I am still mulling over my response to Easter this year, as I made my way through the gospel accounts of Holy Week, and as I encountered the Easter Story itself I was struck afresh by the power, the gentleness and the subversiveness of it. I got myself into trouble with one or two Church members by not beginning any of my Easter Sunday Services with the traditional shouts of "Alleluia Christ is risen", but rather with the quiet fear-filled story of the women at the tomb. We did come to the shouts of Alleluia, but they were framed by questions, and primarily the questions; "what has happened here?" an "what does this mean for me?"
If I am honest I am becoming more and more convinced that our propensity to demand certainties does not serve us well, and I fear that we sometimes treat Easter Day like a birthday party, lots of preparations, one big blow out and then back "to reality". My problem is that I do not believe that the true message of Easter allows us to go back to reality, for through it reality itself is changed. Nor do I believe that the resurrection message can be encountered through a once a year party, celebrating a one time event. Resurrection is ongoing, it should be unfolding and taking place in our lives day by day, it is surprising, confusing, demanding and at times down right scary.
There are times when we will resist resurrection, times when we will deny it or doubt that we can ever be a part of it, times when the story will leave us confused and disoriented. Perhaps at those times the we need to find our way back to the real power and simplicity of the story. C.S Lewis brings a fresh set of eyes to it through the Narnia stories;
"Susan and Lucy had just witnessed the horrific death of Aslan, and were now said to be “walking aimlessly,” unsure of how to proceed.
At that moment they heard from behind them a loud noise — a great cracking, deafening noise as if a giant had broken a giant’s plate…. The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan.
“Who’s done it?” cried Susan. “What does it mean? Is it more magic?”
“Yes!” said a great voice from behind their backs. “It is more magic.” They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
“Oh, Aslan!” cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad….
“But what does it all mean?” asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.
“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”
I wonder how often we try to cover our aimless wandering with a paper thin veneer of proclaimed certainties, how often we long to rush past the "deeper magic" , power and wonder of the resurrection accounts and get back to our daily lives lest they call us into the dramatic changes of our world-view and therefore our lifestyle, and even perhaps more challengingly the way we see ourselves and relate to others.
Resurrection is gentle but insistent if we dare to receive it as a work of the Spirit within us, through it God begins to reveal our true selves to us, peeling away our masks and falsehoods, and showing us that by some miracle we are at once unworthy, yet worthy of his love. Showing us that somehow even our past mistakes, sins and injuries can be transformed. The first disciples did not understand the fullness of what had happened among them. They were not able to produce a wonderfully inspiring three point sermon explaining it, not even Peter at Pentecost had everything buttoned down and sewn up.
What they did know however is that somehow all of this was centered on God's revelation of himself in Christ, and that somehow that revelation itself had been enlarged and changed as life overcame death and evil, pain and that somehow all of this had both personal and at the same time cosmic consequences. Even St Paul's conversion on the Damascus was not a neat, tidy sudden event, just read the account and meditate upon it. Not only was he blinded, but he spent 3 days in prayer and fasting before he was ready for Ananias prayer. Even then he spent time learning and praying, and his letters show his own grappling with the question "what has happened?" Scripture does not perhaps offer us as many certaities as we assume, and I think that deep within we know this, maybe that is why we don't like to linger too long with it.
So this year I have been challenged to linger a little longer in the shadow of the resurrection, for I long for the power of it to work a deeper magic within my soul, I need that deeper magic. A "magic" I cannot contain or fully explain, a work of God that asks me to dare to give myself to it, and that I need not fear it.
I will end with two quotes that offer no answers, but rather form an invitation to us all in different ways, an invitation to linger at the tomb of our own being, and to allow that tomb to become a womb of possibility where life itself might enter in;
“That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.” C.S.Lewis; The Great Divorce
"New life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.” Barbara Brown Taylor
The question is, are we ready for life?