Easter in all of its undeniable extravagance brings us face to face with the unimaginable.
Like Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and Salome in the Gospel of Mark seeking in the shadows for the remains of her Master, we are forced to encounter life even in the shadow of the tomb.
We rise up early to make our way to the cemetery, bringing our spices to preserve the body and to make sure the deceased is presentable only to be told, “He is not here. He is risen!”
Our mourning does turn to dancing, but not without Easter giving us the permission to turn away from death and embrace life: to reframe our very existence.
As the masterful poet e e cummings in his poem Easter frames it while turning the rules of punctuation upside down
“(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)”
This reversal of events is how the shadows of Good Friday are pierced by the light of an amazing day, as cummings puts it:
“i thank You God for this most amazing day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; for everything
that is natural which is infinite and yes”
This awaking of our own selves means we who showed up for a beloved’s funeral are instead asked to see that something in us has met its end and we ourselves are new:
“(i who have died am alive again today”
Oh how we the church in these desperate times need to be reawakened! Our worship and our gatherings these days seem so often absent of joy, as if we have come expecting little, not as the Psalmist puts it: “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go unto the house of the Lord.’ ” (Psalms 122:1)
With the ways we present the church today, it appears to the world that we were baptized not in clean cool waters but lemon juice. Our churches have been invaded with fear not only because of the cruel reality of the bloodstained pews we have witnessed in the news headlines from Egypt recently and Charleston last year, but because we attend to church as if we were attending to that which is passing and deceased. The violent ways of the world have shaped the way we view one another. It is as if the dark day of NO that was Calvary has so overwhelmed us that we have forgotten the infinite that is the Divine “YES” of Easter.
To live Easter is to be the YES in the face of the ways of death: As cummings so aptly puts it we (and our fallen creation) need to be “lifted from the no of all nothing.” Only then will the “great happening” that is Easter be everlasting.
It is that YES that poet cummings characterizes as “the birthday of life and love and wings” that must be our hope. Easter reframes our lives so that truly the ears of our ears awake and the eyes of our eyes are opened. Hallelujah!
The Rev. Bernard Mason is pastor of Mann-Mize Memorial United Methodist Church and chaplain for Heartland Hospice.