Eastering in us      

     ©Suzanne Grimmett

For terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

If those first witnesses -the two Marys who came faithfully to tend the body of Jesus- had nothing to say but could only flee, in terror and amazement, then it should make us cautious about speaking too long and confidently about the mystery of resurrection. This is the surprisingly abrupt original ending to Mark’s Gospel. Many commentators have surmised that later scribes, unsatisfied with the unfinished feel to such an ending, felt the need to add to the story to perhaps create some closure. But I think there is power today, in sitting not only with terror and amazement, but with an unfinished ending.

Too often we think we can predict the ending. Too often we find ourselves sure that what has been in the past will be what will always be. In the disciples, particularly in Peter, we see an insistence about the way the world works and an inability to see anything but destruction and despair in the road Jesus took. The same despair overtook Peter, shaking his will and stealing his courage in the terrible hours after Jesus’ arrest. Yet in the days, months and years that follow, we see in Jesus’ disciples and in the Jesus movement, human beings utterly changed by the events of that first Easter Day.

Sometimes it is hard to accept such change. It is hard to imagine a world where greed, power and control don’t continue to be the most compelling motivations. It is hard to even let go of the idea that our own failures won’t continue to need punishment, or that that person who hurt us may not need to be paid back. But the Gospel today revealingly includes one of the disciples for special mention by the angels- Peter. ‘Go and tell Peter he is going ahead of you to Galilee.’ It’s like all Peter’s lying betrayal, his weakness, his lack of faith…none of it mattered in the end. We might be able to get a hint here of the power of resurrection to herald a change of news so good it can barely be received for the joyful unravelling that might happen to us if we let it.

Have you ever had news so good that it almost hurts to receive it? Resurrection speaks to those places of despair, destruction and desolation in our world, our communities, our families and in our own hearts where we don’t believe change is possible or where God, if God is there, seems a long way off. Resurrection tells every Peter who has ever thought that nothing will ever be good again, that things cannot be helped, our mess-ups are unforgiveable and weakness and  cowardice have made us unworthy of love….to Peter and all other Peters,  resurrection says no, you are quite wrong. To everyone who thinks that memories cannot be healed, that a loving family is impossible, that people will always let you down and that places of violence can never be places of peace…to these resurrection says no. Easter was not just a new beginning two millennia ago, it is the promise of the new creation now. Easter was an event of such moment that it offers the starting point, again and again, for an inner transformation that outwardly changes our world. Resurrection reshapes our destiny.

Have you had times in your life when you felt yourself entombed? In a lifeless place…stuck? The joy of this day is that our liberation is the work of God from beginning to end. Reshaping our destiny sounds big and grandiose- yet in small communities following the way of the resurrected Christ, you will find person after person who say what has happened is just that. Stories about being on one path, and then Christ encountered in scripture, in a hymn, in creation,  within other Christians, or a combination of all of these (with sometimes a mystical experience thrown in), changes their life and sets them on a new path. New beginnings are offered not to the people we would like to be, but to who we really are; people with a past and a story, with wounds and hang-ups and fears. But we find in setting our feet to a new path, we are not left as we are.

The poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins in his poem, “The Wreck of the Deutschland,”, uses easter not as a noun but as a verb. It is a poem in honour of five nuns who died in a shipwreck in 1875, after being exiled from Germany in the face of persecution. Speaking of Christ, Hopkins prays, ‘Let Him easter in us…’[1]

This is the kind of prayer that hangs in the air at the abrupt ending to Mark’s Gospel. It is a prayer for those fleeing the empty tomb and told to go and follow Jesus. ‘Come and easter in us, too, Lord, that we may live your resurrection life and be your resurrection people in a hurting world’; let us write the rest of the story. It is the essence of the prayers we will shortly pray for Wagi, Lavianna, Elizabeth and Tristen as baptism is the great symbol and reality of dying with Christ and being raised with him as a new creation.  

To use ‘easter’ as a verb is to reveal the powerful truth that God is at work in us and through us. God is working to transfigure even the worst of tragedies. God is eastering in the darkest places because resurrection has revealed that violence, and domination and death do not have the last word. God is eastering in our own lives, gently and (sometimes slowly) rolling the stone from our hearts and releasing us from the prisons of our shame, fear and failure. This day, we celebrate that with us, amongst us, and often in spite of us, God in Christ is eastering, reshaping our destiny and calling us to resurrection joy.


[1] Kris Rocke, The Verbness of Easter https://streetpsalms.org/verbness-of-easter/