STANDING STRONG IN THE EMPTY TOMB’S TRUTH
by Hugh Farquhar
The Lectionary Gospel Reading for this Easter Sunday is John 20:1-20.
The daughter of a university professor suddenly fell ill and died. She was a gifted artist, had just been married, and was looking forward to a promising future. Her family was devastated. Some time after the funeral, her father wrote this: “Until you stare death eye-to-eye, Easter is just a word, a nice day with bunny rabbits and eggs . . . but when someone precious to you dies, Easter becomes everything: an anchor in a fierce storm, a rock on which to stand, a hope that raises you above despair and keeps you going.”
It reminded me of lines by Joyce Rupp: “This is how we shall carry our sorrows, up against the great joy of the springtime while standing strong in the empty tomb’s truth.”
Both are Easter persons, individuals for whom Easter is not just a mysterious event in the distant past but an experience that significantly colours the present.
These are marvelous descriptions of what Easter represents: an anchor, a rock, a hope.
Mary had come to the tomb early, grief stricken and heavy-hearted, but left with a spring in her step, excited to share the news. She became an Easter person, as did each of the other women mentioned in the other Gospels, as did Peter and the other disciples, and as did those first followers who were united in believing and sharing the good news.
What does it mean to be an Easter person? I came across a reading on the Internet that I liked a lot. The author is not recorded, so I can’t give credit.
“I want to be an Easter person! I want to be alive to all things! I want to see your glory in the blooming of daffodils and in the trace of a comet crossing the night sky! I want to hear your praise sung by babbling brooks, the wind in the trees, in church choirs and the play of children.
I want to be like Mary, who weeps at the foot of the cross, but later rejoices with new hope. I want to be like Peter who runs breathless into the empty tomb. I want to be like Thomas, replacing all my doubts with new faith. I want to be like Cleopas, discovering your presence in unexpected places.
I want to bring light into the dark places around me. I want to bring joyful noise into the silence. I want to fix what is broken and heal what is hurting. I want to bring forgiveness. Where there is despair, I want to bring hope. Where there is death, I want to bring life.”
But what does it mean to be an Easter people: plural? Elizabeth O’Connor wrote in “Call to Commitment,” – “I want to dwell among an Easter people! I want to know and be known by them.”
To dwell among an Easter people is to choose to be in relationship with individuals and communities that “dance the resurrection story, including all in circles of their love.” In times when our faith is drooping, we need to ride on the coattails of others who are able at that time to live in an Easter mode. Conversely, we are to take our turns at being Easter people for others when their spirit sags.
To be Easter people is to live out the meaning of this day both for ourselves and for one another. Yes, I want to be an Easter person. Yes, I want to dwell among an Easter people. I want to know and be known by them.
Hugh Farquhar is Minister Emeritus at St. Paul’s United Church, Riverview, and teaches Biblical Studies at Atlantic School of Theology, Halifax, NS.