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Vinnie, short for Vincent, is my six-year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel whose sense of smell serves him well in life — aiding him in hunts for once forgotten bone fragments that hide under couches and overstuffed chairs, helping him track (but never harm) the skunks and squirrels and rabbits that call our backyard home, and most importantly, equipping him with the ability to discern the difference between dirty laundry and clean. Both, of course, are quite enjoyable for different reasons.
Dirty laundry is the equivalent of a basket full of toys — items that a canine mischief maker can snatch easily, only to run away as quickly and LOUDLY as possible (volume is key), initiating an instant game of chase with his owner. (This owner is rarely amused.)
Clean laundry, on the other hand, is like a “summer breeze” scented cloud made of layers of warmth and softness, perfect for much loved but rarely deserved naps. (This owner hates to admit it, but I do find this activity somewhat amusing.)
More recently, under “stay at home and stay safe” practices, Vinnie has become my coworker. He is about as helpful with my work as he is with the laundry. Spending so much extra time with my four-legged friend lately, I find myself growing envious of his freedom from concern about this global pandemic and his ability to find joy in the midst of it all. I find myself longing for the things he seems to come by easily — from basic needs to creature comforts.
On this Easter Sunday, I have to confess that I am especially interested in comfort. All of the comforts.
* I want my own “summer breeze” scented cloud of resurrection joy.
* I want to slip into the “Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!” refrain with the nostalgia-tinted glee I feel when slipping on an old college hoodie.
* I want to be wrapped in the warmth of a sunrise and the sweet smell of lilies and tulips.
* I want to step into the pulpit of our 200 year old congregation and be greeted by the faces I have come to know and love, instead of a camera.
* I want to cozy up with the familiar tale of the gospel that calms my fears and bids my sorrows cease.
Longing for comfort is okay. (Repeat this as many times as needed to let it sink in.)
These are strange days and it is a strange Easter.
* We will not be blanketed by choir anthems or brass ensembles.
* There will be no crowded pews in which to nestle ourselves.
* No four year olds fidgeting with uncomfortable bow ties and patent leather shoes.
* No joining our voices with a crowd, belting out Christ the Lord Is Risen Today!
So can we still call it Easter? Is it still accurate to say, “Christ is risen?” Of course we can. And we must. Christ is risen, and continues rising to new life.
In John’s gospel, Christ rises from the cold, damp tomb in the darkness of the early morning. No special sunrise liturgy required. He appears to Mary Magdalene, who does not greet him in her newest dress with an armful of fresh flowers and hot cross buns. He finds her hunched over and sobbing, red faced, puffy-eyed. And he does the greeting. Calling her by name.
Christ is risen and continues rising to new life right in the midst of our despair.
The resurrection of Jesus is the transformation of death into life. In the midst of quarantines and a global health crisis, this may not be the comfort I thought I wanted. I have a pet for that, I guess. Instead, the resurrection is the hope I need.
The resurrection of Jesus does not exactly calm or soothe. It interrupts.
When Jesus speaks Mary’s name, he offers her confirmation that her Lord has returned. It is a revelation of good news and a balm for her grief. It is also a request for her attention.
The resurrection is less like a blanket fresh out of the dryer, and more like the sounds of a critter in the attic that wake us in the middle of the night. The resurrection demands that we sit up and take notice of the life in front of us, the life around us, and the life in us.
* Even when what we want most is a nap, deserved or not.
* Even when the world is in turmoil and we find ourselves mourning great losses.
* Even in our own versions of cold, damp, darkness.
Christ IS risen! Christ is risen indeed!