Spiritual Connections – Easter

Mar 31, 2024

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. -Mark 16: 1-8

Do Not Be Afraid by He Qi

Have you ever been so afraid that you did not tell anyone what had happened to you? Have you ever heard a story like that from anyone? I have. These are not good stories. They are stories of trauma, sometimes abuse, always deep pain. 

Have you ever sat with someone while telling you the story they held onto for a long time, being in the sacred moment of being the first one to hear the story, untold, hidden, pushed down, locked away, for the first time? I have. These are moments of the inbreaking of the Spirit. These can also be painful moments. But they hold the seed of New Life, Hope, Healing, Resurrection. Maybe it doesn’t happen right away, but the seed is there. The possibility is present. 

Someone asked recently on a social media thread I saw of preachers preparing to lead worship this Easter morning about this version in Mark’s Gospel we have as the lectionary for today. She inquired, “Do you think that is really what happened? They ran away and just said nothing?” A lot of people were trying to find another explanation because the abrupt ending in Mark’s Gospel seems like something that isn’t big enough, isn’t grand enough for something like the story of the Resurrection. It’s not impressive to just be left with scared followers who disappear. Only one person on the thread said, “Yes, that’s what happened, it was so scary, so unbelievable, they just ran away.” 

Are we able to admit that we are the ancestors in faith of people who were so scared they just ran away and went mute? Does that feel so wimpy we don’t want to claim it? 

I want to claim that. Because it’s human and it’s honest. And it’s real about how traumatized they were. There is no gloss, no sheen, no varnish to make it pretty. The followers were terrorized and traumatized. So they ran away. 

I want to claim that because that’s the state more people are in in this world than we care to admit or believe. Our culture likes to push away things that are untidy, unmentionable, maybe even embarrassing to talk about. We want everything to be big and prosperous. We only want to hear good news stories. We shame a lot of people into feeling that they cannot talk about their trauma because it will “upset someone else” or it will get into “personal or explicit details.” We silence and/or police conversations, shy away from things that feel hard or uncomfortable. But behind every one of those interactions or stories we don’t want to hear, or sometimes crying at is someone in the same head, body, soul and heart space that the early followers of Jesus were in. Thank God the writer of Mark’s Gospel had the guts to tell the truth about that awful moment! If the early followers of Jesus were in that situation, what right do we have as people in the Church to silence voices that make us scared or uncomfortable, or who name hard truths, or tell us what is really going on? Seriously, who are we? 

The Resurrection of Jesus is all about New Life and new directions of living. But before we get to the Good News there are the betrayals of Maundy Thursday and the indescribable trauma of Holy Friday. This does not mean that trauma and pain are the way to get to Jesus or to salvation. It means that God knows all of it, walks through pain and trauma with us, and somehow out of that makes a Way. It does not mean that God condones violence or trauma, no, God tells us of their preferred Way, throughout Holy Week, through the actions of Jesus as he encounters the Empire over and over again – the Way of nonviolence. These are not easy or simplistic platitudes, nor are they snap-your-fingers or magic-wand approaches to faith. Holy Week into Easter Sunday are hard and unvarnished truths. Theologian Kate Bowler writes about it in this way, “Have a beautiful, terrible day!” 

Mark’s Gospel on this Easter Sunday gives us the opportunity to stop any behavior in “Church” that separates us from others, and most especially from hearing about the Way of Jesus. We need to be the place where anything can be talked about, everything can be shared. If we create spiritual communities that are closed off, condone or participate in violence, are full of judgment, or teeming in shame we only create more harm, not more possibilities for new life. We never know where Good News or testimony will come from! 

That’s the Good News I’m hearing this Easter Sunday in the text. The bravery of the writer of Mark’s Gospel to give us the full story: the story of terror, and running away, and amazement. The truth of the Resurrection on Easter morning creates freedom. The truth creates the container for healing. The truth creates the opportunity for Resurrection. Because it is filled with the realness, the messiness, the rawness of our human experiences. Everyone’s story is welcomed and made whole on Easter because we worship a God who understands every way we interact with every story of our life and of this world. 

May your Easter Day be filled with love and welcome. And may our Eastertide Season that begins today be filled with acts of justice and peace rooted in the Way of Jesus. 

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is Risen today! Alleluia! 

Blessings and Peace,

Rev. Shannan R. Vance-Ocampo, General Presbyter 

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