Resurrection Chapel National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

New Day, New Creation

There is a kind of pregnant peace in the hours just before dawn.  The old day is done, and whatever its trials or joys may have been, the night offers a pause.  The new day has not yet begun, and whether we look to it with hope or dread, or whether we simply anticipate a routine day, it holds possibilities.

This morning followed a Sabbath, the day of rest, a rest everyone desperately needed.  The day before the Sabbath was like no other.  From start to finish it was a horror.  The leader the little band followed for three years was brutally taken from them.  They had dared to hope that he was the one who would deliver their people from oppression, who would claim the throne of his father David, who would inaugurate a kingdom that would last forever, eventually drawing in the whole world.  In him, they dared hope; God would finally set the world straight.

But not everyone shared those hopes and dreams.  The powerful, and those who sought power, viewed him as a threat.  The foreigners who levied taxes upon the people, and made a mockery of their history and traditions, would have no patience with any would-be prophet who built a following.  Even those patriotic citizens, who wanted a king to bring honor to the nation, looked at this charismatic leader and his rag-tag assortment of followers, and saw in them no king and no court.  In the end all of these forces, and others as well, came together, and in one day arrested, tried, humiliated, beat and finally allowed the foreigners to crucify him.  The followers scattered for cover, and the Sabbath provided some respite.

Now, in the predawn some of the women in the band gathered materials to clean and give the body a proper interment.  Their dreams were dead, along with their leader, but at least they could do this before moving on to begin putting their lives back together.  And so they arrived at the tomb.  Now, if only the stone sealing the entrance could be moved, they could complete this final act of courtesy and love.  One foot in front of the other.  Get the work done quickly, and get back into hiding – there will be decisions to make, things to do, but first this. 

It was those individuals, in that state of mind who discovered an empty tomb, and heard a strange luminous messenger tell them that Christ was risen, sending them back to tell the rest of his friends.  Is it any wonder that the others at first disbelieved?  When Peter, in company with John, raced to the tomb he couldn’t make sense of any of it. 

Resurrection Morning was not, as we sometimes imagine, a time when everyone heaved a huge sigh of relief and spontaneously broke into the “Hallelujah Chorus.”  It was not a time when Jesus’ dispirited disciples looked around at the beauties of spring and thought to themselves that it was almost as if he was still with them.  They did not dry their tears and resolve to make sure Jesus would live on in their memories and their love for one another.  No, Resurrection Morning was a time of confusion.  It was over the next day, and then the next fifty days, that their repeated experiences of the risen Lord persuaded them that the world was no longer the same, that God had drawn victory out of defeat, and the promised New Creation was beginning.

We are the beneficiaries of the accounts left by that band of Jesus’ followers.  Time enough, as the season unfolds, to explore the questions that the strange events of that spring morning raise in our minds and hearts.  Today it’s time to hear once more the words of the different gospel accounts, to join in the familiar hymns and to respond to the ancient cry, “Christ is risen,” with the equally ancient response, “He is risen indeed!”  Alleluia!  Amen!

Howard MacMullen
© March 2013

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