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Between the Wilderness and Garden: an Easter Message

It doesn’t feel much like Easter with the stormy skies, an empty church, and the world grieving. But it is Easter.  

The story of the Resurrection begins with the words, “While it was still dark…” The cross was casting its longest shadow as the sun was rising on Jerusalem that Sabbath as Mary heads out with grief guiding her to the body. There was turmoil in the occupied nation and the disciples were in hiding from persecution as dawn was breaking their hearts again.  

Mary heads out with oils, ready to meet the body and face the guards. Her walk to the garden, in midst of violence, injustice, fear and grief, preaches this Easter. She is compelled to walk to the source of love. Easter doesn’t begin when the skies are sunny, or the pandemic passes, or justice reigns.  It begins while it is still dark and there is only love.  

Love, in its rawness and power carries the day.  It leads Magdalene through despair, brushes aside fear, and carries her with courage and humility to the grave where what she experienced changed our world. It is the story of how love is more powerful than death, and rises like the sun cutting through clouds of violence and shadowed valleys. It sustains Mary through meeting angels and feeling the earth shake. It catches her when she falters at Jesus’ feet. Love then leads her to be the first preacher, and to offer generations the Easter message that  love is the most powerful force for change in the world.  

During this crazy coronavirus season, even while it is still dark, we glimpse love’s rising. “I have no words right now,” one of the graduates said during our weekly zoom circles at Thistle Farms, "but I show up and keep the faith.”  “I am not sure what to do”, a midwife and board member at the Chapel where I serve said during a call, “except keep going in love.” Those sentiments, like countless others, are reminders that even while it is still dark, we walk towards  love. Wherever and however it is calling us. It takes humility and courage to love the whole world in the midst of a pandemic by taking small steps with what we have been given. When we walk in faith before the dawn’s early light,  we are gifted with a clearer memory, more gratitude, courage in small acts, and freedom to weep. In the midst of life that can be unfair, hard, and frightening, love can carve our path. 

This year, beyond all others, Easter invites us into the truth of love, the strength of love, and the freedom of love. Today is the day to proclaim love as a statement of faith. We don’t have to wait for the mountaintop, we proclaim it in the valley. We don’t have to wait for a pandemic to subside, we proclaim it in quarantine. We don’t have to wait until the paths are straight, we proclaim it meandering in the desert.  

Love is all that will survive death, and it is our for the taking. In the face of trauma, broken hearts, and  a virus that can take us out, is enough. When John Prine died this week, along with more than 20,000 other souls, I kept thinking about how his angel from Montgomery was right, “its a hard way to go.” I imagine that angel’s name may have been something like Magdalene, hovering close with her arms full of herbs and oils. And as he becomes love, she weeps in joy again. Easter etches love into hearts of flesh. The old preachers used to say, “its Friday now, but Sunday is comin’.” The stone has rolled, the shroud has fallen and we are free. We can celebrate with all those who have died and live on in love in the memory of God. 

Love reminds us the distance between the wilderness and the garden is short. All we grieve is still a part of us and our hope is not in vain. It’s not hard to imagine Magdalene, you, or me,—searching for love with such longing that we look for life in a tomb.  With just a glimpse we can live into the love fashioned on the first morning of creation. We can live in the truth that love lives and make our song on our own Easter morning, “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.”

Peace and love.

— Becca Stevens

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