God of early April morning, you are Mystery of Love made Known, you call to us, you long for us, you make us whole: When we are visibly fractured, when we are unmoored, when we stumble, monochrome, held together by tears and sleepless nights, we gather at the tomb, awaiting the ordinary; the funeral scent of lily and embalming oils. We reach the limits of our words, and loss becomes refracted, magnified, dispersed. It is entirely too large to comprehend, an indiscriminate sorrow.
We do not expect that at first light, “somewhere in the April night” (Mary-Patrice Woehling, “Easter Vigil”), there will be an emptiness, a piercing joy, a lift of the heart, all consuming. We do not expect the terrible and ruinous to be overcome. We do not expect transcendence against the wrenching sorrow.
For this year has changed us… our bodies have changed… our families have changed… our rhythms of life have changed… the content of our hope has changed. This year has questioned us. put us on trial, pushed and pulled us until overcome, we sought you anew.
We still face a Good Friday world. Not every impossibility is suddenly flung aside on Easter morning. Injustice hangs over our nation. Infection rates extend ever-upward. Unforeseen and inadvertent suffering shakes us. We pray for a turning around, a veer toward renewal, a spark that issues prolonged mercy and grace.
We pray for our friend with a new impossible diagnosis. We pray for our brother, sister, mother, father, daughter, son, chosen family, most dear friend, with their unthinkable struggle. We pray for her, we pray for him, we pray for them. (moment of silence) We pray for our community, our communities: hold them together (moment of silence) We pray for those on the edge, unable to see the promise of tomrrows: hold them back from unbearable decisions made in outrage and anger (moment of silence)
“How we spend our days is how we spend our lives,” (Annie Dillard) so give us, this Easter, a good to do, a generosity to pursue, a gratitude to express, a conflict to mend, a stranger to greet, a loved one to call. Tune us to your unyielding call for love, joy, peace, patience, hope. For this year has changed us, and we did not expect it to be this way.
We did not expect that you, too, O Christ, would change “somewhere in the April night”… from table, to cross, to tomb, your abandoned graveclothes, not a distant shining truth. This is no consolation prize. This is not some temporary inbreaking that can yet fade into the background. This is an eternal benediction, entirely too large to comprehend. Our hope in you is a sweetness more true than we have ever known, delight, joy, held flush against our own wounded bodies.
Where we stumble, there your treasure awaits. Where we falter, there your grace abounds. Where you say, “Fear not” “My peace is with you” we are transformed into a more mysterious Easter hope. We become an empty tomb community baffled by the ancient piercing song of joy that brings us to tears. Through the distance, mend us. Through the returning, bind us together. Through the night, comfort us. Through to dawn, awaken in us a renewed hope.
And hear us as we pray the prayer Jesus teaches us, saying:
Our father…. Amen.