After the Sabbath, as the light of the next day, the first day of the week, crept over Palestine, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb to keep vigil. Earlier there had been an earthquake. A messenger of the Lord had come down from heaven and had gone to the grave. He rolled away the stone and sat down on top of it. He veritably glowed. He was vibrating with light. His clothes were light, white like transfiguration, like fresh snow. The soldiers guarding the tomb were terrified. They froze like stone. –Matthew 28:1-4
I used to love Easter sunrise services in Arizona. As a teenager, many from our youth group would gather in the church parking lot and climb ‘A’ Mountain (the little hill with a giant ‘A’ embedded in it for ASU–Arizona State University). We would sit in silence facing east, waiting for the sun to rise. We each reflected on our own thoughts. I’m sure some thought, ‘Why did I get up so freakin’ early?!’ I’m sure I thought that at least one year.
But most of the time, my thoughts on Easter reflected how much I knew God loved us. The gratitude inside me would well up to almost bursting and coincided with the sunrise.
I miss those Easter sunrises. Here in Colorado, the warmth of the blankets usually keeps me snuggled and asleep at dawn. I miss the camaraderie, the community, the connection between ‘us’ and God. In recent years, I haven’t felt very ‘together’ with other church-goers. Instead, I’ve felt disconnected, and at times betrayed.
Isolated and ignored.
Dead and buried.
Our American evangelical church-system hasn’t figured out yet how to encourage once-mighty-leaders and allow us to question and expand our Sunday-school-answer view of God. We haven’t learned how to walk alongside people and keep them company as they live their journey of faith. In my experience, our best solution has involved putting people in their own corners and telling them that ‘we’ll be over here when you’re done with your time-out.’
The disciples must have felt similarly. When Jesus died, they must have felt a part of them died. The part that believed like children believe in magical endings. The part that hoped for a fulfillment of all the stories they’d heard in their childhood about God and saviors and finally putting the world right (with them on top). The part that believed all things were possible, like Jesus told them. The part that kept them connected to each other.
It took them less than a day to disperse and disconnect from each other. Only the women remained together, united at the tomb, sharing their grief.
Then, the angel at the tomb said, “He is risen. Just as He said.” And in a moment’s flash, hope was restored. Mary encounters Jesus, and He tells her to gather all the disciples. They experience Christ’s resurrection, and their own resurrection of soul. They spend many days together before Christ’s ascension. It’s a glorious ending to the Gospel accounts!
An ending worthy of celebration!
I didn’t go to church this Easter morning. The thought of celebrating resurrection weighed heavy on my heart when I feel like my spirit is still waiting for the stone to be rolled away. Faith growing-pains are arduous and take more than a few days to complete. I see glimpses that resurrection will come. And I wait with anticipation in the midst of fear and grieving that the poignancy of the old ways have tarnished and rusted. Because they need to give way to a faith that’s deeper than youth’s naive heart. Because they don’t contain the profound wisdom that comes with growing older with God. Because Christ’s resurrection gives us maturity to be peers with Him instead of constantly expecting Him to take sole responsibility for our spiritual hunger and entertainment.
The benefits of growing up definitely outweigh the benefits of remaining as a child. The more we choose to accept the process, the more freedom we experience. Children think they have freedom; but their parents (if they are wise and good) keep strong boundaries so that when the children are old, they will know how and when to expand those boundaries.
So, I wait by the tomb.
I wait for my spirit to expand enough to contain Christ’s resurrection for this season of my life.
I wait with those who no longer find their childhood church systems fulfilling.
I wait in expectation to hear ‘just as He said’ and receive the fulfilled-promise of new life, renewed joy, restored equality in Christ for everyone.
I wait for Easter morning to come.
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