Excerpted from the NC Council of Churches Lenten Guide, “Journey to Justice”
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.
Every year as Easter approaches, I remember my childhood. My family always attended a sunrise service followed by traditional Sunday worship. I would wake up so excited to finally show off my new Easter Sunday dress at church, spend the day with family and friends, and, of course, snack on some goodies from the Easter Bunny.
What I remember most vividly, though, is the sunrise service. It always took place in a small garden right outside the church with a perfect view of the sun as it began to crest the horizon. I can still feel the growing excitement, building as the morning progressed. The culmination of my excitement came during traditional worship as everyone united to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
Reflecting on these memories, I realize that over time this excitement has faded. As I have grown older and experienced sadness, discomfort, and fear, I find myself searching for reasons to celebrate. In times of turmoil, wreaked with fear and hatred, what is there to praise? During these times when I feel my faith wavering, I turn to the scripture.
In Mark 16:1–8, Mary Magdalene goes to Jesus’ tomb only to find that he is no longer there. When the angel tells her not to be afraid because Jesus has risen, this deepens her sadness and fear even more—who is this stranger, and why should she trust him? Later in John 20:11–18, Mary Magdalene’s despair quickly turns to joy when Jesus appears to her. Her uneasiness is comforted knowing that Christ will have eternal peace.
Mary Magdalene’s emotions echo the feelings of many of us living in the present day. Another year passes and we pray things will get better, only to feel more hopeless. People keep repeating that it is time to move on, but why should we? Politically and socially, decisions are made that are rooted in anger and hatred. What is there to praise?
It is during these times when we experience life’s most precious moments. Over the past couple months, I have collaborated with people, organizations, and communities that I never expected to encounter. Despite all the chaos, I recognize the love rooted in our communities can overpower the hate, and I am filled with hope again.
Prayer: Gracious God, let us remember in darkness there is light, in pain we find strength, and in heartache we find peace. Grant us the patience to follow your word and trust in your guidance. Bless us with the courage to respond to hate with love. Amen.