Easter Sunday: A Dress Rehearsal

by Pastor Vera Guebert-Steward

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Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. 2 Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. 3 His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. 4 The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. 5 Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. 7 And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” 8 The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. 9 And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. (Matthew 28)

Barbara Brown Taylor, in an article she wrote for the Christian Century shares her thoughts about Holy Week. She writes, “It is not Easter yet, but it won’t be long now. The only problem is that we have to walk through a graveyard to get there. Those who do not have the stomach for it will stay home from Palm Sunday through Good Friday, showing up just in time for the trumpets on Easter morning. The rest of us will hang on to each other as we slip past the tombs, telling every resurrection story we can think of.”

Many of you will read this newsletter article before Easter Sunday. I caution you not to get ahead of yourselves. As Matthew writes, Jesus still lies in darkness until early on Sunday morning. But reading this article won’t matter, if you’ve already moved on from the darkness of the tomb long before Jesus even gets there.

Most of us would rather not take a hike through the graveyard. Seems as though they are always placed in rather out of the way places anyway. I’m guessing it’s because people don’t want to be forced to walk through them; they remind us of what we’d rather not remember. We are dust and to dust, one day, we shall return. And yet walking through the darkness and discomfort of death is what makes life and new life so sweet.

Taylor continues: “What we have is a God who resurrects us from the dead, putting an end to it by working through it instead of around it–creating life in the midst of grief, creating love in the midst of loss, creating faith in the midst of despair–resurrecting us from our big and little deaths, showing us by his own example that the only road to Easter morning runs smack through Good Friday.”

I know the joy I feel on Easter Sunday morning, the joy mixed with holy exhaustion, is only a dry run; a dress rehearsal for the big show. What Easter morning reveals to me is a glimpse of the feast of joy with Jesus that is yet to come. I live Holy Week every year knowing that what I experience in this life, the struggles, the challenges, and the pain are offset, even conquered by the hope, peace and joy of Easter morning all of which is only a foretaste of the colossal delight I will experience when I see Jesus face to face; the day of my final resurrection.

Perhaps that’s what practicing resurrection means. Living it again and again, practicing it here and now so that I will “lay claim to the belief that there is power loose in the universe that is stronger than death, stronger even than our fear of death, which is able to call us out of our stinking tombs into the fullness and sweet mystery of life…here and now and for evermore.”

Blessed Holy Week. I hope I greet you first in the graveyard, before I run with you to the empty tomb.