Up the Easter Garden Path
In 1998, we began to celebrate the Resurrection in an ancient garden next to our church. In the 22 years since then, we have missed only a couple of those celebrations. This year, thanks to the Corona virus, we shall miss a third! The service has always been very simple: hymns, prayers, dramatic readings, a brief reflection and, of course, The Easter Greeting: The Lord is Risen, He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! Every year, on Easter Sunday, former participants in those services get in touch with us to exchange the Easter greeting. It is a joyful time.
This year, it seems particularly important to celebrate resurrection. Surrounded as we all are by reports of the vulnerable and anxious, the sick and infirm, the dead and dying, affirming life seems more important than ever.
And yet, and yet... as always, in celebrating resurrection, there is a vague sense of futility about what we are doing – a futility that must have been recognised by any neutral observer watching the women go to the tomb on that first Easter morning...
What was the point in what they were doing getting up so early, gathering up their spices and walking the distance out to the garden tomb? The body had already been embalmed. The gospel of John tells us that wealthier men than they had used 100lbs of myrrh and aloes (John 19:39) – enough for the anointing of a king, and quite enough to keep at bay the odours of death. What was the point? And Jesus? He was dead, he would know nothing of their devotion. And then there was the stone. How were they possibly going to move it? They knew they would need some strength greater than their own. As they stumbled on through the darkness they must have taken courage from each other and were doubtless, comforted as we all can be in times of helplessness, by the sense that they were ‘doing something’.
The women on the way to the tomb hardly presented a picture of clear-minded certainty about what they were doing. Their faith didn’t walk on water. It stumbled along in the half-light in the face of disappointment and loss. It’s distinguishing mark was not triumphant hope but love and generosity. Somehow, the women wanted to do more, to give more, to make their own last gesture of love to the One who had given so many gestures of love to them – to the One who had taught them what love and devotion looked like.
These women who loved much found that the stone was rolled away. They began to believe that death could not triumph. They recognised the work of the God who from the beginning had created light out of darkness, life out of dust. However dimly, they saw the work of the God who ‘turns death into life and calls into being what does not yet exist’ (Romans 4.17).
As we live amongst the evils which Coronavirus brings, may we recognise that work in 2020 as we say, ‘The Lord is Risen, He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!’
A Prayer for Resurrection Life
Loving God, when our spirits are worn and broken.
Give us new life.
Loving God, when we struggle with doubt and confusion.
Give us new faith.
Loving God, when we lose sight of you and your work in the world
Give us new hope.
Loving God, when we fear for the future.
Give us new courage.
Roll Back the Stone
When we are all despairing;
When the world is full of grief;
When we see no way ahead
And hope has gone away
Roll back the stone
Although we fear change
Although we are afraid to step out
Although we’d rather weep and run away
Roll back the stone
Because we’re coming with the women
Because we hope where hope is vain
Because you call us from the grave and show the way;
Roll back the stone.