So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. (Matthew 28:8 NRSV)
This year, more than others, we might understand what the first visitors to the tomb experienced. We are used to coming together and worshipping on Easter Sunday with friends and family in congregations full of people, lilies, trumpets and joy. Christians LOVE to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus as big as we possibly can. But this year our celebrations will look a little different. We’ll be joining worship live streams from our living rooms. We won’t have lilies or trumpets unless we pick them ourselves or teach ourselves an instrument between Zoom calls every day. We’ll have joy, because we are celebrating the resurrection, but I imagine our joy will be subdued. Maybe a bit more like the women who came to the tomb and found it empty, and upon hearing that Jesus had been raised from the dead, they left quickly with fear and great joy.
As a pastor, I left the church quickly with fear and great anxiety three weeks ago when we made the decision for the safety of all people to suspend in person worship services. Would people still join on Facebook Live? How would we sing together? What does church done completely online even look like? Perhaps the women on that first Easter morning also had questions. Will people believe us? Who will teach us now that our Rabbi has died? How will our community function without a leader we see every day but we trust is alive again?
These women though, unlike me, were full of fear and great joy instead of fear and great anxiety, and I think they have a lesson to teach us in the midst of anxiety and fear and uncertainty about the future. The women at the tomb can teach us about joy in the midst of pain, about hope in the midst of uncertainty. They did not deny that they felt pain and uncertainty, they did not pretend only to be happy. We can follow them this Easter. We can have joy that we get to experience the Resurrection like those women, in the stillness of the morning, in the uncertainty about the future, and in the knowing that God shows up in the midst of our uncertainties and anxieties to bring us a word of hope that new life is coming. This Easter, before you join your church for worship online, listen to the sounds of new life outside. Let the songs of birds fill you with hope. Let the sight of budding leaves give you great joy. Let the smell of grass remind you that new life is not just possible, it’s on its way. Put yourself in the garden with the first witnesses of the resurrection and let it sustain you in these times. And when we finally can safely be close to others, run and tell everyone, Jesus is Risen! Alleluia!
Raabe is a spiritual leader at Oceanside Lutheran Church.