. You're sitting at the table when the news comes and in an instant you drop everything to go and see what has happened. That fits the gospel narrative. The disciples had dropped everything once before in order to follow. If you're a night owl, the news comes and you shrug it away like the dog barking at the birds in the morning. "You're kidding right? We watched him be wrapped in cloths and put in a tomb. Go away. I'm not lifting my head off this pillow just because you're yapping about some crazy notion like my dog yaps at birds in the morning. Go back to bed!"

As a kid I couldn't wait to get up for the Easter Egg Hunt.
Next to Christmas there is no moment of sensation greater than getting a basket full of eggs which in turn are full of candy. In my adult years the glory of the moment has faded. There was one moment when I was 28. My first Easter with my girlfriend's family. My future mother-in-law goes and get me a tackle box. Upon opening the box I find that she has filled every compartment with candy of all sorts, kinds and colors. And, I do mean every single compartment, tray, nook and cranny had some sort of candy in it. It was a grand gesture from a woman who specialized in doing the amazing. For some reason I wasn't impressed. I was 28 and I had outgrown the candy craze of Easter. (Amazing what 14 years does to a person. Now, I can't stay out of my kids candy baskets.) I was in a drab and dreary place in my life. I had found the great girl, but I had recently moved in Southern Ohio. I was in unfamiliar surroundings. I didn't know anybody. I really didn't know these people very well. I was having trouble finding a job. I had no money. At that moment in my life I was in between denominations and I did not have a real place I could call home. The idea of a candy filled fishing tackle box did not immediately brighten my day.

Sometimes, the miracle of resurrection takes a while to burn through the darkness surrounding our lives. Upon entering the tomb, there is not immediate jubilation. There is amazement. That can be clearly seen. Some of the accounts say that angels are seen, outside or inside the tomb. John's account is firsthand. He saw it with his own eyes. Touched it with his own hands. He says nothing about angels. Just the emptiness and the wonder. An empty tomb where they laid their Messiah to rest. Cloths strewn across the slab. Jaws dropped in wonderment. Could it really be?

The disciples go home. Their heads are full and the hearts are wondering.
Mary, however, has not seen enough. She needs answers. She needs closure on the moment.
Her heart hurts and her head is aching. "What have they done with him?"

Some one who she assumes is a gardener appears.
"Tell me", she cries, "where have they taken him and I will get him."

Have you picked up the phone at home and not even needed the person on the other end to introduce themselves. In this day of caller ID, the surprise and joy is snuffed out a bit. The voice on the other end can still bring us happiness. I bit of joy in the midst of a day of sadness and gloom. I imagine that's what it might have been like for Mary. If your eyes have ever been full of tears, then seeing is not important. Dealing with the grief and pain is. For Mary, the only thing that does it, that cures the aching heart is the still small voice.


At that moment, the light returned.
How many of us just need a sign, a message, nothing big or monumental. Just a voice.
That would be enough. A bit of direction. A moment to know that it will be OK.

Again, she goes and tracks down the disciples.
Again, she has amazing news.
Everything is going to be alright. Jesus is alive.

It wasn't as bad as we first imagined. The outcome looked bleak. The road ahead was thought to be unbearable. The road ahead of me at 28, I thought I couldn't go on. But, I did. The next 14 years was a husk of corn that needed to be shelled one pull at time till all the silk was cleaned off and the road ahead was much clearer to see. Your springtime lies ahead of you. Seeds need to be planted. Ground needs to be tilled. What will it bring? What will you face? What will happen? Good? Bad?

You don't know till you open the egg and see what's inside.
Whatever it brings, listen. And, the joy comes in the morning.

Psalm 30:5

For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but joy comes in the morning.

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