Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Day

April 8, 2012

John 20.1-18

+ I know I am not going to elicit much sympathy from you—and I’m not actively searching for it. But these past days have been tiring ones.

Since Wednesday, St. Stephen’s has been a busy place. First of course, there was Tenebrae on Wednesday night, in which sang hymns and prayed psalms and heard scripture reading. It was lovely. Maundy Thursday followed the next night, with foot washing and the stripping of the altar, in which we commemorated Jesus’ Last Supper. We then had the Noon Good Friday liturgy. At that service, we heard the Gospel reading of Jesus’ betrayal, judgment, and beating, as well as his crucifixion. We also adored the cross and shared Holy Communion. It was a very moving service and many people who attended shared those same sentiments.

Then, later on Friday, we had the 3:00 Way of the Cross, in which we followed Jesus on his final journey from judgment to crucifixion.

The Holy Saturday morning service was yesterday morning. In that service we remembered how Jesus descended into hell and relieved the souls captive there.

And, then, last night it was the Easter Vigil, in which lit the Pascal Fire (which ended up being a bit more subdued than planned because there’s a fire ban in Fargo at the moment), processed the Candle and celebrated the first Easter Eucharist. Truly an incredible and beautiful service!

In the midst of all of that, there were of course times for private devotion, for the Daily Offices and time in front of the Blessed Sacrament on the Altar of Repose in the Children’s Chapel.

It was holy and it was exhausting. And yet, I find myself strangely exhilarated on this Easter morning.

I feel exhilarated because everything we did this week led to this. To this Day. To this Glorious Day. Today everything just seems to come together. This day is, by far, the most glorious day of our Christian year. This is the day when it all happens. This is the high point, the highlight. This is what it’s all about. This is what’s all about to be a Christian—to be a follower of Jesus.

Yes, we followed Jesus through his birth, through his childhood, through his baptism and ministry. We followed Jesus as he performed miracles and raised the dead and preached and proclaimed this seemingly elusive Kingdom of Heaven.

And this past week, we followed him through the exhausting journey of his last supper, his betrayal, his torture and his death. And we even followed him as he descended into hell.

But now, all that following of Jesus pays off. Now—today—is what it’s all about to be a Christian. Now is the pay-off.

Easter, for me anyway, is like that glorious vision we are given. Today is what heaven must be like. Today is what those who have gone before us must experience all the time. Today, all that darkness that we traveled through, all that uncertainty, all that doubt, all that pain and frustration, all that anger and depression, all those things we thought were so powerful are now seen for what they are—illusions. Today, we see that the Light that has dawned upon us this glorious Morning has driven away those shadows and has shown us only this wonderful, holy moment.

The tomb is empty. Death is not what we thought it was. Jesus, the one we have been following, the one we have doubted at times, the one we have betrayed and turned away from and been embarrassed by—the one we thought was dead—is alive. He is alive, and because he is, we know that, even though we too will die, we too will live.

What I love about all of this is that there are no pat answers to the big questions in this moment. Everything we once used to gauge a situation to be true has been thrown out the door. Instead, what we have is just this one moment. This one glorious moment, filled with light and life and promise and hope. And joy.

Following Jesus means following him through those miserable, hard dark times.

But it also means following him to this moment. This is the pay-off.

Yes, we might be tired. Yes we might be exhausted from the gauntlet of life that we have been through. But somehow, in this moment, in this mystery we are celebrating today, it’s all made right. And that is what Easter is all about. It is about renewal. It is about life not in the midst of death, but life that destroys death.

I can tell you that I am very grateful that I am follower of Jesus. I know. It’s easy to say that right now in this moment. But I am even grateful for following Jesus through all that we have been through liturgically with him these last few days. Because in so many ways, this is what our own lives are like as well. We do have those moments of darkness and we have those moments of light. We have those moments in which we feel as though we might actually be able to touch death. And we have those moments in which life seems to incredible and wonderful that we almost can’t believe it.

Following Jesus is very much like going through the valleys and mountains of our own lives. Now, in this moment, we are celebrating the victory. We are celebrating the victory over every bad thing that has happened. We are celebrating the victory of light over darkness. We are celebrating the victory of life over death.

I know that it all almost seems too good to be true. But it is true. And we know it’s true because the One we follow has shown the way for us.

So, let us celebrate today. Let our shouts of Alleluia be true shouts not only of joy, but of victory. Let our hearts ring out as our voices do this day. And let us continue to follow Jesus into that glorious Easter Light.

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