I’ve been reminded lately, by events in the world and events in the personal lives of those around me, that just because we are in Eastertide doesn’t mean that everyone is happily enjoying new growth and life! After the solemnness and introspection of Lent, and the drama and trauma of Holy Week, we were primed to get right into the celebration of resurrection at Easter. And yet, for some of us, the celebration comes harder some years than others. And sometimes during Eastertide we have an anti-climactic feeling, or it seems that the promised new life is slow in coming or might have passed us by entirely.
If you are feeling even a little like this, it might be worth reflecting on the ending of the gospel of Mark – an ending that, in its original form, is quite different from the endings of the other gospels. (If you’d like to know more about Mark and the other gospels, and their similarities and differences, please join us for the Christian Education forum at 10 am this Sunday!) Unlike the other gospels, Mark does not tell of any resurrection appearances of Jesus. Instead, it ends with the story of some of Jesus’ female followers going to his tomb and finding it empty. A young man dressed in white tells them not to be afraid, because the crucified Jesus has been raised. Then he tells them to go tell the other disciples that they are to go to Galilee and that they will see the risen Christ there. But the women are so frightened by this experience that they can’t seem to process it. The last line of the original gospel is this: “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.” The last word of the gospel is “afraid.” Actually, in Greek, the sense is something like, “Talk about terrified…!”
In Mark, the hope and promise that the disciples will see the risen Lord in Galilee is tempered by uncomfortable feelings of uncertainty and fear. I think this is a good reminder that the same sometimes happens with us – even when we start to see new growth and life around us and in us, that growth can be uncomfortable, especially at first. Change is hard for us, even when it heralds wonderful new things.
This year spring is working hard to burst forth even as winter stubbornly hangs on! The change in seasons, however tumultuous it has been, is a sign to us that beautiful new and abundant growth will soon be all around us. If we can trust in that, perhaps we can push through any discomfort and fear that has come with our own new growth. I was reminded of this last week when I came across this poem by 19th century English priest Charles Kingsley – which seems especially appropriate during Eastertide and as we approach Earth Day on April 22:
See the land, her Easter keeping,
Rises as her Maker rose.
Seeds, so long in darkness sleeping,
Burst at last from winter snows.
Earth with heaven above rejoices;
Fields and gardens hail the spring;
Shaughs and woodlands ring with voices,
While the wild birds build and sing.
You, to whom your Maker granted
Powers to those sweet birds unknown,
Use the craft by God implanted;
Use the reason not your own.
Here, while heaven and earth rejoices,
Each his Easter tribute bring –
Work of fingers, chant of voices,
Like the birds who build and sing.
Wishing you all Easter blessings,