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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Easter of COVID19 Exile - 04/12/2020

The resurrection story, as told in John’s Gospel, by far blows all the others out of the water, in my opinion. This scene in the story can just grab you by the collar and draw you in physically – and on this particular Easter of COVID-19 Exile when the world has become so suddenly strange to us – I think this story can grab our imaginations even more so.

I can envision the disciples scrambling back and forth from village to the garden where the tomb was. I try to picture it in my own surroundings and I can imagine Simon Peter, the beloved disciple and Mary Magdalene running back and forth between some house on Varnum St. or Munising Ave., and then winding up and down Cemetery Road.

And as soon as you start picturing the disciples like this … and wherever you imagine this story unfolding … you begin to recognize the intense human emotions at play among those disciples – they are in that foggy land of new grief at the death of their teacher, friend, brother. They are highly suspicious still of the Roman occupiers and wouldn’t put it past them in the least to take the body, to try and erase Jesus even more, to desecrate his grave.

They did not seem to comprehend what Jesus had been saying to them: that he truly meant to be betrayed and killed and then rise from that grave.

So they jump to what seems like more plausible conclusions of body theft and Roman interference. The idea terrorizes them and Simon Peter and Jesus’ beloved disciple race back down Cemetery Road to hide out from all the terror they imagine could come next.

But Mary couldn’t go. She is deep in her mourning and grief and now re-traumatized by the apparent theft of Jesus’ body. “This cannot really be happening,” Mary must of have thought … maybe just as she finally forced herself to look into the tomb, where she fully expects to see a crime scene, but desperately hopes-against-hope to see Jesus’s body.

At first all she can see are these completely unfamiliar beings who she supposes to be part of this awful conspiracy .

This scene is jumble of human emotion, human grappling with the unimaginable, human loss and human brokenness. The disciples cannot wrap their heads around anything that has happened – from the arrest to the surreal moment they find themselves in now.

It reminds me of a line of a poem by John O’Donohue that I read to my siblings this past week.

What is being transfigured here is your mind,

And it is difficult and slow to become new.

The more faithfully you can endure here,

The more refined your heart will become

For your arrival in the new dawn.

(John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us, For the Interim Time)

And, Oh, can we see ourselves … we can see all of God’s humanity caught up in an intense jumble of human emotion, grappling, loss and brokenness right now.

We scramble back and forth trying to be prepared for something no one really knows how to prepare for.

It feels like we have entered into our own foggy land of new grief over the unexpected and unimaginable collapse of communal life before COVID-19, at least temporarily. Vast feeds of changing and evolving information and even conflicting information makes us feel suspicious of others.

We cannot fully comprehend how this pandemic experience will continue to play out, or how we will be restored when the public health risk subsides … and so we might feel terrorized by the possible scenarios that emerge in our deepest fears and worst case scenarios.

And, I don’t know about you, but almost every day I wake up and think something very much like Mary must have: “This cannot really be happening, can it?”

I think we know well this intense jumble of human emotion, grappling, loss, brokenness.

In fact, I have heard it said by more than a few people that this Easter in COVID-19 Exile may be more like that first Easter than most of us have experienced before.

And so what do we do with this? – us seekers and believers, us exiles and mourners as the Easter cries of Alleluia ring out into this reality – what do we do?

Generally, I don’t like to tell people what to do, especially when it comes to faith and belief. As a wise woman once told me, “Everyone’s journey is sacred." (Hi Wolfi)

But today I feel confident I can and should answer that question … at least in one way. Because I think we’d all like some solid direction and because we are so much like these first disciples, scrambling and grieving, suspicious because we too feel uncertain and terrorized and perhaps cannot believe this is really happening.

And so, I think what we should do is keep following Mary as she forces herself to look inside that empty tomb – expecting and hoping and then entering into a whole new world of life and God’s presence and community when she encounters not what she expected and not even what she hoped, but something immeasurably bigger and better, something that was promised to her and all the Jesus-followers that would come after that first group of disciples – she encounters the Risen Christ.

And she went running into that new creation of the Risen Christ, unknown as it was, unexpected as it was, with words of rejoicing and revelation rising from her lips: “I have seen the Lord!”

Let’s keep following Mary’s lead, let’s take that as the solid direction we need now.

So then we too head into a future being made new again, and again and again as many times as we need by the Risen Christ.

So then we too sustain ourselves through this Easter of COVID-19 Exile and beyond, though we do not fully know what it will look like, or what to expect.

So then we too are beacons in this world freed in that Risen Christ to go into that newness with our fears falling away and words of rejoicing and revelation rising from our lips: “We too have seen the Lord!”

Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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