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by Chad Pierce
he is risen. he is risen indeed. He Is Risen. He Is Risen Indeed. HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!
For the past fifteen years I have had the privilege of participating in and leading many through Easter worship services. Each year, I, along with many others, try navigate the difficult and abrupt U-turn from Good Friday to Easter, from despair to hope, from defeat to victory, and from death to life. Each year I struggle to manufacture joy and excitement to make this Easter experience “real” and “meaningful” for those present.
“Maybe if we sing this song?”
“Give me more trumpet, I need more trumpet!”
“Is this all the drama we can get out of our Scripture reader?”
To be fair, while the Easter story is pretty good material to work with, how does one portray Matthew’s wild events containing three hours of darkness, temple curtains torn, earthquakes, people being raised from the dead and traveling through Jerusalem? How does one convey the fact that God was dead and is now alive?
This year, in my context, Easter might be too big, too bright, too loud for some. I am thinking of a young family who are battling aggressive cancer way too soon; parents and children struggling with addiction; broken relationships that appear to be beyond repair. Not even the optional descant on the last chorus will bring them the joy I so desperately want to create.
For those in this situation, I have found John’s gospel to be uplifting. In John 20, we read of the most important event in the history of the universe, the resurrection of Christ. But, we find no fanfare, no earthquakes, no crowd. We find only a woman, Mary, all alone, crying.
She weeps for one that she loved who was taken to soon. She weeps for dashed dreams in which what the world she had hoped for, the world she expected, was destroyed with three nails. She weeps because her reality did not meet her expectations.
Mary weeps for all of us. For all of us at some point acknowledge that sin has distorted our reality. And most of us have shed tears for a loved one who has died, the ultimate sign and punishment of sin.
It’s in that moment that the risen Christ meets Mary with no fanfare, no trumpets, no smoke machine, but only with a question…”Why are you crying?” He knows the answer. He experienced it himself at the death of his friend Lazarus just a few chapters before. But in that question the risen Christ demonstrates that he is present with Mary, with us, even in our most desperate moments.
Paraphrasing Scott Hoezee, Easter doesn’t happen in bright sanctuaries adorned with lilies, white tapestries, and bright lights. Easter doesn’t come with loud singing and even louder brass. Nor will Easter happen around your dinner table this afternoon surrounded by loving family and glazed hams.
Listen: Easter happens in the E.R. when the doctor comes out to the waiting area and shakes his head. We couldn’t save him.
Easter happens at the funeral home when that first glimpse of mom in the coffin hits you like a punch to the gut. You can’t breathe.
Easter happens on the nursing home floor where once strong-bodied men and women watch their peers disappear one by one and where these wheelchair-bound precious people know that all of life has now come down to this long waiting for death.
Easter happens where death is, because that is the place where Easter is needed the most.
So today, whether you can shout “HE IS RISEN. HE IS RISEN INDEED!” Or, you can barely utter “he is risen” through salty tears, the risen Christ is with us, to embrace us, to love us, and to continue the process of making this world right again.
Christ is risen…Christ is risen, indeed! Hallelujah!
Chad Pierce is a minister in the Reformed Church in America who serves as the pastor of Faith Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan. He and Jodi, his wife, have four children.