Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Really? What about this year?
It was Holy Saturday, that in-between day. The previous day was the day of horror and the day following, Resurrection Day, would bring with it a complete reversal. I spent the in-between day wondering, what is the message needing to be spoken this Easter and would that message stir my soul? I would not be “going to” church like I did last year, and I would not be serving dinner to others at my own little table. There would be no live, big music and no big table communion. My beloved Community of Faith would not be standing shoulder to shoulder in the same place. (Sigh) I knew of course that whatever message I was waiting for would not, in the blink of an eye, bring a magical end the pandemic.
So, I took my wonderings out to wander along the river path outside my apartment. As I moved along, I became enveloped in a Spirited reminder of the power of Easter. It rang through the trees, was vocalized by the shorebirds, flowed along on the river and breathed life into my soul. The message this year is the reminder that even, and especially, amid this crisis, Resurrection Day is every bit what it has been since Mary’s experience at the tomb of Jesus. The message is that Christ is risen. The God of life has had the last word!
In my awakening, I lifted my eyes off the dirt path and realized that I was seeing my neighbours in a different way. I imagine my neighbours, the ones whom I see on the path every day, to be people who have come from all around the world. Yes, of course some were born right here too. Some have shared with me that they have come originally from the Middle East, South Asia, Romania, Britain, China, Japan and Korea. There are young ones, old ones and some of us who are of “a certain age now”. Though we don’t know each other’s names, we know we are neighbours and we greet one another knowingly.
That day I found myself wondering mostly about their faith practises and rituals. In doing so I realized that the question given to me to contemplate was not “what is the Easter message this year?” but rather “As I share the Easter message, what will be heard?” How will it be experienced? How am I being called to tell the story this year? How am I to live it this year?
The story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is a story of power both divine and human. Reflecting back at me in the diversity of my neighbours that Holy Saturday, I saw the history of the life-giving power of the resurrection story and also the history of terror that too often has been unleashed in the name of Jesus and still is.
Our Muslim neighbours are approaching Ramadan. Our Sikh neighbours are living their holy days. Our Jewish neighbours are celebrating Passover. People of faith everywhere are sharing the stories of faith that give them life. As we tell the Resurrection story this year, will our re-telling be life-giving?
In an interview recently I heard Rabbi Jose Rolando Matalon from Manhattan tell the story of Passover from his perspective. He said, “Right before our ancestors fled Egypt, families and neighbours came together in the dark at night to share the sacrificial Paschal lamb. They all came out of their isolation and self-centeredness and they experienced the power of loving community…For all of us, Jewish or not, there is an important call here…to do whatever we can to see that healing and liberation will come to us soon. And when we are liberated, when we return to the streets, to our workplaces and to one another, I pray it be with a new awareness and appreciation for just how extraordinary normal life is, with greater appreciation for the blessing of our extended families, our friends and our neighbours…” CBS Sunday Morning, April 12, 2020
Rabbi Matalon tells his life-giving story of faith. We are to tell our Resurrection story in ways that lift up life. To my neighbours I say, this is my commitment. I will not perpetuate the abuses of our story and, when I hear those abuses spoken and used, I will call them out, name them and do what I can to stop the abuse. Like Rabbi Matalon said, “there is an important call here…to do whatever we can to see that healing and liberation will come to us soon.” To ALL of us.
Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! This is our Easter declaration of faith. May it be shared with humble exuberance so that it may be received as the blessing it is intended to be.