It doesn’t feel like Easter. Not to me, anyway. Not right now. Let me be honest.
On Easter, Jesus emerged from the tomb. He put two feet on the ground. He took fresh air into his lungs. He gardened, I think. Jesus told Mary, who came to care for his dead body but found him living, to spread the good news: the power of death could not hold our beloved; our True Friend breathes. Later in the day, Jesus stood before his friends. They were in the same house. He preached peace through a wall of fear. Jesus breathed on his friends, breathed the power of courageous life into them.
In a way, I feel like we are being called into Jesus’ tomb today. Much of our world is closed. Many of our streets are empty. Few dare ride the bus. No basketball, no spring training. No school. No happy hour at Clinker Dagger. No Bloomsday in spring. People are in hospitals, struggling to breathe. Over a hundred thousand have died of Covid-19. Millions upon millions are losing their jobs. Millions more are going hungry. And fearful. How will we pay for rent? The car? The energy bill? If we are lucky to have a home, we are ordered to stay there. Tragically, home is not always a safe place. When we do go out, we live afraid to touch people we love, to breathe on strangers at the grocery store. We are wearing masks. Physical distancing has become a ministry of compassion. Who would have thought?
Some of us are glued to our TV sets and radios, waiting for good news from far off places. Is Wuhan up and running again? Has the curve flattened? Is there a treatment? When will there be a vaccine? When can the kids go back to school? When we can return to our Meeting House, sit in our beloved pews, hug, and see our banners. Hope, Peace, Joy, Love.
Today, we live waiting for good news and for new life. It doesn’t feel like Easter Sunday. Not to me, anyway. Not right now. Let me be honest.
To me, today feels more like Holy Saturday. Holy Saturday is a day in the church calendar that’s easy to forget. We prefer to hide Easter eggs and drink spiked punch than attend to the spiritual reality of Holy Saturday. Holy Saturday is a liminal time between Jesus’ death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. It is a day of heavy mourning, dizzying confusion, and traumatic separation. According to the Christian tradition, Holy Saturday symbolizes the time Jesus descended into hell after his death. Why Jesus descended into hell—and what hell actually is—is a complicated theological question good people debate. The reason is clear as day to me, though: Jesus’ descent into hell on Holy Saturday is a symbol for the spiritual fact that there is no place Love will not go; that Christ waits in solidarity with those who hunger and pine for the breath of new life. Holy Saturday is a reminder that even life as we know it cannot contain the power of Christ’s Love.
So, yeah. If I am being honest: today feels more like that. More like Holy Saturday than Easter Sunday. I feel like I am in a tomb, not outside of one. Today it feels like our invitation is to create physical distance but refuse to allow fear and suffering to separate us; to practice compassionate spacing but still go where Love is calling; to wait patiently with Christ and all of creation for new life. Holy Saturday invites us into a query, I think. How, today, shall we wait for new life? What must we lie die? And what kind of life do we want to live once Covid-19 is finally yesterday’s news?
Why is a Christian a Christian? Easy answer, you may say: A Christian is a Christian because a Christian believes Jesus was really God and a Christian is a Christian because a Christian lives as Jesus lived.
I think it’s true that Jesus showed us who God is, and where God is, but I think we think too much about Jesus as God. Looking for God, we stare too long at the sky and the stars and into the great beyond. Searching for Christ, we look too hard into the slow, fascinating, and complicated book of history. We forget that Jesus came not just to reveal God but also to reveal us to ourselves. That Jesus was the True Human. That Jesus shows us what is like to be really alive as a person. That Christ is in the mirror in the morning, looking at you when you look at yourself.
Being truly human, Jesus shows us still, means washing stinky feet, comforting the sick, feeding the hungry, and visiting the prisoner. It means setting the captives free. Being truly human, Jesus shows us still, means speaking truth to power, bringing peace in storms of fear, and experiencing the joy. To be truly human and really alive is to dance among the lilies of the field, drink wine and feast with one’s friends, and laugh until hurts. True worship is the sound of a big belly laugh in the midst of Covid-19.
Jesus’ life also shows us that being truly human means accepting a kind of death as a natural part of life. It means learning to love the tomb and greet death as a caring brother. But Jesus’ life also shows us that love is stronger than death. Within a kind of tomb, Jesus shows us how to die and wait for new life to emerge. To be truly human is to wait in faith, hope, and love.
Signs of new life. Last week, I saw a couple dancing on the sidewalk across the street from my apartment. Their hands were in the air, swaying to a song. The guy was laughing and shaking his booty. The woman was smiling. The sun had been out all day. It felt cool out. Yellow daffodils were shooting up from the soil, announcing spring.
It may not feel like Easter, but it is. As Quakers, we are mindful that every day is Easter because Christ’s presence is our true and abiding reality. Christ is the sun that does not go down. We are the yellow daffodils, always shooting up and announcing the spring.
Life is coming alive all around us. Let us fall down on the grass and be truly happy. There is no place Love will not go. We are never alone, not even in the tomb. Joy is the final word. Big belly laughter is our home. But let us not rush past this season in which we are called into a holy waiting and a holy dying so that we can create a better, more beautiful life on the other side of the curve: not just for ourselves, of course, but for all who yearn for the sun. And friends, we all yearn for the sun. God is breathing in all of us as we shoot up from the soil.
Let us enter into a time of waiting worship now. If God calls you to share a word of edification for our meeting, please be faithful to that call. If God gives you a word for just yourself, please remember to savor that word as a true gift within yourself as we sit in extended silence.
This message was given by Paul Blankenship to Spokane Friends on April 12, 2020, via Zoom, due to COVID-19 restrictions.