Easter for me has always started in the dark.
Until I went to college, my Mom and I, along with extended family members started Easter morning with a Sunrise Service outside the mausoleum at Roselawn Cemetary in Martinsville. Those early March Easter mornings would be extremely cold as we stood out in the dark, awaiting the rising of the sun. Many an adult Easter morning began with singing at sunrise services. From the proclamation of“The Exultet” to “the melody that He gave to me” of “In the Garden,” Easter started with song in the lingering darkness of Good Friday.
Easter for me has up until this year always been celebrated by physically being inside a church building.
A conversation in our house this Holy Week focused on an observation from Steve that this is probably the first Easter I will not have been inside a church. While I’ll admit that for the last month or so I’ve thought a great deal about not “being in church,” I hadn’t focused on the fact that this will be the first Easter in my lifetime that I will not be sitting in a pew, holding a hymnal in the midst of a choir or congregation, hearing the gathered voices pray or the words of scripture read within the walls of a church building.
Easter for me will be a new day, bringing fresh light to the darkness.
What if we followers of Jesus were never supposed to be in the tomb of four walls within a physical building? Have those walls become more of a mausoleum, holding our traditions and rituals as something set apart from the world around us? What if our practice of “church” has become a vault, keeping what we say we believe about being Christians hidden and protected inside, leaving the rest of the world to wonder how authentic we really are in living our our faith?
Easter for me this year is a wake-up call to roll the stone away: the stones of my heart and soul and the stones of the buildings. Pushing through the darkness of my heart requires a new commitment to stop saying that I’m tired of the way we United Methodists treat each other and do more to model and advocate for transformed behavior. Isn’t that what Jesus tried to teach us? Recognizing that the light is actually outside the walls of the building began to happen for me a long time ago, but a deep pull continued to draw me to the resting place within the church where I could sit and listen, but not always be called to respond with the same level of action and commitment that Jesus modeled. The new normal that will emerge when we are no longer practicing physical distancing will call us to greater action, not sitting and reciting. That sounds a little like how Jesus lived – and why he died.
Easter for me has always started in the dark…until this year when a novel corona virus may be just what it takes to focus on the True Light of Resurrection Day.