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Rev. Melanie Homan
April 27, 2016
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8Then they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Today is the biggest day in the church year. This is holy week – the week that defines our faith, even more so than Christmas. Sure, we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, and that is a big deal. But, during Holy week we remember Jesus’ life and teachings, we grieve his unjust death, and we celebrate his resurrection – these are the defining moments of our faith!
I don’t know about you, but for me, one of the main ways I’ve grown up recognizing the “big things” in life – like Christmas and Easter, birthdays, anniversaries, and funerals – is with food. There’s cake at birthdays, a feast at weddings, and bars at funerals. What do I eat to celebrate resurrection, you may wonder? I eat Cadbury Eggs!
So, what are you eating today to celebrate Easter?
- Cheesy potatoes
- Cranberry orange bread
- Hard boiled eggs. Lots and lots of hard boiled eggs.
- Jelly beans
- Leg of lamb?
- Hot cross buns?
Some of you may have special foods that you have every year at Easter.
On Maundy Thursday, or “The Last Supper”, Jesus was sharing the Passover meal with his friends. Jewish people still share the Passover meal together, and there are some set foods that are always present at this meal that remind the people of their time spent in slavery in Egypt and God’s role in freeing them from that oppression.
- Lamb – symbolizes the ancient Passover sacrifice;
- Egg – symbolizes the continuing cycle of life;
- Haroset – a paste of fruit and nuts that symbolizes the mortar used to build the pyramids of the pharaohs;
- Horseradish – represents the bitterness of slavery;
- Karpas, or parsley – represents spring;
- Salt water – symbolizes the tears of enslaved people.
There is meaning behind each of these foods.
Also, in the early church, a person wasn’t supposed to eat any meat during Lent. What I didn’t realize is that they also weren’t supposed to eat eggs. No meat. No eggs. So, by the time Easter came around, there was a stockpile of uneaten eggs. And, people were craving them (along with a big old slab of meat)! Makes sense to me. If you’ve ever given up a specific food item for Lent, it becomes the one thing you want to gorge on at Easter (think chocolate)!
Now, some of you probably spend hours prepping the most beautiful tables full of Easter food, offering an abundance of food and hospitality to those you share it with. But, some of you might enjoy brunch at a restaurant where you don’t have to do anything! There are so many ways to celebrate Easter, and none of them are any holier or better than the other. Before I had a family, I was known to go through the McDonald’s drive through after Easter services, eat a burger on my drive home, and then sleep the rest of the day. After I married Brennon, we upgraded to the Boston Market drive thru where we could get ham and mashed potatoes without leaving our vehicle. We ate our “traditional” Easter meal with plastic forks, and then I slept the rest of the day! There are some things that just never change. We are having Easter “brunch” this year at 5pm, so that there will be sufficient time for a long afternoon nap!
Whether you eat your drive thru meal alone in the car on your way home from church, or you share a meal with others – there are some other things that we end up pulling out of the paper bag or serving up on the buffet table. And those things are just as important, if not more important, than the food. Like joy. Like grief. Joy and grief sometimes have a place at the table.
I imagine those first friends of Jesus, most of whom had locked themselves up in a house together after Jesus’ death – they feared that they would meet the same end that Jesus had. When they shared in their meals together, they fed on grief.
The women, those closest to Jesus – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and “the other women” who were with them…we don’t know their names or how many of them were there…they, too, fed on grief even as they forced themselves to carry on, to fulfill the duties that death required of them. Early in the morning, they went to the tomb with their spices to anoint Jesus’ body for proper burial. In the face of death, there are still things that need to be done, and the women band together to do that hard work of grieving, of caring for the living, for one another, even as they cared for the body of Jesus.
A friend who is grieving the loss of a loved one shared this photo with me. It’s a theory about the stages of grief. Some people consider resurrection to be a myth. I don’t think so. I see resurrection and new life all around me. Every day. I’ve experienced it, even if on the surface it seems impossible. But stages of grief? I’m a bit more skeptical of that. I know that some people do experience grief as a process of going through each of these steps.
The stages following a loss are identified as shock, numbness, denial, emotional outbursts, anger, fear, searchings, disorganization, panic, and guilt. All things we might feel in our grief. And I imagine that the women who went to prepare Jesus’ body for burial felt a lot of those things – denial, fear, anger, guilt.
This stage theory envisions that you go through each of these emotions and then you eventually move on to new relationships, new strengths, new patterns, and then FINALLY hope, and THEN affirmation and THEN you’ve finally adjusted to the loss.
Our reality is often something different than this.
This is what grief sometimes feels like:
It’s all over the place. ALL. OVER. THE. PLACE. I imagine that the women were feeling all sorts of things when they went to the tomb that early morning. Just like the men, who were locked up in a house, fearful of what was going to happen next…panic, guilt, depression, anger. So, when the women run to them to tell them that Jesus is not there, but has risen from the dead, the men don’t believe it – it’s not possible, it couldn’t possibly be possible. Their reaction and our reaction are probably pretty similar. But, even while they are absolutely POSITIVE that no such thing has happened, they begin to feed on a little bit of hope along with all of that fear.
It takes them awhile, though. It takes Jesus appearing to them MULTIPLE times before they are able to stop feeding on despair and fear, and start feeding on hope. Their emotions probably looked a bit like this diagram – ALL OVER THE PLACE. But, when they started feeding on hope, they unlocked the doors of the house isolated them from the world. They unlocked the doors and stepped out, they stepped into their community, and they got back to living as Jesus taught them to live. They basically come out of their own self-imposed tomb, their locked house, and started living again…new life! And, as Christians today, we are called to do the same thing.
At our Easter banquets, however simple or fancy they might be, we do not serve up despair, we do not feed our fears. We break bread, share a nice bottle of wine or juice, and we pass around a platter of hope. When you think about what’s on your Easter menu today, don’t forget to add hope!
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a psychoanalyst, author, and post-trauma specialist, wrote an essay called “Letter to a young activist during troubled times”. She wrote it years ago, after she had worked with the community of Columbine in Colorado following the school shooting that took place there. She helped them face life after that trauma. It may have been written years ago, but it is just as relevant today as it was back then. Personally and communally, we know more than we want to know about troubled times. Communities in Belgium, Turkey, Yemen, Indonesia, France, Egypt, and Libya have experienced bombings in just the past three months. We’re in the middle of the most surreal primary season I’ve ever experienced. We understand why Jesus’ disciples locked themselves up in their house and fed on despair. But, locked doors could not keep Jesus out back then, and they can’t keep Jesus out now! God shows up – locks or no locks – with a reminder about who we are and who we are called to be.
Here is some of what Estes writes, to a people living through troubled times:
“Despite your stints of doubt, your frustrations in righting all that needs change right now, or even feeling you have lost the map entirely, you are not without resource, you are not alone. We have a history of being gutted, and yet remember this especially … we have also, of necessity, perfected the knack of resurrection. Over and over again we have been the living proof that that which has been exiled, lost, or foundered — can be restored to life again.”
She says, “I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here.”[i]
We have perfected the knack for resurrection. We have known what it means to fall down and get back up again, to be restored to life again. The good words we say and the good deeds we do come from the One who brought us here.
God created each one of you. Remember who you serve. As Jesus said, “Every time you break bread, remember me. Every time you drink from the cup, remember me. Remember what I taught you. Love one another.” Serve up the bread. Serve up the wine. Just don’t feast on despair. That will fill you up and keep you from being able to enjoy anything else. There is room at the table for grief and sadness to be shared – that’s life! But, there must always be hope and love, as well!
On this day when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, may you feast on hope. Whether your feast comes from a drive thru or buffet table – feast on hope. May new life be yours, on this day when we remember that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Thanks be to God!
Christ is Risen. Christ is risen indeed!
Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed!
Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed!