I don’t know about you, but for me Easter Sunday always brings with it a great and overwhelming sense of joy. Lent and the 40 days of wilderness and darkness are over. Jesus the Christ has conquered death and offered the promise of new and eternal life! Is there any better promise, anything more hopeful?
We attended two very different, but equally meaningful Easter services today.
This morning as we walked to the outdoor sunrise service given by Lutheran Church of the Cross, I thought about my colleagues who look down upon Christianity because it isn’t rational or based in science. Several times I have been made, by my academic peers, to feel as if my beliefs stem from some sort of ignorance or naïveté, or that my willingness to believe in the Christian miracles somehow negates any intelligence I might have, minimizing the worth of my intellectual pursuits, as if my religion or my spirituality disenables me to participate in rational, academic thought. But, I don’t want my faith to be anything but faith. I don’t want the mystery to be sucked out of the Easter miracles by rationality or intellectualism. I want my Jesus to stay firmly in the realm of things I can’t prove, but that I know to be true. I don’t think my willingness to believe in miracles negates my ability to think. Nor does my ability to think negate the childlike whimsy with which I place my faith in Jesus who died, who resurrected, and who will come again. I consciously choose to place my faith in something I cannot prove. I have not been brainwashed, led astray by a band of scallywags, nor forced into believing some mumbo jumbo against my will. My faith stands with the resurrected Christ, and I eagerly anticipate his return.
As we walked to the Nature Area at Minnetrista, I also thought about how beautiful this creation is and is becoming. I looked around at my surroundings and spent time thanking God for the grass, the trees, the birds, the flowers, the insects, and all of those things which were surrounding me. We were laughing, holding hands, and anticipating the service at which we’d celebrate Jesus, his body broken and repaired, when we realized that the gate between the field we were in and the Nature Area where we needed to be was closed. Could we walk around? Maybe. But there was enough space for us to go under the gate, so on our way to Easter sunrise service we rolled under the big, black iron (steel?) gate. We thought the sight must have been hilarious, and we sort of wished we could have filmed it. The experience definitely put us in the right, good, and joyful mood that Easter calls for.
The message at the sunrise service focused on Mark 16 and the role of the women. Later I mentioned to Becky that the three times we’ve been to Easter services where women were officiants, they’ve preached from this passage. There is something so empowering about this bit of Mark’s gospel: the women were the first to know the good news. And there is something status quo about the same passage: they didn’t say anything because they were terrified. Whenever I have read or considered this section of scripture, I have always entertained all the possible reasons the women might be terrified. Were they worried that no one would believe them? Did they think people would think they had done something with the body? Were they afraid because the news they carried would turn an entire religious and cultural system on its head? Were they like so many other throughout history who have been afraid to speak? Were they afraid they’d be accused of blasphemy? Were they afraid at the greatness and glory of the news they’d just heard? Why were they so afraid they didn’t tell anyone? Of course, my really cynical side wonders if they did tell everyone, but then their story was stolen by men who wanted the glory of proclaiming the good news. I would suppose it’s a combination of all of these things, but it’s a beautiful thing that at least Mark’s gospel gives women the first knowledge of this new paradigm, even though they were too terrified to share it. This passage is one of several reasons that Mark and Luke are my favorite gospels, giving the role that women played in Jesus’ ministry fair exposure. I enjoyed being invited to think through these ideas again this morning.
When the sunrise service was over, we went home and had a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs with spinach and bleu cheese and bacon. At 10:30, we attended the church we’ve been attending for about a year and a half or so, Commonway Church. The service was in the usual style, but there were several baptisms and we had communion for the first time that I can think of since last Easter. Matt’s sermon focused on the history of resurrection theology as found in the Jewish scriptures, and he encouraged us to remember that we have a resurrection coming. He reminded us that Jesus shocked the disciples by proclaiming to be the embodiment of the resurrection, essentially the embodiment of their future. Jesus was saying, “Your hope of the coming age is in me,” reminding us that Jesus Kingdom is the already, but not yet Kingdom of God. As a bonus, we sang one of my favorite songs: “Lay ‘Em Down” by Need to Breathe.
Each of these sermons spoke to me on a different level. Obviously, the first sermon spoke to me as a woman, reminding me of the critical role of women in the Kingdom of God. The second reminded me of the strong Jewish theology that Paul used to explain the work that Jesus was and is doing here on this earth.