16 May Weeping and Joy: Why Easter is not about pretending that is everything is fine
All around the world followers of Jesus are celebrating the church season of Easter. They are celebrating the strange, unexpected heart conviction that death and violence do not have the final word: that in Jesus – the humble, holy, human face of God – risen life is stronger than all deathliness and death dealing.
However, while we celebrate this conviction, this is not a game of ‘let’s pretend’. Death may no longer have the final word, but the agony of grief and death, the solidity of the absence we feel when our beloved has died, is not removed. Christians do not get a free pass out of suffering.
This was devastatingly emphasised on Easter Day as 100s of Sri Lankan Christians were killed as they celebrated the resurrection. This is painfully etched in the premature death of the beloved Christian writer Rachel Held Evans.
To deny suffering and death, to pretend that grief is not part of the reality of life, is to miss the point of Christian faith. In Jesus, the Divine enters right into the midst of our living, suffering and dying. Ours is the God who does not does avoid our deepest pain, but enters into it and does something new from the inside out.
To celebrate risen life in Christ Jesus is not to retreat to a religious fairyland. Resurrection life does not mean that the cross is no longer present. In the early Jesus movement those who experienced the risen Jesus were soon dealing with internal political fighting, illness, hunger, persecution and death threats. Yet, at the same time these communities were continuing to experience the Spirit birthing risen life within and among them. It is in holding cross and resurrection together that we come closest to the truth.
Christians are called to hold the paradox that death is real and heartbreaking and that risen life is present and flowing. Christian faith is about weeping the tears we need to weep and trusting in resurrection life at the same time. It is about leaning into the embrace of the crucified and risen One who weeps with us in our suffering and who – in Spirit – labours with us, and within us, to birth us into the beauty and strangeness of risen life, even as we are stuck in the dark.
Rev. Dr. Sally Douglas